2008-06-17

So you think you want do this?

$1.40 per litre fuel getting you down? Going veggie is a way to save some money. But don't go into this to save a couple bucks. It is important to keep in mind this is a hobby - treat it as such. Guidelines:

  • Spend time and thought to find the cheapest and best parts you need for your filtering.
  • Take effort into making the best quality oil you can
  • Pay attention to your car - check the engine temp before throwing the switch to run on veggie, check the oil temp while driving, sudden changes in outdoor temp will effect you so watch for it
  • And most of all - don't blame veggie oil for your flat tire. Use your brain, think things through.

    Here's someone who has emailed me asking questions I'd like to share. I got his permission to post this because he really seems to have the right mindset to take this on. Notice how cautious, analytical yet excited he is.

    I thought it would be a great thing to share - lots of juicy info.

    1. From Patrick to me

    Hi there,

    I should first probably start by thanking you, your YouTube videos and blog cleared up about a dozen lingering questions I've had stored up about the whole process. I'm sure you get a million e-mails so I'll try to keep it short...

    I'm about to buy a diesel Jetta, probably the exact same one you have (1999-2002-ish Jetta TDI) and I'm going to convert it immediately. I'd love to do it myself but I simply don't have the time or the workspace to undertake that kind of project. I'll end up taking it into a shop that offers the conversion. But you mentioned in one of the videos that the Jetta doesn't heat up quick enough and the trunk tank doesn't reach temperature as fast as you would like it to. When I take my car in for installation, should I insist that they install a heat element in the inside of the tank? Will that remedy the problem? I'd like to use as little diesel as possible.

    Basically, what would you do differently if you were going to buy a Jetta all over again? What should I make sure about when I go through my installation process?

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate your time and the valuable information you've made available. I'm in Rochester, NY, if that's pertinent.

    2. From me to Patrick

    Good call on bringing it to a shop. That era of Jetta is very low to the ground and the hoses are not easy to run. I was going to do it myself and just about started to disconnect stuff then I tried to crawl under my car while I had it jacked up 10 inches. It just can't be done without a full hydrolic lift. You need full 6 degrees of freedom do install the kit in a Jetta.

    Here's what I'd do:
  • get a vegtherm mega from plantdrive make sure it's positoned just before the injector pump so it heats up the oil as a final stage.
  • get a rocker switch with a back light ($5) from canadian tire or some hardware store - this will control the VegThermMega
  • get a flat flate heat exchanger (or brazed plate, same diff). I got mine from Omar: OmarSales.com 16 plates will do.
  • You want the hotest coolant from the engine, and the vegoil from the filter assembly for maximum benifit
  • ask your mechanic if this is possible (it wasn't for me because I did each of the above in seperate steps) to install a ZeroStart coolant heater. This is a 110V plug-in-the-wall heater. It doesn't heat the engine block. It heats the coolant and by convection (depending on how your coolant lines are run) the coolant will circulate. This will heat up your engine + veggie oil + coolant 10x better than a simple block heater.
  • If you can't do a ZeroStart, or even if you can it *might* be a good idea to ... Install a hot-water heating element in the veggie oil tank. If you get a GreaseCar/Frybrid/PlantDrive kit, this means you need to drill a hold sideways into the tank. The electrical cable would need to remain accessible so you can plug it in overnight in the winter.
  • install temperature sensors on the FPHE and just after the VegTherm. Once the FPHE is @ about 50C (or 45C in weather over 20C) and the car engine oil temp on the dash is at the steady-state temp then you know you can switch on the VegTherm and go veggie powered. After that, just watch as the 2nd temp guage rises and gives your confirmation that everything is going well. The temp guages I used were $20 SnapOn brand Air Conditioning guages that run on 1 AAA battery. I run the wire under the hood and into the driver door. They rest in my drive-side door well where I can grab them as needed. Maybe I'll velcro them to the dashboard. but then the wires would be visible... meh. Temperature montioring is vital to knowing you're not feeding sludge into your fine car.

    Big email. But the jist is - get it installed right the first time. It's annoying as heck to bring the car back 6months later to install another heating unit. Best of luck and send photos. :)
  • 3. From Patrick to me

    Hi again!

    Thanks so much for the reply, I now feel like I'm prepared to make the leap. I think I've got a line on an '01 TDI, also. Hopefully I'll be the owner in a few days.

    I'll definitely be picking up the parts you've listed. I'm in Rochester, NY, so I'm probably in the same boat as you with needing to heat up the coolant and oil as much as possible in as many ways as possible. You're in Canada, right?

    I read the product description for the VegTherm Mega, and it looks like it can be configured to turn on using the same switch that you would use to start the WVO flow. In the interest of simplicity and less wiring/switches, would you recommend doing it this way? Are there any problems that you could foresee that doing it this way would present? Here is what it says on the VegTherm page:

    ...it can be installed to switch to SVO at the same time SVO is selected, in fact, the same "trigger" that switches a valve to SVO can turn on the Vegtherm.

    The ZeroStart kit you mentioned, is it the one produced by FrostHeater - the TDIHeater (http://www.frostheater.com/)? It looks like a good kit and it's relatively low-cost. What currently prevents you from installing one? Did you mount something in the place where the TDIHeater is supposed to be mounted? Or will it just be more trouble for you than it's worth to do it at this point?

    You bring up a question that I did still have... When the veggie oil is just sitting in the trunk tank overnight, is it in danger of thickening in sub-freezing temperatures? Does this slow down the changeover process? Is there any difficulty in drawing the oil from the rear tank during cold-weather months? Obviously, it does eventually warm up, but it would probably be wise to install a heating element, like you've mentioned, correct?

    Like I said, if there's a way to shorten the window from diesel startup to WVO switch-over, I'm all for it. I'd like to use as little diesel as possible. If it means installing an element at an additional cost, I'm sure I'll recoup it over time if I burn less diesel, and of course it would be that much less emissions into the atmosphere, which is my primary objective. What kind of wattage should I think about using for the heating element in the trunk tank?

    You also made mention that you would be switching over to 1 micron bags soon. Did you do so yet? How has it worked out? Also, I went over to fiterbag.com, and I'm having trouble figuring out which bags I'll need. I'll probably construct a similar filtration rig, if not identical, to the station you've set up. At FilterBag, they've got everything labelled as part numbers, but I can't tell which one is the 1 micron package. Can you tell me which ones you order?

    I also had one last question about your dewatering tank. I'm headed off to the scrap yard soon to try to locate something similar this week. What material would you consider ideal, and how clean does it have to be? Obviously I'll avoid anything with corrosion, but should I look for something that's really spic & span? Or will any old tank do, as long as it can be cleaned up? I'm trying to save money on this aspect of the process, but if you'd consider it very important to get a high-quality tank, then I'll do what I gotta' do.

    I can't tell where exactly in the video, but where should I install the heating element? Right near the bottom? Maybe 4 inches or so from the bottom? Also, I see that you've got an exhaust fan at the top of the tank, which has a lid. Is the lid part of the tank? Or did you fabricate it yourself? Did you cut any sort of hole at the top of the tank to work with your venthilation? If so, what size?

    I'll definitely be documenting the process with photos and probably a blog. A large reason for doing this is to also raise environmental awareness. I'll be sure to point people to your blog and YouTube channel, they're easily the best how-to resources on the 'net in the field.

    Again, thanks so much, I know I've sent over a million questions, any help would be very, very appreciated!

    Talk to you soon,

    4. From me to Patrick

    Hey,

    I'll try to answer everything here.

  • You're in Canada, right? - Yup, Ottawa.
  • VegThermMega sharing a switch? - It'll work. but I recommend a separate switch. Check this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhR7TIgDgOs), it can be done very nicely. You want to be careful not to overload your alternator. In the summer you'll probably have a huge load from the AirCond and you will not need the VegThem for very long in the summer.
  • TDIHeater and the ZeroStart are the same unit? Yes. They work by convection - there is no pump. This means there are restrictions on how the plumbing of the coolant lines. I found it to be (a) incompatible with how I routed the lines and (b) little to no room for it. The FPHE took up a fair amount of space. For it to work you need a good 1-2ft of vertical coolant hose leading directly into the top of the engine block. This will create the draft needed to circulate the coolant. If you don't do this, the coolant will not circulate and you'll just melt the coolant line directly above the heater. And since most veggie kits make your coolant system "unconventional" this can be tricky. Not impossible I think, just tricky.
  • GreaseCar uses hose-in-hose for under the car. With with proper back-flushing will eliminate any clogged fuel lines. The vegoil in the tank will gel of course, but heat from engine will eventually heat that up (once the engine heats up and then the coolant, and then the vegoil). Installing a 12inch 240V AC heating element and only running it on 120V AC wall-outlet power will make it a 1000W heater (1kWh costs me $0.05). That'll heat the vegoil in a full 40L tank from -25C to 30C in 1hr. It's important to make sure that element is 100% submerged when you plug it in. Otherwise it'll make stinky smoke from the burned oil. I currently have a 750W j-shaped element I poke in from the top of the tank. Not ideal - but saves about 30min of highway driving in switch-over time. Live and learn.
  • That reminds me - make sure you insulate the tank. You have the cylinder like mine, don't use expanding foam - it'll crush/crack the molding of your car trunk. Do for 0.5" or 1.0" heat resistant Styrofoam and cut it to shape for under/around/ontopof the tank. Save all that precious heat.
  • filterbag.com's "bag finder" tool is great. Polyprop felt, size #1, plastic ring (cheaper), micron rating 1-3. I see two options there right now. Donno the difference. Pick any one. Get 50 bags, it'll last you 3 years, easy. Havn't done any filtering yet, still got my stock pile from the fall. It'll flow slowly, so just process a bit at a time. Once in the morning, once when you get home, once before going to bed. That should be about 40-60L per day.
  • My barrel was used to store mangoes I think. So I guess it was "food grade" at some point. The paint lining inside the barrel was intact, and only corrosion was on the outside along metal seams where the rain got at it. I took it home, hosed it down, and even took a rag and some dish detergent (get a 4L bottle of this, it does magic with cleaning up any vegoil mess) and made sure it was clean. Exposed metal is OK if there is no rust. VegOil is great for corrosion protection. Seriously.
  • I'm not happy with my ventilating hole at this time. It double duties as a place to dump in the filtered oil. So it's huge (1ft x 8in I'd say). If I had my way, I keep that hole (which I made with some power tools - the barrel came with a lid) but make a "lid" for it to keep dust out. Then have a small 2-3" hole for venting. On that I'll put my cheapo bathroom fan to suck out any smell and blow it outside. The heating element is about 4" from the bottom yes - I like it there. 2" would be better, but beware - come barrels have wavy ridges. These cannot be drilled-and-sealed properly. Only put holes in the barrel/tank where it is smooth. Then just use rubber washers to finish the seal.

    Well, best of luck with your setup. You're asking all the right questions and I don't get a sense you're rushing to save money - a good sign you'll make it to the "yay! I'm now saving money" before you reach "dang, I need to rebuild my injector pump". Cutting corners by using 2nd hand barrels and such is OK - just don't get lazy. And I see you're taking this seriously.

    Cheers.
  • 1 comment:

    Jennifer J said...

    Having lived through the beginnings of the environmental movement, and not being a patient person, it is heartwarming to see you guys carrying on with this.
    Your knowledge, research, enthusiasm and commitment is incredible!