Fast Lube - September 2008

Green Squared: Recycling Used Oil
Saves Money and the Environment
By Michael Shirk

The lube center at Cloister Car Wash.
The lube center's basement operations.

Forty thousand gallons. That’s how much used motor oil Cloister Car Wash & Lube in Pennsylvania recycles each year using a used-oil coil tube boiler. How do they use the free energy created from the boilers? It generates hot water for radiant floor heating, for the car wash, and hot air is pumped back to heat the company’s quick lube operation.

“Our used-oil boilers help our company play a responsible environmental stewardship role in the communities where we operate,” Mike Mountz, owner of Cloister Car Wash & Lube, said. “Transporting used oils from our facilities to disposal areas is an expensive effort that always contains the potential for spills and environmental contamination. By having our own used-oil recycling systems on site, we eliminate this liability while doing something positive with the used motor oil that is generated in our daily operations.

“The boilers and furnaces that recycle the used motor oils are a good fit for us from a business standpoint. More importantly, the units eliminate potential dangers to the local environment that can surface if used motor oil is not recycled properly. We live in the communities where we operate — our decision to recycle our own used oil on site impacts each of us personally.”

In addition to the positive environmental aspects, Cloister Car Wash & Lube has found that the energy generated from the units provides inexpensive hot water for its car wash operations and snow melt.

“We’ve invested in our used-motor-oil units for the past 11 years because they’re a critical part of our successful operations,” said Mountz. “As we’ve grown in locations, we’ve added used-oil coil tube boilers and hot-air units as part of our standard practices. These units are an economical way for us to dispose of our used motor oil, transmission fluid, and other fluids while gaining back on-site energy recovery. This makes a great deal of economic and environmental sense. I believe the return-on-investment is strong for any facility with oil change operations.”


Before McCormick Motors installed their used-oil recycling furnace in 1998, they paid to have 11,000 gallons of used motor oil removed from their facility each year. Today, with four recycling furnaces in place, they remove just a 55-gallon drum of used oil yearly. And, more impressively, they abandoned their old boiler system and have had flat energy bills for the past 10 years using energy from the recycled oil to heat their 40,000-square foot service center and showroom.

“We recycle almost 10,000 gallons of used oils each year with our furnace units,” according to Gordon Moore, vice president of McCormick Motors in Nappanee, IN. “The energy savings are significant. However, the most important aspect is that we’ve eliminated our liability for transporting the used oil to a disposal site and we’re doing something positive for the environment.”

Installed water boilers at Cloister Car Wash.

A number of companies manufacture used-oil boilers and furnaces for the fast lube and car wash industries. There are also used-oil recycling centers that include a self-contained, on-site recycling and heating system allowing businesses to store and burn used oil conveniently and efficiently. Recycling centers generally work in tandem with used-oil furnaces and have a UL-listed 250 gallon storage tank that supplies oil to the furnace.

In Wisconsin, Dave Brantmeier, owner of Vande Hey Brantmeier Automotive Group, has three used-oil units servicing his two locations in Chilton.

“We’ve used the furnaces to recycle used motor oil since 2001,” Brantmeier said. “Our service teams do about 450-500 automobile oil changes per month, so the used motor oil really adds up. We recycle the used motor oil into the units to heat our shop and service areas plus our customer drive-in area. We’re exceptionally pleased with the cost savings and the way these units help us dispose of waste motor oils in a positive and responsible way.”

As Brantmeier points out, service centers using used motor oil recycling systems are making an investment that benefits their companies and the environment. The products reduce a business’s liability related to the transportation and disposal of used motor oils.


The free heat that auto service centers and car washes gain nationwide each winter helps both the environment and the bottom line for many businesses. After used motor oil is removed from trucks and cars on a daily basis at service centers, it is “fed” into a used-oil furnace or boiler and is then converted to free heating for the facility.

A used-oil-fired hot air furnace.

Car washes and fast lube locations typically save thousands of dollars annually on their fuel bills, depending on the volume of used oil they generate and the current cost of alternate sources of fuel. The purchase of a used-oil system results in an 18 to 24 month return on investment, on average. Following this short payback period, the systems allow business owners to pocket the annual savings that they had previously spent on fuel.

As Robinson Tire has discovered, service centers employing used-motor-oil systems are making an investment that benefits their companies and the environment. In 2006, Robinson Tire was spending $4,000 yearly in gas heating costs. Since adding their used-motor-oil recycling furnace, they have reduced gas usage by 87 percent. The Lafayette, IN seven-bay auto center has just added a second furnace and expects even greater energy savings in the future.

A used-oil recycling center.

In Lima, OH, the president of Magnam Truck and Auto estimates his company saves more than $1,200 monthly on gas bills thanks to their furnace. “One of the first things we did when we purchased our 13,000-square foot reconditioning and clean-up building was to buy our used-oil furnace,” Craig Burkholder, president of Magnam Truck and Auto, said. “We create more than 2,300 gallons of used-oil each year with the sports utility vehicles and trucks we sell and service. For the past two years the recycling unit has turned our waste fuel into energy. We’re looking to buy more of these units in the near future.”


Traditionally, shiny, red fire engines fascinate little boys. The fast lube industry is discovering that big boys are just as fascinated with their shiny, red used-oil boilers and furnaces. The fascination with these products comes from the results.

These units enable people to take thousands of gallons of used motor oils and recycle them through boilers and furnaces to reduce their energy costs and to increase cash flow. With the rising costs of fuel these days, that’s enough to get the kid in any of us excited.

Tucked inside the used-motor-oil recycling box is a complex heat exchanger. The heat exchangers provide businesses with more heat with less oil, and cover 250 percent more surface area than typical blast tubes do.

For one leading company, the exceptional oil combustion technology incorporated into its products features a combination of a pre-heater block, ignition system, and special retention head that makes the burner unique. More heat per gallon of oil is captured with the energy retention disk. This results in more useful heat being delivered to the work area and less wasted heat being sent up the chimney. Powerful and dependable, leading industry furnaces and boilers meet or exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Throughout the used-motor-oil recycling industry, state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing facilities are cranking out the latest technologies for laboratory testing. Only the best, most proven components and technologies go into top-of-the-line boilers and furnaces ensuring recycling used-oil can be an efficient and profitable operation.

Michael Shirk is president of Leola, PA-based Clean Burn Inc. You can visit the company on the web at

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