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Free heat and hot water from used oil

October 11, 2010
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Reader Question: I keep hearing about carwash operators converting used oil into free heat and hot water. How do I do that?

Many carwash facilities are saving money by transforming used oil into free heat or hot water. The easy-to-use boiler and unit heater systems use used oil from quick lube shops and convert it into free heat or hot water, while cutting operating costs and burden of used oil disposal and making companies more environmentally conscientious in the process.

Auto dealers, quick lubes, carwashes, and rental companies have all greatly benefited from the use of these products. Heating costs for most facilities is one of the highest expenses. For facilities with a carwash, the cost of warm water can make or break the facility. The elimination of the heating costs can be accomplished by adding a boiler and unit heater system.

Heater and boiler system
Installation of the boiler and heating system is best done during the construction phase or a remodel situation.

The oil is converted through the boiler into heat and can be used to produce hot water for use in the carwash. The hot water is tempered as the water combines with the chemical and soap products that are sprayed on the vehicles. The boilers can also be used in combination with radiant (tube) floor heat or hydronic unit heaters to heat the facility.

Most quick lube facilities like to keep the doors open all year long, thus during the winter months the heat that is generated from a used oil boiler creates free heat, which helps cut heating bills.

The boiler can heat hot water for carwashes, radiant floor heat and frost pads (heated outdoor pavement). The boilers burn: used motor oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic fluid and other petroleum-based lubricants.

Saving money long-term
By adding a boiler or unit heater to any carwash, the facility can easily create free hot water or heat.

Having a boiler and heating system on-site eliminates all hauling costs associated with disposing of the waste oil.

Facility owners should perform a benefit analysis to evaluate the overall cost associated with the purchasing of the current fuel and maintenance for the current system to determine if this is the right investment for the business.

Every gallon of used oil contains 140,000 BTUs of energy. Most facilities collect thousands of gallons of used oil every year, which results in the reduction of the heating costs for the facility by using the reliable and easy-to-use multi-oil heaters and boilers convert the BTUs into money saving energy to create heat/hot water.

Most customers see a return on their investment within a 12 to 18 month time period depending on the original cost of the equipment and installation. Use the reference the return on investment (ROI) computation sheet online (www.carwash.com/energysavings) to see if converting or adding a waste oil unit heater or boiler would be beneficial to your building.

Becoming more environmentally conscientious
The clean up of environmentally hazardous automotive fluids associated with facilities that change and collect automotive waste fluids is a concern for business owners. The cost of clean up, in many cases, has cost business owners thousands of dollars.

Federal and most state environmental regulators even consider a generator of automotive fluids liable under the heading of “cradle to grave liability.”

A business owner that has a reputable disposal company come to pump used oil tanks would be liable for any clean up costs associated with a spill due to a tanker truck accident on the road.

Cleaning fines have also been levied on businesses for improper disposal of automotive fluids by reputable disposal companies. Disposal companies have also ceased business by closing doors or filing for bankruptcy. This does not stop the “cradle to grave liability” of the clean up. Government officials have levied clean up costs in those cases.

The installation of the unit heaters or boilers can solve the problem or disposing of the automotive used oils. The system allows individuals to burn the waste oil on-site and eliminates the company from being liable if there is an oil spill after it leaves the site and is an appropriate way of disposing of the oil.

The equipment installed should meet UL and/or American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) specification for unit heaters or boilers.

Installation of the boiler and unit heaters in carwash facilities are saving money all over the country by changing used oil into free heat or hot water. They eliminate hauling costs and liability and also make companies more environmentally conscientious. The benefits of the system are life-long. Hope you will consider installing one today to save your company thousand in heating and disposal costs.


Howard Levens is the owner of Northwest Industrial Equipment, Inc. that sells and services boilers and unit heaters. He has been in the industry since 1996. Visit his Web site at www.oilburners.com or contact him at (253) 872-6060 / hlevens@msn.com.