Alternative Fuels for Oil Furnaces


The ever increasing cost of oil has finally urged consumers to turn to alternate methods that are both easier on the wallet and on the environment. Oil-fueled burners need constant costly maintenance due to the high sulfur content of fuel oil. Some heating companies have even discontinued servicing oil furnaces due to sharply augmented liability insurance rates and the diminishing number of oil furnaces still on the market. The use of fuel oil in furnaces is therefore becoming a dirty and cumbersome thing of the past. Alternative fuels are being successfully consumed by adapted residential furnaces such as those now manufactured by Arco, R.W. Beckett, Carlin, Ducane, Esso, International, Riello, Slant Finn and Wayne. Be aware that if you plan to convert an oil burner, the cost of parts may run you $200 to $400 and the process (such as filtering and blending in the case of waste oils) may be time consuming but worth it.

Waste motor oil

  • This is the used oil that is drained from a vehicle's crankshaft during an oil change. Lube shops are required to collect this oil for proper disposal since it truly is a waste product that cannot be safely disposed in dumps, waterways or at any public or commercial entity. A typical gallon of waste oil contains 143,000 to 200,000 BTU per gallon, more than twice the energy than that contained in either propane or natural gas.

Waste vegetable oil (WVO)

  • WVO is waste or used cooking oil that can be easily obtained by the barrel from restaurants or collected at home. It is becoming popular as an alternate fuel in vehicles but can be similarly used in furnaces. However, new or straight vegetable oil (SVO) is the better quality oil. The central concern in using vegetable oil is the low viscosity, which may present a problem of combustion. Fortunately, there are various simple solutions to this problem (e.g. veggie oil-solvent blends).


  • Historically, wood is the most common way to produce heat energy. Burning wood is environmentally friendly and can drastically reduce your heating bill because it has an energy efficiency rating higher than 60 percent. Compared with oil, it cuts down carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent. Use a catalytic wood burning stove versus a traditional one because the catalytic combustor will burn the emitted gases, which will cut down the energy consumed and temperature by half.


  • Corn is an excellently efficient and affordable alternative fuel. It is more environmentally friendly than even wood since it causes no strain on the environment and burns clean. Corn burning does not produce creosote or high emissions and is allergen free. You can get about 24 hours of energy from 40 pounds of dried corn.


  • Biomass is stored solar energy found in any non-fossilized organic matter. It can be converted into both fuel and electricity. Biomass is readily available anywhere since it is essentially garbage---the waste byproduct of humans, plants, animals and even industrial waste. To use biomass fuel you need a multi-fuel central heating system that will also burn a variety of other fuels such as corn or wood. The use of such a system returns huge savings for the consumer.

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