This is not my work. These steps were originally posted by GM.
There is also a good photo gallery of users' Appleseeds at www.biodieselpictures.com:
Using the Appleseed Reactor:
1. fill the reactor with oil using the reactor pump (difficult and optional). This pump won’t draw up liquids very well, especially the first time you use it.
The better solution is a rotary barrel pump ($40 at Harbor Freight Tools), with it’s outlet hose attached to the drain/fill tube of the reactor (the clearwater pump will pass liquids right through).
Another option for self-priming is the Harbor Freight marine tranfer pump which is also inexpensive and has gotten good reviews despite it's flimsy appearance.
If you do use the Clearwater Pump on the reactor to fill, you will need to close off the main valve between the tank and the plumbing manifold, and stick the drain/fill hose into a bucket of oil as close to the pump as possible. You will also have to open the vent at the top of the reactor so that the displaced air inside the reactor has someplace to go. Make sure your vent runs to the outdoors, it'll vent some methanol after you've started making biodiesel in the unit.
2. test oil (titration and water tests)
3. start heating the oil
4. at the same time, measure lye or KOH and add to the carboys of methanol. Give them an initial shake. You don't have to shake hard.
5. shake or rock methoxide carboy every 20 minutes while oil heats. This can also be done the night before or even earlier.
6. check that lye is dissolved by looking through the bottom of carboy for clumps. Don't lift the carboy above your face/head/eyes to do this, in case you've left something un-attached and it leaks.
7. connect methoxide delivery lid to carboy. Put carboy on a shelf above the reactor pump
8. open the vent at the top of reactor. The vent should have a hose or pipe leading to the outdoors to direct any methanol fumes out of your work area. you can also put the vent through a condensor to minimise the methanol hazards, but you still need to vent the system out of your workspace.
9. To check the temperature of the oil, you must turn on the pump, assuming the temperature gauge is in the plumbing of the pump. Do not rely on the 'numbers' stamped on some water heater thermostats, they are not accurate once you've mixed the contents of the water heater.
When oil is at temperature (130F), turn off the heater and turn on the circulating pump.
Open methoxide valve fully. Look at color of oil in the pump output tube. If it does not change when methoxide valve is open, then you’re not drawing in any methoxide (due to pump being wimpy!). In most Appleseeds this will be the case.
In this case, close the main oil valve between the reactor and the rest of the plumbing SLIGHTLY. You want to have as much oil and as little methoxide going through the pump as you can, to ensure a good mix. You are looking for a slight color change (to turbid) in the pump return tubing. A faster pump would be helpful here. When one carboy is empty, exchange lids for the other one.
10. Once methoxide is all added to reactor, close the vent valve on top of reactor to avoid losing methanol to the atmosphere. Make sure the heating element is unplugged!
Circulate mixture for at least 2 hours (read www.biodieselcommunity.org article about quality testing to learn more about 'conversion' tests that will tell you how long to mix for your particular batch and oil).
Temp shouldn’t drop greatly below 120, if it does, you may want to add more insulation to the tank next time (conventional bubblewrap works great)
11. Let glycerol settle for 8-24 hours. Longer settling time is always better- as microscopic droplets of glycerol and soap take a long time to settle in a sealed reactor- the excess methanol keeps them suspended.
12. drain glycerol. If you’ve used NaOH lye, and titration results are over 4-5 ml on the titration, your glycerol may solidify. In that case, it’s a good idea to drain most of the glycerol as soon as possible, then settle longer and drain more (see #11) to prevent solid clogging of your plumbing. If it solidifies, you can turn on the heat for a short time, and could pour hot water over the solid in the plumbing, or use a blow dryer or hot air gun to warm the plumbing or pump up.
I recommend using KOH instead of NaOH as none of these problems would happen.
Use carboys or buckets to drain the glycerol/soap/methanol byproduct. Don’t sniff it- there is methanol present. Please see Graham Laming's website here to learn more about a 'self-venting jug lid' that will allow you to drain the glycerine without releasing any methanol fumes into your work space.
13. You will get at least 2 gallons of intermixed glycerol/biodiesel. Some water heaters produce less 'intermixed', some more. It is very important to not put this stuff into your wash tank as it contains a huge amount of soap that can cause great difficulty in washing or other soap removal.
You can tell that this 'intermixed' layer is coming out of the drain by looking at the color of the liquid in a clear drain tube (don't use braided line, use completely clear tubing), and you may notice that it drains faster than the glycerol. Save this intermixed liquid to settle further in a carboy, then pour off the biodiesel from it into your wash tank once glycerol settles. Another trick is to slow down the drain valve once intermixed biodiesel/glycerol appears- this will cut down on the amount of biodiesel that enters the intermixed layer.
If it's your first time using your reactor, wait a few minutes after you think you've gotten all of the 'intermixed' layer out, then drain a little bit more. You may find that glycerine is still settling out . This may be because it will stick on the sides of some tanks and needs more time to creep to the bottom, or it may be that you didn't get it all the first time. If that is the case, drain a little more into your 'set-aside-to-resettle' jug.
It is less cumbersome to have a separate settling tank for separating glycerine and biodiesel. This could be identical to a standpipe wash tank but with a shorter standpipe. You'd pump all your reactor contents to that tank and let them settle, then drain just biodiesel from on top of the glycerine. If your standpipe is too short (not a bad thing) you'll have to play with the valves a little to drop the levels to the right point before clean biodiesel will come out. Do not use the same settling tank as your wash tank.
14. Now, use the pump and it’s fluid transfer manifold valves to pump the settled biodiesel into the wash tank. Wash according to instructions in washing articles at www.biodieselcommunity.org or elsewhere.
15. if you have a standpipe wash tank, you can then use the standpipe to drain off the settled washed biodiesel. This can also be pumped through a filter or to storage by using the reactor’s pump- close off the main oil valve on the reactor to isolate the pump from the reactor, drain anything that’s in the pump tubing, and connect the standpipe wash tank’s standpipe drain tube with the drain/fill tube of the reactor (using barbed coupling and hose clamps). You also will want to make sure it’s only biodiesel, not water, coming out of the standpipe first before attaching the pump to it. With a standpipe wash tank, you will then leave behind some water to reuse on the next wash. You can also gravity filter, but it is excruciatingly slow..
Moved Reply: We are heating our first batch (20 gallons) of WVO in the appleseed processor now. About how long does it take if the WVO was about 75 degrees F to start with? It has been going for several hours and it is around 100.
Moved Reply: it should be over 100 by now. First question- are you circulating the oil while checking the temperature ? the temp gauge only works while hot oil is going through the pipes. second question- is it possible that something's wrong with your thermostat? third question- do you have a thermometer for test batches? If so, run the pump for a few minutes to mix up any cold/hot oil layers, then drain a quart or so sample into a pot, and quickly stick the thermometer in it. This will tell you if the temp gauge on the reactor is working or not.
Moved Reply: Yep, you are the BD goddess!!! It was actually at 140 and we didn't know it.
Do you know of any negative consequences resulting from the element being plugged in while introducing the methoxide to the tank? The temperature would be greatly affected by the significantly colder methoxide, especially in the colder months.
Moved Reply: I usually heat the oil to 125 degrees F, shut the heater off and add the methoxide. The methoxide is colder but I believe that the chemical reaction that is occuring helps to maintain the temp. My reactor is insualted with paper backed fiberglass and has no problem maintaining the 125 degree F temp during the mixing process even with the element turned off.
The area where I react is unheated and I live in Mid Michigan. The typical temp in there in the morning is 40 to 45 degrees F. While working I run a turbo heater fueled with 80%BD/20%PD.
There have been times that I forgot to turn the element off and have yet to have blown myself up. With all that oil in there the methanol is very unlikely to explode or catch fire. But it's a good safe pratice to turn the heater element off.
Very funny Scottie, now beam down my clothes.
Moved Reply: I am posting for the first time. I am in the process of gathering the supplies to make the appleseed. I have some basic questions about substituting some of the recomended items and wanted to know if this was a good forum topic for those questions or if there was a better place to get suggestions? Basically, I have a 1/2 inch pump that is perfect for hot caustic liquids and I would like to use brazed copper fittings instead of black pipe, all 1/2 inch instead of the recomended 3/4 inch. Any suggestions or places to go for answers?
Moved Reply: While doing a test heat for a batch of oil, i've noticed that the heating is sluggish. I know that's to be expected, but i noticed a bit of flux smelling smoke comming out of the vent tube on the top of the appleseed. This coupled with no noticable change in temp from the 65 that it started at leads me to believe that for some reason i'm buring out elements.
I drained out the oil, replaced the element (2000W 110V) and heated the whole thing up again. I noticed about 20 seconds of smoke puffs comming out of the vent tube again coupled with what seems to me like a temperature hang at 90 degrees (it got there this time).
I'm going to try again today to heat it up using the same element, but the smoke did alarm me.... not something i want to see if it's not noramal. What's going wrong here? Am i burning out elements? Is my thermostat (I have never changed it since i salvaged the water heater, it's set at 130)? Is it something else i'm not doing right (i'm circulating the oil, installing the heating element in the bottom port and in the proper orientation)? Am i buying 110V elements not suitable for BD?
Thanks by the way for being here and helping with new homebrewers like myself!
Moved Reply: It seems like that's what would happen if you were not circulating the oil while the element is on. Are you using enough oil in your batch to cover the element while it is circulating? I use a 4500W element at 220V, and have no problems with burnout. That's doing a 25 gal. batch in a 40 gal heater.
Moved Reply: to the best of my knowledge, the oil is circulating. I use all hard black iron pipes so i really can't tell in the traditional way, you can certainly hear the splashing of the oil into the reactor and can feel that the oil is all about a uniform temperature. Plus, i know my pump is working. I'm also doing a 25 gallon batch in a 42 gallon heater, so at least the situations are similar.
Is there a difference between the thermostats for 110V and 220V? I guess you can tell from my focus on this that replacing that thermostat is the first thing i'm going to do in my 'error checking'. Any suggestions? Am I on the right track here?
PS: Is there any practical way to test an element outside of the water heater?
Moved Reply: I'm going to post this somewhere else... it just doesn't seem like a question that should go here.... needs it's own thread.
Moved Reply: If you are using a 220V water heater make sure you have upgraded to a motor control switch.(about thirty dolllars at the localk electrical supply) this will keep all circuts properly charged. To the brazed copper pipe- this sounds great but it will decrease the serviceability when you have a failed batch or the glycerine solidifys.
Moved Reply: motor control switch? not sure what to make of that...
Moved Reply: I can only se one posibility the element is not deep enough on the oil ..by way of set to high, not enough oil in the unit, or that you are mixing way to fast and the element may be getting nearly expossed ..
and to test the element just put a multi metre set on ohms across the terminals ( with cables off ) and read the metre the resistance should be simular to the rating of your element ..if zero reading the element is a dud ..if the reading is less than you expect it may still be a complete circit when cold but may go open circit when it starts to work they are cheep enough to replace if you think it is sus anyway ..
Moved Reply: Gudday Kev,
Where do you source your heater elements from? How much is cheap? Are you in Perth? Do you use screw in or flange elements? Is that too many questions? Why?
Sorry for bombarding you like this, but you might have some info that helps me.
Moved Reply: Do you have 2 elements in your hot water heater? If so, I assume you did disconnect the top element yes? If not thats where the smokes coming from!
Moved Reply: I have only one element in my water heater and it is in the lower port. It is the one with the four bolt flange (not the screw in... i'm not that lucky!). I payed about $18.00 for the element (that was on special... usually $23). It's the doubled back kind. I don't know if it's "low watt density" or not, because it doesn't say it on the package that it came in from Lowes.
The element is in good position, i think it's the grunge in the oil... i'm kicking myself for not filtering it more before putting it into my reactor for testing.... kick kick kick...
As an aside, i've noticed people talking about "Glycerine Prewash" techniques.... how is this done and with the appleseed design and what does it do exactly?
No circulation required. I only recommend this with 220-volt elements using 110 volts.
Girl Mark you know I think the world of you. I only wish I had a fraction of your knowledge. But why O why are we not advocating the use of a digital oven thermometer with the Appleseed reactor. I know others have discussed their use.
You just need to shove the SS probe in between the insulation and as close to the metal body as possible. Almost as if you are trying to scourer the metal body of the water heater. It is very accurate if you place the probe upward toward the center of the reactor. Unlike the sun (or similar auto thermostats) digital oven thermometers start displaying at a much lower temp. It even chirps when it hits a desired temperature.
A notch was filed in the plastic and metal to protect the braided cord that runs between the water heater and the blue protective cover. The oven thermometer is usually placed above my timer at eye level. I just didn’t want to take two pictures.
Fifteen bucks at Wal-Mart. I can’t imagine anything being easier or cheaper.
I hope gasgirl is gone. She wasn't doing much for us was she.
Now, yes filtering can help but its a pain. Better to let your oil settle, then suck off the top.
The prewash is adding 5% water at the end of processing your oil. What it does is help to stop the reaction from creating more soap. It also helps to get the already suspended soap bonded to some water. That way it will settle out.
This means less washing and less water later on.
Moved Reply: I'm about to fire up my new appleseed processor and the question of reactor cleaning has come to mind. How important is the cleanliness of the system? What is the easiest way?
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