Monday, October 15, 2007

Rhode Island Energy Efficiency Expo

I had the opportunity to visit the energy expo sponsored by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources. It was a small setup, with about 30-40 booths inside the ballroom, several BioDiesel vehicles and a fuel cell powered Model T in the carport, and a biodiesel powered tractor-trailer with a travelling museum display about the history of the Northern woodlands and woodland products, industries, livelihoods of New York and New England.

The most interesting thing that I saw and spoke with a one of the booth staff about was the BioHeating Oil. Currently certified for use by UL in oil furnaces is a B5 blend, meaning 5% vegetable or soy oil with 95% traditional home heating oil. The representative (from hudsonecofuel (website in beta, it will be up soon I was assured) was confident that it was only a matter of time before B10, B15 and B20 blends were certified by UL for use in furnaces, just as occurred in BioDiesel blends. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay until 3pm when the gentleman from the booth was to give a presentation.

I didn't ask about the composition, but I got the impression that generally the blend is being made from virgin soybean oil, though they did have samples of used fryolator oil and the cleaned and refined cooking oil.

Only three vendors are offering BioHeating oil in the state right now. One of them has B100 (100% oil from vegetable sources), which you can then custom blend in the tank to get whatever blend the homeowner is comfortable with. The only warning he had however, was that it was best to start with a B5 blend, as the vegetable oil acts as a solvent. This is a problem for older oil storage tanks due to the debris that collects in the tank over time from the bacteria that are naturally found in heating oil settling out. The vegetable oil starts to break this down and can cause the filter to clog as the tank cleans out. His recommendation was to have a spare filter on hand, and run B5 for a month before upping the blend to B10 up to B20 by managing the amount of BioHeating oil delivered.

So, lesson - make sure to have a spare filter on hand, you will clog the filter when switching to a fuel with a Bio component.

I didn't get any information on pricing compared to traditional heating oil.

The companies offering BioHeating Oil in Rhode Island:
T.H. Malloy
White Fuel
Guardian Fuel and Energy Systems

I also spoke with a woman at the New England GreenStart booth. They have a heating oil cost assistance program that anyone who chooses them as their electricity generator (not deliverer, thats going to be National Grid). The idea is that while a consumer may pay slightly more for their electricity, through People's Discount Heating Oil Service, the increased electricity cost can be offset with with discounts on home heating oil at 15 to 30 cents/gallon. Membership is $20/year in the program. When signing up, the consumer is paired with a participating oil provider, including a BioHeating Oil option.

Otherwise, there were the usual fair of energy efficiency products on display: Windows, hot water heater, solar hot water heaters, PV systems, ground water heat exchange, home energy and air infiltration testing. The local energy utility, National Grid, had a large number of booths, advocating home energy efficiency testing, appliance purchase assistance for more energy efficient appliances.