How to make your own waste oil burner heater

Updated July 20, 2017

Burning waste oil to heat your home or shop can save big money on utility bills and fuel costs. Burning waste oil is not about the quality of the fuel - it is about putting that fuel to good use. By stripping down an old hot water heater and adding a fuel line, forced air inlet and a vent, you can heat your home with waste oil and dramatically reduce your utility bills.

Strip all the fittings from the hot water heater. Plug the holes by either welding covers over them or fitting threaded pipe plugs to the existing fittings. Either way, you want the water heater to be as clean of a cylinder as possibly, with minimal protrusions.

Cut a four inch hole in the top or top rear of the water heater. Fit the steel pipe in the hole with two inches protruding on the exterior, and weld it in place. Ensure all gaps are sealed.

Cut a door in the front of the water heater. Make sure your access door is large enough for the pans to fit through. Weld or bolt the hinges in place, and bolt the door to the hinges. Seal the door using the fire rope and adhesive.

Weld the legs to the water heater tank.

Fit the vent on the pipe and seal it by welding it in place. Wrap the fuel line around the vent several times and then direct it near the top of the heater.

Make a cone for the heater. Make your cone so it will fit through the access door. Cut a hole in the top of the heater for the cone, and fit and vent it through the hole. Weld it in place or bolt it and seal it with fire rope.

Construct the burner, and bolt it inside the bottom of the water heater, centred under the cone.

Cut a two inch hole in the water heater directly above the cone. Cut and insert a three inch long piece of the two inch pipe and weld it in place. Drill a hole for the 1/2 inch bulkhead fitting in the top of 90 degree fitting and install. Fit the 90 degree fitting on the pipe pointed in the direction you want your air intake to come from.

Make an adaptor for the fan with sheet metal and attach it to the two inch pipe. You could also use a drier hose and fasten it with pipe clamps.

Fit the other bulkhead fitting in the bottom of the plastic bucket. Run a short piece of the 1/2 inch tubing from it and install the adjustable valve. Attach the line from the top of the two inch pipe to the adjustable valve.


If you fit the hot water heater inside a 55 gallon steel drum, you can vent the air from around the hot water heater out of the drum and into your home heating system. Be creative. Many of the elements in this design can be substituted for materials you have on hand. Don't use copper fuel lines as they may corrode under certain kinds of fuels.


Make sure all the gaps are properly sealed. Do not use the heater indoors unless you enclose it in another metal drum. The uninsulated sides of the water heater will be too hot for indoor use.

Things You'll Need

  • Old hot water heater
  • Cutting torch
  • Round and straight files (or angle grinder)
  • 4 inch vent pipe and fittings
  • 4 inch steel pipe, 4 inches long
  • Welder (TIG type, if available)
  • Hinges
  • Fire rope and adhesive
  • 4 pieces of angle iron for legs, 12 inches long
  • 12 inch square steel plate
  • Steel pot or pan
  • Small stainless steel sheet
  • 4 bolts, 6 inches with nuts
  • 8 bolts, 1.5 inches with nuts
  • Miscellaneous nuts and bolts
  • 2 inch steel pipe, 12 inches long
  • 2 inch 90 degree fitting
  • Hose clamps
  • 2 bulkhead fittings, 1/2 inch
  • Box fan
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid
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About the Author

Daniel Sutherland has been writing internal reports for his employers since 2005. He has extensive experience in automotive repair and do-it-yourself projects and writes on these topics for various websites. Sutherland received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion from College of the Ozarks in 2007.