Reduce engine wear
Start-up is a period of maximum engine wear and minimum fuel efficiency. Cold oil circulates slowly, leaving engine components unprotected. Block heaters pre-heat engines, allowing them to reach operating temperature sooner and get lubrication to the moving parts. Heat is also available for cabs and windshields sooner - benefiting drivers.
Reduce air pollution
A study performed by Sierra Research in Anchorage and Fairbanks compared emissions from vehicles at cold temperatures. The local testing established that use of engine heaters substantially reduced start-up emissions and fuel consumption.
Help keep your neighborhood clean
On days with inversions and still air, pollution from vehicle cold starts and idling disperses very slowly. Some of the highest CO levels in Anchorage are found during the morning hours in neighborhoods where traffic is low but many cars are started cold after parking outside overnight. The encouragement to “Plug @ 20” is a reminder to plug even when vehicles start with relative ease.
How long have engine heaters been around? Are they used outside of Alaska?
Yes, engine heaters were invented by Andrew Freeman, who was born in North Dakota in 1909. To allow their Model A Ford to start, Freeman's family first heated their garage by woodstove to warm the car. The town's mail carrier drained oil from his engine after completing his route, kept it indoors overnight, and replaced it each morning. Other neighbors poured hot water over their intake manifolds or shoveled coals from the furnace onto the ground beneath their engines (yikes!). Freeman received a degree in electrical engineering in 1932, and made application of his skills by cobbling together the heating element from a clothes iron with coiled copper tubing. After successfully starting at 29 below zero, friends and neighbors pleaded for heaters. The 'Freeman Electric Internal-Combustion Engine Head Bolt Heater' received a patent in 1949, and nearly a quarter million were sold in 28 states within four years. Source: Prarie Public Radio and State Historical Society of North Dakota, by permission.
How much does it cost to use an engine heater?
The cost of plugging in to an engine heater depends on the size of the vehicle and utility provider. Most of these costs can be offset by allowing the idle time to be reduced, resulting in a gas savings. Emissions can be reduced significantly by preheating just two to three hours prior to commute departure time, when cars have been parked overnight and engines are coldest.
What should I look for in a block heater timer?
As consumers become more energy conscious, timers are available for many more applications. Which timers are best for use with engine heaters? Packaging that includes words like 'heavy-duty', 'outdoor' and 'block heater' are good; look for 15 A (or Amp) electrical current rating or greater and a 24-hour clock. Avoid timers with photocells as these supply electricity during hours of darkness or until several hours after dark. Disqualifiers also include such wording as 'not for use with extension cords' and 'must be mounted 55 inches above the ground'.
To be sure your outlet timer works as expected, try yours indoors with a radio or lamp. When installing it outdoors, set the timer clock to actual time. Periodically check that the time on the clock is correct; power interruptions and very cold temperatures may disrupt or slow the timer clock.
Here's some tips for safe winter travel!
Travel ready: you and your family may jump into a warm car dressed for work or school. But in the event of a breakdown or crash, you could spend a long period of time without heat. Wear warm clothes and boots and carry extra in the trunk.
- Tire pressure is likely to drop when outdoor temperatures cool. 'Low' tires wear faster, decrease fuel mileage and are prone to flats. Correct tire pressure is vital for safe vehicle handling and long tire life. If you are adding air to your tires, be sure to replace the valve dust cap to avoid dirt and moisture gathering in the tire valve which can cause the valve to leak. Environment Canada recommends letting some air out of each valve to blow out any collected moisture or debris before filling tires with air.
Start-up is a period of maximum engine wear and minimum fuel efficiency for cold engines. Emissions control equipment is most effective once the engine has reached its normal operating temperature. A cold engine produces 50-100 times more pollution in the first minute after starting than one minute fully warmed.
How else can I improve air quality?
- Don’t be an SOV (single occupancy vehicle)! For free, confidential rideshare matching for carpool or vanpool, contact the RideShare program or register to find your carpool partner online at http://www.peoplemover.org/.
- Forget the window scraping and slippery streets; take the bus to work or use it for errands during the day and keep your parking place.Visit http://www.peoplemover.org/ for your travel choices. People Mover's "Bus Tracker" allows you to view nearly to the minute where the bus is on each route via computer or smartphone.
- Minimize the number of cold starts you make by ‘linking’ your trips. Combining errands can reduce your travel miles and cold start pollution.
- Maintain your car for better startability, mileage, emissions and wear.
- Businesses, organizations and schools can work toward a Green Star Award by reducing solid waste, energy and air emissions from travel and operations. See http://www.greenstar.org/.