Veggie Oil Performance

There are three questions I'm always asked when I tell people about the veggie oil conversion I did to our car.
  1. Are you pulling my leg?
  2. What's the fuel economy of veggie oil vs diesel?
  3. Is there any loss in power / acceleration?
The fuel economy is hard to measure as accurately as diesel since I don't have the fuel station's 0.001 Litre accuracy in my plastic jugs.

The power question I can never answer definitively since you need special equipment to perform the test. That and my 2001 JettaTDI sedan is spec'd at 90 hp - not exactly a hot rod.

So when the local Ottawa Volkswagen enthusiasts group had their annual dynamometer day (wiki), I paid for two runs on the device. One diesel, one veggie.

The Test
For both runs the engine was hot for ideal performance (20min driving at 80km/h). For the veggie run, I made sure I was running on veggie for at least 10min before the test started - 100% veggie no diesel on the side. The oil temp was over 70C.

The Videos

1) Calibration. Dynos need to know what wheel speed your car has in relation to the RPM of your engine. With that, they can graph torque and horsepower against engine speed. They say it was tricky because they rarely test automatic transmissions.

2) The first run.

3) Under the hood. See all my foamy fuel-line insulation? See my foil bubble wrap FPHE and GreaseCar fuel filter insulation?

4) Computer display. Wheel speed in kilometre per hour at bottom left. Engine speed in rotations per minute converted from wheel speed at bottom right.

5) Up close. Look at that monster (cough) engine heave under the hood. Seriously, I didn't realize they do that.

The Results (drum roll)

Click to enlarge

Veggie (in green) - 192 ft-lb Torque, 107 hp
Diesel (in red) - 172 ft-lb Torque, 102 hp


Wet Oil Sucks

Not many first time veggie oil users are aware that cooking oil absorbs water when food is cooked in it.

Potatoes are mostly water, so is fish, shrimp, chicken, and just about everything else you cook in a deep fryer. What's how it cooks in fact - the oil instantly vaporises the water at the surface of the food. That vapour appears as bubbles in the oil. Some fraction of the vapour doesn't make it to the surface and you in to the air; it is absorbed by the oil.

Filtering, and settling of the oil will help separate the water from the oil (fuel). But how do we know when it's done? In short - it'll never get done. See: Chemical Equilibrium.

How to test for water in oil
  1. Pour your suspect oil in to a kitchen fry pan (get a cheap one from the dollar store)
  2. Heat the oil on high on your kitchen range
  3. If you see bubbles popping, then there's water in your oil
Methods to remove water from oil
  1. Centrifuge
  2. Evaporation
  3. Evaporation under vacuum (uses less energy than #2)
  4. Chemically (may leave impurities which will then need to be removed)
I use option #2 above because it's simple, and inexpensive for the volume of oil I dewater.
220 litres of filtered oil, $0.05 per kWh, 1kW element, 10 hours, equals less than 1/5 of a penny to dewater 1L of oil.


Insulation Math

Just for fun, I was reading this site deciding if I should replace all my old mouse-poop-filled blown pink insulation in my attic. [Can Rebate, Ont Rebate]

I have no room to add to the insulation in my attic, so I'll likely need to throw it all out or risk ice built up from lack of soffit venting.

6 inches of blown fiberglass: R-13.2
6 inches of fiberglass batts: R-18.84
16 inches of blown fiberglass: R-35.2
16 inches of fiberglass batts: R-50.24

Hollow Core Wood Door (1 + 3/4 inch): R-2.17
Metal Insulating Door (2 inch): R-15

We're getting a new furnace

This morning the rep from Earth Energy Solutions came by our home at 08:00 and we signed over the first 25% of $25,000 and signed a contract. They'll be installing the unit before Christmas.

Catch? DX systems aren't eligible for the $7,000 in rebates from the Ontario and Canadian governments because they don't meet CSA-448 standards. The other heat pumps cost well more than $7k so this is still the best deal. And the DX systems are apparently this close to getting rubber stamp approved for the rebates. So we may still get our money back.

Home inspection coming over 2007-12-03 to get a baseline.


M's Generator Coming Together

My long time friend M lives away from the city and when the power goes out - he's not in an area with a high priority for restoring power.

Without electricity his home is at risk of flood, freezing/bursting pipes and other damage. Not to mention his little girl would be stuck in the cold with no water (water well needs power to pump) or warm food (electric range and oven).

With his wife's blessing (I assume) he began building a shed to house a lister engine to power his home. His eventual goal is to sell power back to the grid through OPA RESOP at double the market rate.

Here is the engine mounted on the I-beam frame. The I-beam frame is rested on 2cm thick rubber padding - like this. Then the I-beam frame is anchored into about 1,000 kg (2,204.62262 pounds ...) of concrete.

We got the two fly wheels on (about 90kg each) after much grunting. We figure he's close to getting the engine started. We'll start with just diesel. There are still exhaust, cooling, veggie fuel considerations to prepare. Oh yeah, and the alternator, electrical cabling, throw switches in the house, etc. But for now, we're happy.