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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Failed experiment or breaking rule #2



It's always fun to write about all my little projects that go well. Sure, I document the little tweaks and fixes needed to make things go right, but today it's about outright failure. Sometimes things do not go as planned.

This happened at a time when I had a huge surplus of waste vegetable oil. We had been running two old diesel Mercedes Benz cars on veggie. Then I sold one to my daughter when she moved to Rhode Island. We were only running one veggie burning car and my wife work situation changed so she wasn't putting as many miles on the car. The veggie was piling up.

Then I found this nifty design for a waste oil burning furnace It seemed simple enough. I won't go into the details of construction as I don't want anyone else to attempt to build one. The idea behind it was that there was a cast iron plate inside the stove. Once the plate was hot it would ignite veggie oil falling on it from a drip tube. The trick was to light a fire under the plate to get it hot then it should be a self sustaining fire.

Since I'm only a partial idiot, I decided to test the furnace in the yard instead of in the house. I rigged up a temporary chimney with some old stove pipe, heated up the fire plate, and opened the drip valve. It smoked a bit at first but settled down to a nice steady burn. Great! Worked fine.

Then I installed it in the basement and connected it to the chimney At first things were working great. The basement got nice and warm. Then there was a little factor I had not considered. Outside the tank of waste veggie oil stayed the same temperature during the test. In the basement, the oil in the tank got nice and warm.

The warmer oil thinned out and flowed faster through the drip tube. The oil flowed faster and faster, too fast to completely burn on the fire plate. Excess oil pooled inside the stove. Then the whole pool of oil ignited. Suddenly the stove took off with a roar like a jet engine.

At that point I turned the fuel off, but there was plenty of oil in the stove to sustain the fire for some time. A huge black plume of smoke poured out of my chimney. Then the smoke detectors on each floor started to go off one by one.

That's when my lovely wife came down to the basement to gently inquire about what I was doing.

There are only three rules that my lovely wife insists I live by. Rule #2 is don't burn the house down. She felt I was getting seriously close to violating that rule. At that moment I was standing in the basement doorway with an industrial sized fire extinguisher and didn't have time to discuss it.

Eventually the fire burned itself out. Doors and windows were opened to air the house out. From that little experiment I thought I learned that the veggie furnace needed a better fuel regulation system. My lovely wife on the other hand concluded that the veggie furnace experiments were over.

The veggie furnace currently sits in the scrap pile waiting for the junk dealer.

-Sixbears

22 comments:

  1. A little close for comfort.

    I hate it when it starts huffing as it gathers more and more oxygen in big gulps.

    Glad you averted disaster!

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    1. It was pretty impressive there for a few minutes. I must admit to being a bit worried. The fire extinguisher was a last ditch option and I'm glad I didn't have to use it.

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  2. Sorry it failed but glad you didn't lose the house or get divorced. OK someone will ask mite as well be me. WHATS RULE1 and What's rule 3 ????? :)

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    1. It would have been awkward to explain to the insurnace company.

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  3. What a lovely story. I do like happy endings...

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    1. The house didn't burn down, nor did the wife leave me, so it was a pretty good resolution overall.

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  4. What does not kill us only makes us stronger, but that sounds like a close call. Glad to hear of a happy ending.

    I echo Gary in Bama - Rules #1 and #3 should be stated, I've been married 18 years and still don't have a clue how to stay permanently out of trouble, lol.

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    1. Too close for comfort. I guess I'd better spell out the three rules pretty soon.

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  5. Hermit's Baby SisJuly 29, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    At least you, as an experienced firefighter, knew the proper way to put it out, and had the tools at hand. Just think if a real idiot had poured water on it ...
    Live and learn is a good rule, also. Sounds like you did.

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    1. Better to learn from a close call than a real disaster.

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  6. Ha! Rule #1 is still my favorite: No Time Travel

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    1. Actually, that's rule #3 and it's a bit more complicated than that.

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  7. Ouch. Hey, at least you tried.

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    1. Not my best moment, but live and learn.

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  8. Okay, for everyone who wanted to know the three rules my lovely wife has laid down for me:

    #1 No starting a religion. While I have been called a god in my past in was not my intention. People who start their own religion have an interesting ride in life but it rarely ends well.

    #2 No burning the house down. As you can see from the blog post that it's a concern.

    #3 concerns time travel. "If" I time travel l have to come back reasonably close to what I was before I left. Not only does time travel have an effect on the time line, it also affects the time traveler. She likes me pretty much the way I am.

    These are the three rules my lovely wife has spelled out for me in no uncertain terms. I may have pushed the edge of the envelope a few times there, but no outright violations.

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  9. An ex-fireman burning his own house down?? Not a good scenario!!

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    1. Looks bad, at the very least, but hey, I'm retired.

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  10. Like the old saying goes...all's well that ends well! Glad the house is still standing!

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    1. Me too! Gotta keep the lovely wife happy.

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  11. Many years back I heated a shop with a wood heater that had a drip tube installed. Back then no one cared and we burned used motor oil. Now we would be locked up for sure. We used a needle valve to control the flow and a sediment trap to keep it from clogging. Since it was a five bay garage running 6 days a week we had no shortage of stove fuel. Still had to have some wood to get it going in the morning. Best I remember there were a few fire bricks in the middle of it where the drip would land. I was young and as I've been told lazy so I do remember keeping my backside close to the beast every chance I got. Glad you still have the wife and house....

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    1. It sounds like the same idea as my stove -except it didn't almost start the place on fire. :)

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  12. you need basically a valve that opens or restricts via a thermo sensor the fuel temp

    Wildflower

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