Make a Waste Oil Heater

With this waste oil heater you can heat a shop or garage, or even your home. The fuel is "free for the hauling."

| September/October 1978


The waste oil heater will make a room quite cozy for reading.



I read with interest and some concern the letter from Mary Hammersmith in the February/March 2004 issue regarding the waste oil heater from the September/October 1978 issue. I helped build that heater in 1978. I used it in my home and wrote the original article about it.

Here's the fly in the ointment: When this stove was designed and built, most motor oil was formulated for larger-displacement, precatalytic-era vehicles. As demands of fuel economy and federal emission standards began to affect auto manufacturers, they had to make smaller, harder-working engines that operated at higher temperatures than the older engines, especially with the introduction of catalytic-converter systems in the mid-1970s. Subsequently, motor oil sometimes flashed in the crankcases of vehicles, and in the early 1980s, an anti-flashing agent was added to motor oils for safety reasons. This raised the oil's combustion temperature significantly. Naturally, the performance of the waste oil heater was affected, and the original MOTHER EARTH NEWS stopped selling plans when complaints brought the problems to light.

Modern waste oil shop heaters use a different technology than our old drip-style burner. The new UL- and EPA-approved models have special pre-heaters and pumped-injection systems that vaporize fuel for efficient combustion at high temperatures. The difference between MOTHER EARTH NEWS' waste oil burner and the commercial models is vast, and I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the EPA would never approve this technology if it were a manufactured unit.

Richard Freudenberger
Hendersonville, North Carolina

What's that, bunky? You say the skyrocketing cost of oil, electricity, coal, and other fuels has you scratching for a less expensive way to heat your shop, garage, or home this coming winter?

2/14/2016 8:22:06 AM

How do you get the oil to the furnace by gravity? or pump? and how do you control the flow of oil?

5/21/2014 12:17:34 PM

I like your waste oil burning stove, but i don't understand the copper tubing could you explain it in more detail.Thanks Jim

2/5/2014 11:44:51 PM

For plans on how to build a waste oil heater that works it's safe, and burns cleanly, check out You'll be amazed at the free heat and hotwater that these heaters can produce. It's the way the world is looking to for free heat and waste oil certainly has amazing amount of heat. And the oil is all free. Being engine or fish and chip oil. These heaters burn 1 litre per hour.

1/13/2014 7:12:08 PM

Dell, Did you get an answer to your question? I found a link in the text.

1/13/2014 7:08:37 PM

I am going to build this waste oil burner. I am accumulating materials. But, I have a question. I can see how and why the burner will function looking at the design. However Wouldn't a cast iron skillet hold up better for the bottom of the burner? Why a cast iron skillet and a steel skillet for the burner assembly?

11/27/2013 8:42:57 AM

I saw mention of plans, where do you get the plans?

11/27/2013 8:11:33 AM

the use and transport of waste oil as well as the use of waste oil not generated on site (at least)may well require state permits which may or may not be granted. The use of waste oil heaters way require an air permit because of the impurities in the waste oil. The day is long past when we can use waste oil the way people used to use it.

11/27/2013 7:57:29 AM

This sounds like a neat project and I loved the idea of using old unused water heaters that would be otherwise scrapped. Also having just made another project from an old oil barrel. I found it extremely difficult to work with the barrel and all the disadvantages in your article are now painfully obvious! That being said, perhaps I missed a link in these rather complicated verbal directions however, the few pictures included are sadly lacking the detail required to duplicate this design. A set of plans would be very helpful but, again I see no links or references to any. Particularly important are some photos or plans for the burner and preheater portions of the design. Retep

shandon decker
1/13/2012 3:56:30 AM

Use FIre blanketing like they use in water boiler combustion chambers.

12/18/2009 3:11:51 AM

Asbestos as used inside the burner is illegal in Italy as proven of being a cause of cancer . What could be used instead ?

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