Natural gas is one of the three essential utilities (the other two are Water and Electricity). We use gas in our homes and commercial establishments for a number of reasons. We use it for cooking, heating our water tank, warm our homes and to fuel our vehicles for transportation.
Having to go without gas, and most importantly heat, during the cold winter or a power outage when it’s cold outside can be one of the worst situations that you and your family can face.
Just like electricity, it is best that you take full control of generating your own natural gas. And just like electricity it will only require a small investment to obtain and setup the equipment that will provide you with FREE natural gas forever!
But we are not talking about using the same natural gas that we get from fossil fuels or coal. And we are certainly not talking about relying on the utility companies to supply our gas.
The gas that you normally pay for from the utility companies is a non-renewable gas that is severely overpriced. And this can be very costly during the winter months when the gas bill rises.
You can now take full control of supplying your home with the natural gas that you need by making your own natural gas. You can do this by making Biogas!
What Is Biogas?
Biogas is a renewable fuel which comes from the composition of organic matter. During the decomposition process in a specific contraption, a process known as anaerobic digestion takes place by which biogas (bio methane) is collected and used.
This process is known as anaerobic digestion because it takes place in an airtight *biodigester that is completely without oxygen. The absence of oxygen allows the bacteria to thrive in order to breakdown the biodegradable organic waste material. The biodigester is the contraption in which this process is done.
Biogas has many uses for the person who is self sufficient, whether they live off grid, in a homestead or even on the grid but wishing to practice more self sufficiency and independence.
Below is a full description of this process and how it all works.
* In this article Biogenerator, Biodigester, Biogas Digester and Biogas Generator are interchangeable terms describing the same thing.
How Biogas Is Made
Never make biogas indoors or in enclosed spaces. Methane is a flammable gas that will burn when mixed with air and exposed to a flame. A biogas generator could explode if the pressure drops and the flame is allowed to toll back through the piping. The risks are the same as with handling and storing conventional natural gas.
The process of making biogas begins with the organic waste that is fed into a biodigester. Some people refer to the biodigester as a biogenerator. Regardless of the name one chooses to use, this is the structure that the biogas is made in.
When you feed the biodigester with the organic waste matter, bacteria in the digester breakdown the waste matter in an anaerobic environment.
Depending on what you feed the digester and the temperature you keep it at, it will normally take from 5 – 15 days for biogas to be made in your biogenerator.
The waste that is used for this is normally organic waste such as animal manure, food scraps from the kitchen, waste oil from vegetables and vegetables as well or any starchy food waste material which is rich with carbon sources. What should NOT be fed into a biodigester are things such as processed, non organic foods, bones, rotting meat or dead fish. Instead stick to plant based organic matter and vegetables to get the most out of a biodigester.
The biogas that is produced is from mainly two types of processes: anaerobic digestion and fermentation of biodegradable organic matter.
The process is facilitated by bacteria action. The bacteria action produces biogas, which is composed of methane and other gases (Biogas is about 60% – 70% methane). Biogas is the natural byproduct from this decaying process, and is used to supply heat for cooking, for heating the water tank and also to power a backup generator that runs on natural gas.
So, What Is A Biodigester?
A biodigester, or biogenerator, is almost like a stomach (hence, the name bio-DIGESTER).
It works by breaking down biomass (plant based material, like vegetables, or animal based material), organic waste, manure, sewage, and other green waste through a process called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic simply means WITHOUT oxygen and is the opposite of aerobic which means WITH oxygen.
The actual breakdown of the biodegradable organic material takes places in a biogas digester tank. This is the process that produces the biogas which we then use as the biofuel needed for cooking, heating, lights, electronics, and even for transportation purposes.
Simply put, a biodigester or bio-generator is any machine, mechanical plant or equipment that converts organic waste into clean renewable energy!
Two Kinds of Home Biodigesters
There are two kinds of biodigesters that a self sufficient homeowner will use. A Continuous Digester and a Batch Digester.
With a continuous biodigester, the supply of the gas is continuous since the digester is fed regularly. This is the most common setup that biogas users employ.
The batch digester is what it’s name implies; you feed your biodigester in batches instead of feeding it regularly. This kind of setup is only appropriate where daily supplies of raw waste materials are difficult to obtain. As long as you are growing your own food and have your own self sufficient garden, this will not apply to you.
For the person who looks to be independent and self sufficient, the continuous biodigester is the kind that is most useful, although batch digesters are the most convenient for small scale uses.
Ready Made vs. DIY Biodigester
So, should you buy a ready made biodigester or is it better to DIY your own? Biodigesters of various functions and sizes can be purchased from many different sources; mainly online. But they will usually run you in the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to purchase them.
The most expensive one I’ve seen is going for $1,700.00. The cheapest ready made biodigester I’ve come across to date was still well over $700 just for the unit itself, let alone packaging and shipping it.
It will be cheaper and much better to DIY your own biogas generator. In this way you not only save yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars, but you can build it to whatever size and specifications you want.
Something else to keep in mind is that if you buy a biodigester and something goes wrong with it and needs to be repaired, you may not know where the problem is and how to fix it. You will have to take it (or send it) back to the company you bought it from for them to look at it. There’s no guarantee that they will be able (or willing) to fix it. You may be told that you will need to buy a whole new digester.
And even if they are able to repair the problem, you are looking at extra costs for them to fix it and the time it will take for them to fix it and ship it back to you. This is time and money lost.
If you build your own biodigester, you will know its construction inside out. If something goes wrong with it, you will know exactly where to look for the problem and you will know exactly how to fix it.
If you have the money to spend on a commercially available biodigester, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing it. But even if money isn’t an issue we still recommend that you build your own for the other reasons that we mentioned besides saving yourself a great deal of money.
Advantages of Using Biogas
There are advantages as well as disadvantages with the use of biogas when compared to other renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro. Let’s look at these advantages one-by-one:
Self Sustaining System When Used With Organic Gardening
One of the biggest advantages of biogas is that, when used in combination with organic gardening, it can truly be an ongoing cycle of self sufficiency.
Here is what we mean by this…
You grow your own food in your own garden. You use the food scraps and your whatever available manure to feed into a biodigester. The bacteria in the digester breaks down this waste and over time biogas builds within the digester storage tank.
Two products are the result of this process; biogas and liquid residue that can be used as natural organic fertilizer for your self sufficient garden. The fertilizer from your digester helps to keep your garden growing fruits, herbs and vegetables. You eat the fruits, herbs and vegetables and then excrete organic waste, which can be used along with food scraps from your garden, to keep the digester making biogas.
And the process continues like this INDEFINITELY!
Unlimited Fuel Source
An advantage closely related to the one mentioned above is that you can have an Endless source of raw organic material to feed into your biogas digester as long as you have your own self-sustaining garden.
As a side note, using kitchen scraps and waste from vegetables and fruits may actually be More Efficient than using animal manure. So, while you certainly do get methane out of animal manure, there is not a whole lot of methane there. This is because the animals burp and fart getting rid of much of it. And humans are even better at getting rid of it.
A typical biodigester can bump methane production by up to 300% by using organic food waste. This makes sense because the food waste has not been broken down, burped and farted out. Of course, producing enough surplus foodstuffs specifically to fuel a biodigester presents its own challenges.
Size Varies According To Your Needs
If you DIY your own biodigester, you can build it to whatever size and specifications you want. As long as you have sufficient space, you can build it as big as you want or you can build as many as you want.
Another advantage of biogas as a fuel or energy source is that it doesn’t rely on the elements such as the sun or wind. It doesn’t require the use of a water stream like hydroelectric generation does. As long as you have organic waste and food scraps to feed into a digester, you can keep making biogas. And as long as you have control over growing your own food, then you have an infinite source of organic waste material to use.
Very Little Capital Investment
Setting up a biogas generator is actually quite cheap because only a small amount of money is required for home use.
A farm may be self-sufficient by using plants and other biodegradable waste material generated from livestock and farm animals, to produce biogas. However, urban homes don’t necessarily require a farm sized biogas plant to produce heat and electricity from biogas. For urban homes, left over food scraps and vegetable and fruit peels can be used as raw material to produce biogas from a DIY Biogas Generator.
Biogas Doesn’t Contribute To Global Warming
Unlike coal and fossil fuels, biogas technology plays a major role in recycling biodegradable waste and material. This is huge as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
This advantage is underappreciated by people who aren’t aware of biogas and it’s contribution to a cleaner, greener environment. Since biogas uses most of the plant remains and other organic waste generated by society, this helps to reduce the amount of waste dumped and stored on landfills. Hence, reducing soil and water pollution.
Some Drawbacks of Using Biogas
While there are advantages to using biogas as a fuel and energy source, there are also a couple of downsides to using biogas. The biggest one is the amount of biogas that you will need to make to heat your house or to run an electric generator for a sufficient amount of time. Towards the end of this article I will offer a few suggestions to help solve, or at least minimize, these drawbacks.
Also, a biodigester must be kept outdoors at all times. Biogas is highly flammable and is a gas that you should never breathe in. Because of this, if you live in an apartment building it becomes almost impractical to make and use your own natural biogas. There are ways to eliminate or minimize the safety risks in order to keep your digester indoors, but that will require more money for your set up. It will also mean taking up a lot of space in your apartment that could be used for other important things such as a possible indoor garden or an indoor power generator.
Another issue to consider is that the bacteria in the digester requires a constant temperature of roughly 70 to 85 degrees (F). While this would not be a problem for people who live in warmer climates, it can be a problem for people who live in a place that gets really cold winters. You would need to supply a heating source to keep the digester at the optimum temperature in order for the bacteria to continue to thrive and break down the organic waste.
Lastly, biogas (as mentioned earlier) contains between 60% to 70% methane gas which is the content that we find useful for our needs. The remaining 30% – 40% is trace amounts of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen and hydrogen sulfide.
The above named contents of the biogas, besides methane, make it an impure and corrosive gas. So if this gas is going to be used to power vehicles that can run on natural gas or to power an electric generator, then you will have to do one of two things…
You can build what’s called a scrubber with your DIY biodigester. A scrubber is a device which absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and is used in purifying raw biogas that is made from a biogenerator.
Or if you do not have a scrubber then make sure to clean your pipes and interior of your motors once every three days to prevent the impurities from building up and corroding your equipment.
Suggestions For Getting The Most From Your Biodigester
If you live in an apartment building then it will be difficult at best, and impossible at worst, to make and use your own natural biogas. This is because a biogenerator/biodigester is to always be kept outdoors for safety reasons. This isn’t a problem if you own your own home. If you own a house you can simply situate it in your back yard (or front yard if you’d prefer.)
But if you live in an apartment building and you want to make and use your own natural biogas, then you will have to get a bit creative.
I am not saying that you can’t keep a biodigester indoors and make use of it, because you certainly can with the proper precautions and right set up. But due to the added costs and further taking up of space indoors, it becomes so very difficult to establish and maintain.
One thing that I can suggest is to find an uninhabited area that’s as close as possible to your apartment building to set up your biodigester. Something else to possibly consider is to set up your biodigester somewhere near the vicinity of the dumpsters that belong to your apartment building. If done the right way, you can make your DIY biodigester almost completely indistinguishable from any garbage receptacle. This should help it to go unnoticed and to prevent others in your apartment building from getting overly curious about it.
As mentioned earlier, biogas isn’t very efficient for heating an entire house or to run a backup generator for long periods of time. Biogas CAN be used to run a space heater that runs on propane AND to power a backup generator that runs on propane or natural gas, but we still have the efficiency issue to deal with.
Here are the three suggestions that I like to offer to help minimize, if not eliminate, this problem. All three suggestions require a great deal of space and very precise calculating. So again, if you live in an apartment building, this will make things a bit more interesting.
1). Store enough biogas BEFORE using it for heat and/or energy:
This will require calculated pre-planning and is best implemented with a continuous biodigester. You simply have to figure out HOW MUCH natural gas you need to heat your furnace (which heats the radiators in your home) and to power a backup generator for a certain amount of time. You make and STORE enough biogas that you can use to heat your furnace and power your generator for that predetermined amount of time.
This plan works particularly well as long as you are using a continuous biodigester instead of a batch digester. You should have enough biogas to heat your home and power up a generator for your predetermined time frame while still having at least 2 weeks worth of stored biogas to continue the process.
The good news is that biogas can actually be stored indefinitely. The not so good news is that you will need to have a great deal of space to store your natural gas. And your natural gas absolutely must be stored in a well ventilated area and away from any type of fire or heating source.
2). Build more than one biodigester for multiple purposes:
A second suggestion we offer is to build one biodigester strictly for cooking and heating and a second biodigester to run a gas powered backup generator. The above suggestion for pre-storing your biogas ahead of time still applies.
3). Build a larger biodigester:
Instead of building more than one biodigester you may choose to build a much larger digester instead. As long as space isn’t an issue then this option (and the one mentioned above) is worth considering. And, again, the suggestion for pre-storing a steady supply of biogas applies here as well.
If the idea of building a biodigester large enough to meet all of your natural gas needs sounds unrealistic, then maybe you should Watch This Video to see for yourself just how realistic and attainable it actually is.
How To DIY A Biogas Digester
Included in this website are links to numerous other videos to help further your education on biogas; what it is, how it’s made, what you can do with it and how to make your own DIY Biogas Generator.
Listed below are the basic steps for building a standard biogas generator. Use these steps as a basic template as you watch the videos on building your own DIY Biogas Generator.
- Choose a container for your Biodigester tank. Your organic waste will be put here.
- Choose another container to act as a gas holder tank. Your final product will appear here.
- Connect the Biodigester tank and the gas holder with inlet and outlet pipes. Make sure that the pipes you use are heat resistant to guarantee your final end product.
- Find a source of decomposition. I believe this is self explanatory if you’ve read this far.
Good Luck With Everything When Building Your Own Bio-Generator.