The Cost Of Doing WVO

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The Cost Of Doing WVO

Postby David » Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:28 pm

I was having a discussion with an associate the other day about the cost of me doing WVO in time. This person ( who loves to crap on about this and is totally one eyed) fuels his car with LPG and maintains it is far cheaper overall than WVO. I maintain that first and foremost doing oil is a hobby and that secondly, it is a hobby that saves/ makes me considerable money. When I started doing this 17 months ago I was spending $80 a week on fuel. As well as never visiting a service station for anything more than ice creams for the kids and to pump up my tyres, My wife now also spends considerably less of fuel because we always take my car while we are on the lookout for another one for her.

I have seen this Time/ cost argument a few times before on forums so I thought I’d do a quick analysis on the back of the obligatory paper napkin and see what the story was as pertains to what –I- do and my setup. I don’t count my time as I said I regard this as a hobby and something I derive personal satisfaction out of doing. I also maintain that it is impossible to do a direct cost comparison because the time I spend playing with oil is not time I would be paid for otherwise or am knocking paid work back to do it.

It is also difficult to compare something you are doing at home when ever you please and are able to leave and come back to as you like and have your family close by and can do things with while you are doing it. If I was comparing my time at a job earning money, I couldn't be playing with my kids or every so often or walking off to go help the Mrs. with something. At a regular job I also could not just turn up when I wanted and work at it for a few minutes or several hours as I pleased when I pleased. It's a matter of be here then and work the rest of your life around that. Oil fits in with everything else I do, not the other way round.

I think these reasons alone make the “ Cost” argument a totally ill conceived and flawed one but none the less, I crunched some numbers for the hell of it.

I based my calculations on a unit of 200L and erred on the side of caution in confidence of coming out ahead anyway. 200L is the amount I collect at one time and can process in a batch given that is the standard US 50-55Gal? drum size.

For collecting I know it takes me 12min to pull up pump 200L and pack up and drive off. I’ll call it 15 in case I have a quick chat to the owner or am having a slow day. It takes me an average of 10 Min each way to drive to my places and back, some are literally 2 min, others are further. Most would be under 10 min. Once I am back home it would take me 15 min to pour the oil into a 200l Drum for storage. When that has sat long enough to settle, I would spend another 10 pumping it into my dryer. From there, I estimate another 15 to pump it back out through my filter and into the 25L drums I normally store it in. I would save 5 min or more if I pumped it back into a 200L drum which I do every so often.

My all up time comes to 75Min for 200L of oil which equates to 2.6L of oil processed a minute. At current prices here, 2.6 L of Diesel would cost $4.40. If I times that by an hour which would be the increment that I would be paid if I were working a job, If find that I would have to be on an hourly rate of $264.00 an hour AFTER TAX to equal what my time is worth in playing with my oil.

While in my line of work I can earn that amount an hour and more, it is not like I can earn it 35 Hours a week, week in week out like someone more qualified and intelligent than I could do. I work all the hours I can find clients to pay me for now so my oil never interrupts the time I could be making cash money. This may be different for other people but for me, this is what applies.

Now, sure there are expenses with processing oil in setup cost and on going. I certainly haven’t invested several thousand Dollars on having my car converted to use LPG that has gone up about 50% or more in price in the last 12 months, probably a couple of hundred dollars at most as the bulk of what I use was all scrounged over time for free. My DIY conversion also cost me less than $100. I recently worked out that my dryer costs me less than 1/5th of a cent a litre in electricity. The cost of filters divided by what I put through them puts them at under Half a cent per litre.

Given that a normal job would require me to travel and given my location, that would more than likely be by car using fuel I would have to pay for at current prices as well as clothing which would have to be bought specially for work rather than the Backyard clothes I wear for oil processing which have already had their day, I will call setup and ongoing cost equal even though I know the paid job costs are going to exceed the oil setup costs in a month or less.

Laying it all out, the time seems more than I thought but I also have to keep in mind that the unit I am working on, 200L, is also a relatively small amount and in practicality with what I do now, there are many areas where minutes could easily shaved off here and there on larger volumes or, that while 200L takes 75min, double that amount would only take something like 50% extra time especially with the more streamlined setup I am presently using.

As I said, I don’t believe the Time factor is a relevant one in running WVO because I do not do this for pay nor would I be working more paid hours if I wasn’t doing oil. It is a leisure time activity that is done when I feel like it and on crunching the numbers, SAVES me a lot of money and working time that I would have to be away from home and family if I were to make up the money oil saves me.

I don't give a damn about what might or could happen until a significant group of people can tell me it HAS happened to them.
Until then, it's just more endless gloom and doom Veg folk law.
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Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:12 am
Location: Sydney Australia

Postby VegMeister » Mon May 19, 2008 10:29 pm

Growing up, my dad had several vans and trucks running on propane. It was economical and practical in Canada during the 90s: I don't think it's very practical anywhere now.

Good writeup. When you factor the cost of doing veg, sometimes there are the unexpected costs. If you include a $700 injection pump (unexpected) that I need to replace, I'm still losing a lot of money on my conversion, and probably won't break even for a few more thousand miles/hours spent doing this.

But I'm there with you: it's a fun hobby and since I can't afford rich people hobbies, I might as well do this one. At least I'm not losing as much money as I would if I were racing cars or something.
centralvalleybiodiesel CF
1993 GMC Sierra K2500 6.5L + homebuilt veg kit, OEM glowplug failure (update: rebuilt with a 6.2 block, working fine)
1988 Ford 6.9L OEM dual tank, 90+% veg oil blend.
1989 Ford 7.3L, 80+% veg oil blend.
Posts: 86
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2008 11:12 am
Location: Pembine, WI

Postby David » Wed May 21, 2008 6:31 am

Touch Wood, I haven't had any mechanical Mishaps as yet. Given the low value of the car I'm running, an IP or any other significant failure would have me designating the old girl to the scrap heap.

As it turns out, I'm starting to earn a bit of cash through selling my excess oil both as " fuel quality" and as raw material which further increases the return my hobby is giving me.

Afore mentioned associate was on my case the other day busting my balls about the time aspect and failing to accept my hobby designation of what I am doing with oil. I think I summed it up well when I said it is a hobby because I do it for fun, not because I have to.

Even over the last couple of weeks I have had a few " brainwaves" and Ideas to make my processing system more automated, require less hands on time and be cleaner.
The irony of perfecting a system was not lost on a friend and I when we got together to build him a new Bio reactor. Looking round his large shed space I saw some experiments and setups in place I inquired after. He explained what he was doing which made me point out that we had already built different things to make the process faster and more efficient that what he was playing with.

I could instantly relate to his confession of doing these things simply because everything else was in fact developed to a point of efficiency that there wasn't much left to play with so the experiments were done more for the reasons of enjoying ones playtime rather than for the actual know outcome! :lol:

Given the way the price of regular Diesel is going up on a weekly basis, this hobby can only give me greater returns both in monetary and personal satisfaction terms.

I don't give a damn about what might or could happen until a significant group of people can tell me it HAS happened to them.
Until then, it's just more endless gloom and doom Veg folk law.
Posts: 333
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:12 am
Location: Sydney Australia

Postby chasee » Wed May 21, 2008 7:11 am

I posted the following to another forum:

True cost of WVO

I do not count my time as money either. For anyone who does, this is a financial loser no matter what.

But, if you carefully add up all the expenses related to WVO, the return on investment (ROI) tends to be much longer than people think.

You have initial expense of kit, installation, home filtering setup. That's a biggie.

You then have the continual expenses of shorter OCI (should be half if you're doing things right), WVO side fuel filters, injector cleaner (should be used liberally), filters for home system, electricity for heating and pumping, etc...

Now with fuel prices spiking, ROI should be sped up a bit. But at the same time, its getting harder and harder to find free WVO.
2005 Golf GLS PD-TDI, 5-speed. Grease Car kit installed right off the lot when brand new. Running on WVO about 85% of the time.
Posts: 29
Joined: Wed May 07, 2008 8:07 pm

Postby powerstroke73L » Sun May 25, 2008 3:37 am

Interesting thread...well here goes my first post on the Forums. I bought a 2003 Ford Powerstroke in February 2007 when diesel was a whopping $2.23 a gallon here in New Jersey. At that time my intention was either to just run biodiesel or convert to a two tank system. I didn't have the up front cash but was able to hook up with a co-op making biodiesel, which eventually ended up falling apart due to folks moving, not having time, etc...

Fast forward to present day and I can't wait for my Vegistroke to get here! Unfortunately I'm in the middle of buying a house which means that I won't even be able to order it until we close, and I'll be driving a small Toyota gasser pickup in the meantime. However, I tried to a return on investment analysis the other day:

Vegistroke kit (I'll do the install myself) + shipping - $3150.00
Centrifuge, and other misc filtration stuff - $500.00
Gear pump and 3/4 HP motor (to drive centrifuge) - $300.00

Current price of diesel = $4.80/gallon x 51 gallons (1 full tank) = $245

------- = 16 full tanks

I fill up about every 10 days or so based on my commute and whatever driving I do on the weekend. So...

16 x 10 = 160 days or about 5 months. This is of course not counting the times I have to fill the main tank with diesel, which should be minimal. I do very few short trips in my truck. 90% of the time I'm driving at least 30 to 40 minutes, and my daily commute (to both my full time job and part time weekend gig) is an hour each way, so I'll rarely make an entire trip on diesel.

Now, a couple of considerations. First, like most folks here, I'm a relatively accomplished amateur mechanic, and an avid tinkerer. I couldn't design the Vegistroke itself, but I can definitely install it. As for my centrifuge rig, using a combination of resourcefulness and the fact that a close family member (I get most stuff at cost) works for one of the largest industrial supply houses in the country I've been able to keep costs down. I built a rolling platform for the entire thing out of scrap lumber from a crate that had been laying around which rolls on four heavy duty casters from an old stick welder I had picked up for scrap. The business end of the rig (motor, pump, heater piping, heating elements, centrifuge, etc...) is all new because either the parts could not be sourced elsewhere, or I just wanted to buy new in the interest of saving time and money in the long run.

Now that we've gone over material costs, how about time? I've tried to seek out my "customers" with a deliberate purpose as far as location so that I'm not devoting too much time (or fuel!) to collecting. My first and largest supplier is my part time job, which I am at once a week, and I should be getting anywhere from 15-20 gallons per month from them. Next I have a Chinese restaurant within spitting distance of the office of my regular 9-5 where I can simply walk over to the next parking lot, pick up two cubees and deposit them in my truck bed. They should be good for about 15-20 gallons per month. Finally, I've gotten friendly with two restaurants near my parents' home who can supply me with about 50 gallons per month. Basically, I'm taking 15 minutes here and there to pick up oil rather than devoting an entire Saturday to it, so I don't really see it "using" my time, but I suppose it is. Let's assume 15 minutes out of my way for each pickup, so there's one hour a month roughly.

As far as filtering, I figure that from start to finish I'll be looking at an hour of "prep" time which will basically be getting new oil into the CF rig. Let's assume that I've got pretty dirty oil and I'm making double sure that it's clean, so call actually processing 5 hours. Then cleanup/final pumping into the truck should take about an hour. That's a good chunk of a Saturday, BUT my aim is to only HAVE to do it once a month, maybe more in the beginning to try to stockpile. However, while the CF is running in the garage I won't be babysitting it. I'll most likely be mowing the lawn, working on some project on the house, watching TV, etc...and poking my head in the garage every hour or so. For arguments sake though, we'll add it to the monthly time for a grand total of 8 hours. Even if I was "paying myself" $10.00 per hour, (which would be generous) that's only $80.00 per month.

Another big component to this is that it's not for everyone. I've had plenty of conversations with folks who, despite current fuel prices, think I'm insane. They don't understand why someone would want to pick up smelly, dirty, nasty oil, store it in their house, build a processor to filter it, and convert a truck to run on it. I've heard it all from "Why did you buy a diesel in the first place?" to "Just sell it and buy a gas truck" to "Yeah but the time you spend doing it isn't worth it..." My fiancee was perhaps the biggest critic at first, seeing as though we were trying to save to buy a house, diesel costs were steadily rising, and I was trying to convince her that laying out $4000 for something other than the down payment on the house was a GOOD thing! Now she's seriously considering trading in her gasser Corolla for a Volkswagen TDI for the express purpose of running on WVO since she has a 45 minute commute as well.

Two final thoughts: The two biggest reasons which make all of this work are that first, I (like most here I'd imagine) find this fun and challenging. I've been researching this since I was a senior in college back in 2006-fervently posting and reading message boards, experimenting with oil, stockpiling parts, etc... I get as much enjoyment out of solving a problem or building something myself as I do watching hockey or a good movie. The second reason is self reliance. I find it very satisfying to be somewhat independent and able to (to a reasonable degree) control my own destiny. I change my own oil, work on my own truck, work on my own house, etc... In fact, once I master the art of running my truck on vegetable oil, I'll be looking for ways to heat my home with any number of things. Wood and coal are two things I've been looking into quite a lot lately. Coal is very cheap if you transport it yourself, and a two hour drive to Pennsylvania to pick up a ton or two (I live in Northwestern NJ) is no big deal if the fuel to get there and back is free! Wood takes more work, but most of the cost is sweat and time, when, once again, the fuel to haul it is free. Anyway, that's quite a long diatribe, but that's my take on the "cost" of "free" WVO fuel.
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2008 2:34 am

Postby WD8CDH » Tue May 27, 2008 1:01 pm

The time and materials for processing the oil varies a lot. I have reduced my time over the years. I pick up oil a couple of times a week (I also heat my house with Used Cooking Oil). Fortunately, my supplier is directly on my route to and from work so there is no additional mileage. The owner supplies and cleans the covered buckets and often carries them to my car. The time is less than two minutes unless I stay and BS with the owner. I supply oil to two other people at work but I ignore that time.

My dewatering and filtering uses no pumps and requires no regular intervention except for dumping oil in one end and taking finished oil out the other end. I can either have it automatically fill a 5 gallon fuel container or have it dump into storage. I process from 5 to 15 gallons a day (usually 2 days a week) with usually under 5 minutes of time spent per day.

Dumping oil in consists of pouring one bucket at a time into a 5 gallon sump on the first floor and closing the lid. Gravity slowly allows the dirty oil to flow into the basement into the bottom of a heated and elevated upflow settling tank. The oil is slowly forced up to the outlet on the top of the settling tank and then gravity flows thru a 2 micron filter into storage or immediate use. The settling tank is very evenly heated (to prevent convection currents) and very well insulated so it only draws less than 60 watts.

I kept track of the time I spent on picking up oil, processing it and filling my greasemobile and compared it to the time that I spent in gas stations with my wife's gasser for two months. The gasser took more time.

Since the setteling is so effective, about once a year I clean the screen on the inlet and replace the outlet 2 micron filter. About 15 minutes and $15. I dump water and sludge about twice a year, 5 minutes each time.

Since my settling is heated and my storage is slightly heated, the fats stay in the fuel so I don't have to dispose of them.

I have yet to have to replace an onboard veggie filter even with over 75,000 grease miles but now I replace both the diesel filter and the veggie filter at the same time at twice the manufacturers reccomendation so filter costs are a wash for me.

I change engine oil every 4,000 to 6,000 miles but I use 5W-40 synthetic.

Conversion takes me 4 - 6 hours and about $600 to $800 in materials. The most costly parts are the stainless steel solenoid valves, FPHE, 2nd Tank, capacitive fuel level sender, heated pickup and heated fuel filter head.
Ron Schroeder
'85 MB 300DT 2 Tank
Since '81 former WVO conversions:
'83 240D
'80 Audi 4000D
'83 Isuzu Pup
'86 Golf
'76 Honda Civic with Kubota engine
Prior to the cars, several generators
Kubota Tractor
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Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 11:44 am
Location: NY

Postby 123eddie » Mon Jun 02, 2008 7:43 am

I got into this in the middle of December 07 by buying two Mercedes wagons on the same day after reading the forums for a month or so. Back then the forums said you could buy svo cheaper than diesel at the stores while setting up wvo. First rude awakening was when I bought two cubes and did the math. Next the first 6 restaurants I asked said no. Now my wife rightfully says so we have 5 cars for 3 drivers and we can't find oil. I have to admit that things looked pretty grim at this point but then I got my first oil 1 cube a week and others things began to change for the better. I scored a Mexican restaurant that also has a small chip factory. So next I sell my toyota truck and buy a 98 dodge 12 valve to convert and to top that off I bought a 85 mercedes not running of Craigs list with a frybrid system. My filtering system is copied off of Ron Schroder's post on his Up Flow system. My wife's wagon gets an Elsbett conversion at the end of June and we are in the process of selling her gas car. If I can get my daughter to sell her 69 vw fastback we will be fully greased. The only glich I'm currently facing is that I live in CA and now I will need a waste haulers permit @ $400 and a million dollar liability insurance policy. I'm getting a lot of enjoyment out of this from a hobby stand point and I read that the average family spends $4800 a year in fuel but the priceless pleasure is driving by the gas stations.
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Location: Encinitas CA

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