October 16, 2000
Brookhaven Lab's Oil-Heat Research
Results in Consumer Savings
New Technologies, New
Studies Hold Promise for Future Oil-Heat Savings
UPTON, NY - The price of home heating
oil is expected to skyrocket this season, perhaps to more than
$2 per gallon. But researchers in the Combustion Equipment Technology
Program at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National
Laboratory are working to improve fuel-oil efficiency to help
homeowners and small businesses keep costs down.
During the past decade, the Brookhaven
program has already saved an estimated $6 billion for the 11 million
Americans who heat their
homes with oil heat, seven million of which are in the Northeast.
Future improvements in oil-heat technology currently under development
at Brookhaven may help oil-heat customers save up to an additional
$19.5 billion by the year 2010. Brookhaven's research is also
leading to the development of ultra-low emissions combustion technologies
that will help contribute to a cleaner environment.
Work at Brookhaven on heating equipment
is sponsored jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy and the
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Ongoing research programs in Brookhaven's
combustion equipment technology program include:
- Fan-Atomized Burner - This oil burner,
developed by Brookhaven Lab researchers, fires fuel at low input
rates to match the smaller heating loads of well-insulated homes.
It offers improved fuel- and air-mixing for better performance
and is now in the second generation of commercialization. Its
features translate to about a five to ten percent improvement
in efficiency over conventional burners. The new burner also
reduces nitrogen-oxide emissions by as much as 30 percent. Heatwise,
Inc., of Ridge, Long Island, has begun to commercialize the new
- Flame Quality Indicator - This electronic
device monitors flame brightness in residential oil burners.
It is designed to alert the homeowner when service is required
weeks before the oil burner's primary control would normally
shut down the system due to severe flame-quality problems. Thus,
problems can be corrected quickly before they escalate and before
the heat or hot-water supply is disrupted, thereby increasing
convenience and efficiency. Currently, two companies - Honeywell
Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Insight Technologies
of Bohemia, Long Island - are performing a 100-unit field study
of an improved version of the flame quality indicator that was
developed at Brookhaven about a decade ago. This system follows
from a Brookhaven patented design that received an R&D 100
Award as one of the best 100 U.S. innovations in 1992. Brookhaven
is providing technical support for these field tests.
- Low-Sulfur Fuel - Brookhaven is conducting
laboratory and field studies of low-sulfur fuels. Prior Brookhaven
research has shown that sulfur is an important contributing factor
in heat-exchanger fouling and efficiency degradation. The current
research is aimed at determining benefits of long-term use of
reduced-sulfur fuel. This fuel is already used in diesel trucks.
Low-sulfur heating oil is expected to cost up to two cents more
per gallon than conventional fuel oil, but shows promise of providing
net savings to oil-heat customers through substantially reduced
maintenance and cleaning costs.
- Biofuels - Brookhaven has begun preliminary
laboratory tests to determine if the use of fuels derived from
vegetable oils, called biofuels, would be a viable alternative
to conventional fuel oil for residential heating. The researchers
will evaluate cost, emissions, wear and tear on oil-burner components,
and efficiency of biofuels to see if blending a small percentage
of biofuel with conventional fuel oil is a feasible way to stretch
The U.S. Department of Energy's
Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities
available to university, industrial and government personnel for
basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental
sciences and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is
operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research
management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of