An Introduction to Biodiesel

In addition to residential wind power, energy-efficient off-grid homes are incorporating the production and use of biodiesel. The clean-burning fuel is often manufactured from cast-off cooking oil that might otherwise wind up in landfills and sewers. Depending on the method of production and the purity of the resulting product, biodiesel can be used in a variety of ways:- Powering generators and motors, including the one in your car.- As a heating fuel.- In lanterns for lighting and stoves for cooking.(Note: Before using bio-diesel in any of these ways, you should verify that the equipment or device can safely operate with bio-diesel and is suitable for the intended application.)

The Basics of Bio-diesel Production

Bio-diesel is made via a process called trans-esterification. Although there are many "recipes," the three basic ingredients required, and the proportions in which they are used are:- 75% vegetable oil or animal fat- 22% methanol- 3% lye or soda caustic(Any time you are working with bio-diesel distillation, wear protective gloves and goggles.)

After the ingredients are mixed, a chemical reaction causes the glycerin (or fat) in the vegetable oil to sink to the bottom, with the lighter bio-diesel rising to the top.

Equipment Required to Make Bio-diesel

Many "how-to" articles online suggest that you can whip up a batch of bio-diesel with a kitchen mixer. In theory, that's true, but chances are good you will want and need more than a bowl full. You will also have to be able to effectively separate the bio-diesel from the glycerin to achieve a pure, useful batch of fuel.

Given these considerations, you might do well to consider purchasing a commercial bio-diesel processor. Many units are capable of making as much as 100 gallons per batch. Numerous kits are available online in a range of $500 to $3,000 depending on size and capacity. (Really large units can go as high as $5,000.) These machines have the advantage of high-quality components, including brass and stainless steel valves and PVC tubing for ease of cleaning and fewer issues with clogging.

Depending on the equipment and recipe used, production time for a batch of bio-diesel runs 50-90 minutes. Production costs are approximately 70 cents to $1 per gallon.

If your goal is find new methods on how to save electricity or if you are looking for an alternative fuel for your diesel powered engine, bio-diesel is a technology worth investigating. As energy prices continue to rise each year, more consumers are turning to bio-diesel to supplement their energy needs.

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