What if you could heat your home using vegetable oil? In fact, biodiesel is already a viable fuel for home heating, and homes that use an oil furnace can switch to using a blend of biofuel with little to no hassle. Read on to learn more about this environmentally-friendly heating fuel.

Better for the Environment

Most oil-burning furnaces should be able to handle a blend of up to 20 percent biodiesel without a problem. The concoction is usually made from cooking or soy oil, then blended with traditional heating oil. Restaurants are the primary suppliers of the oil -- it can't be used directly after it's discarded from the kitchen, but once it's cleaned and filtered it's ready to go.

You can burn the fuel with a clean conscience. While biodiesel is a plant-based fuel, it still emits carbon into the atmosphere, although in smaller amounts than diesel. The biofuel is also a big step up from petroleum oil in another way: the carbon in plants has a much shorter life cycle than that of fossil fuels, so it would end up back in the atmosphere soon enough anyway.

American Fuel, American Farmers

Biodiesel is already in use in many places, most heavily in the northeast part of the country, where the highest concentration of oil burning heaters is located. The Queens City Council in New York City is currently considering a bill that would mandate five percent of home heating oil to be comprised of biodiesel by 2016, with increasing percentages up to 20 percent by 2030. The borough already requires that 2 percent of heating oil be made of biodiesel,

The USDA Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland uses a blend of 20 percent biodiesel to heat its buildings and are encouraged by its utility. "Using biodiesel offers an opportunity to reduce emissions, especially particulate matter and hydrocarbons, and that's a great advantage," John Van de Vaarst, Agricultural Research Center deputy area director, said to Mother Earth News. "I used to refer to biodiesel as an alternative fuel, but now I call it an 'American fuel, made by American farmers.' I think it's an obvious strategy to help clean up the environment and reduce our dependency on foreign oil."

Trust the Professionals

There are a few caveats: Biodeisel can gel in very cold weather, so it should be stored indoors or underground. High concentrations of it can also wear out rubber seals. And the first time you use it, it could dissolve years of accumulated gunk off the inside of your system, which can then clog up your filter-- but after that, it should run cleanly and more efficiently than before.

All that being said, it's unwise to run out, buy a bunch of biodiesel and pour it into your furnace on a whim. Make sure you have a qualified HVAC service professional inspect your system to advise you on anything you need to be aware of before proceeding. The technician can also help you pick what blend to use and address any other concerns you have.

Call local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® for more information and advice if you’d like to explore using biodiesel in your system. We’re always here to help!