Winter is finally here! Unfortunately, that means much colder nights while you’re out on the road. Staying warm should be a priority since you’re not as likely to sleep as well when your cab is freezing. You need to be well rested and comfortable to run your business to the best of your ability. Now that winter is here, many might be thinking about how to keep your cab warm for the next few months. One of the most popular solutions is to get a cab heater. But is this the best option?

Some cab heaters are designed for use while the engine is off. This type of heater is ideal for truckers who are on the road a lot during the winter.  They run primarily on your trucks battery and diesel fuel. The best will only use 1 gallon of fuel per 20 hours of heating. Many in-cab heaters, however, are designed to be used while the engine is running. Some will plug into the cigarette lighter, and produce moderately warm air, whereas some require a direct connection to the battery, and these will usually generate a little more heat. If you have to idle your engine to use your heater, it will not save you any money.

On average, idling uses a gallon of fuel per hour. So, if diesel is $3.80 a gallon and you spend 8 hour a day idling, this would cost you $212.80 per week. The average owner operator spends about 48 weeks of the year on the road. This works out to be around $10,215 in fuel money that is wasted on idling. And these costs do not include the added engine maintenance that will result from excessive idling. Even though idling is an effective way of warming your cab, some states have restrictions on how long you are permitted to idle. You don’t want to freeze in those states so you’ll definitely want to find another solution.

Cab heaters that cannot provide heat while your engine is off are not worth the expense. At the time of purchase, you pay the initial cost, probably between one and three hundred dollars. This may not seem like a large expense to keep yourself warm, but the fuel needed to idle your engine will be an added cost every time you turn on the heater. So if you plan to sleep for eight hours, that’s another $30 dollars a day. This can add up to be very expensive, very fast. You may find it worth the expense to have extra heat in your cab while you’re driving, but they are not cost effective for heating while you’re resting.

However, if you are able to get a cab heater that you can use without having your engine turned on, you could save yourself a lot of money. Webasto is one brand of heater you can use without having the engine turned on. These engine-off heaters are typically much more expensive, close to $2000 dollars. But remember, by not idling your engine you could save around $10,215 dollars a year.  In less than six months your cab heater will have already paid for itself. If you’re careful, that $215 dollars a week you’re spending on idling could be drastically reduced, or entirely eliminated.

If you are in the market for a new truck, an in cab heater can be spec’d from the factory . Freightliner Trucks offers its built-in ParkSmart HVAC system on the Cascadia. The new ParkSmart HVAC System offers an integrated auxiliary HVAC system for the sleeper that contains an electrically driven AC compressor and a diesel fired coolant heater. Replacing the traditional auxiliary HVAC system for the sleeper, this innovative and seamless design will function whether the truck engine is on or off. Utilizing power from the alternator, or from a second bank of batteries, the system keeps the sleeper compartment cool or warm. No additional internal ducting or external condensers are required. This system fits in the same location as the traditional auxiliary sleeper HVAC system, underneath the left hand cabinets. No auxiliary APU is required since the system provides 8 to10 hours of performance in engine off mode.

Even though the engine-off heaters are a little more expensive, they are worth it if you’re not in the market for a new truck. If you are purchasing a new truck, make sure it has a ParkSmart HVAC system so you can rest easy knowing you will stay warm throughout the winter (and cool in the summer). Purchasing an in cab heater for your current truck can save you hundreds of dollars in fuel and will pay for itself in no time at all.

Comments (11)

Kaitlin Cathey

Kaitlin works at ATBS with the sales team. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, from Thomas Edison State College in NJ. She was born in Colorado, but has also lived in Maryland and Illinois. Her favorite things to do are running, reading, and creative writing.

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I just ordered a 2014 Cascadia Evolution with Park Smart. I run CA to FL so we shall soon see how well it works. I am pretty excited about it as my 2012 Cascadia has no APU and we have been idling when stopped.

October 11, 2013 10:25:46 AM

I think that I want the ParkSmart HVAC System from Freightliner rather than another HVAC system from another company.

September 05, 2013 19:47:16 PM

I'm looking for something that heats my engine, keeps my fuel filters warm and provides cab heat. This could be the perfect solution if my boss weren't so reluctant to put it on and instead insist that we plug in using a block heater (which does not heat the coolant, does not heat the fuel filters and does not warm the cab). If my boss got me a brand-new truck, I'd insist on getting an APU or the ParkSmart System!

January 23, 2013 18:27:21 PM

thank you I am looking for something to not idle

January 20, 2013 16:13:23 PM

I have an Espar and a comfort pro APU, do not turn the APU on until I awake in the am make coffee, let it warm the coolant about 40 minutes at 20F. Use the APU in warm temps, no idle on my engine ever. The Espar gets new internal parts everyear about $100 runs great, sometimes to great. I forget to turn it off when leaving, and it will let you know especially if the sun is shinning. I love having both.

January 12, 2013 14:02:13 PM

Any solar apps to keep auxillary batteries charged?

January 10, 2013 5:22:21 AM

When I first bought my current truck in 2006, I had it equipped with an Espar Heater. It has been a great investment. My truck rarely idols. The engine now has a little over 840,000 miles on it and still does not us any oil between oil changes. The heater has definitely paid for itself in fuel saving, saving engine wear is a bonus.

January 05, 2013 11:33:49 AM

I also have an Espar heater that I can't imagine not having. Even when temps are down to single digits I am toasty warm and do not have to idle at all. I used to have a Webasto heater and a few shops have said that they are crappy systems because they have so many parts and are constantly breaking down, but that the Espar has very few parts and thus has fewer problems. I really do think you would have to be crazy to idle instead of getting a bunk heater. It just doesn't make sense not to. The last price for an Espar I got through my company was just over $1200 plus 2-3 hours install labor. My company shop asked which model I had and said that if it was a Webasto that they wouldn't even waste their time working on it.

January 03, 2013 5:51:33 AM

I've been comfortable operating the ParkSmart system for the past 4 years. I'll give you more information this week when I do a blog on the subject.

January 01, 2013 15:05:06 PM

Henry Albert has been using the ParkSmart system for several years and really likes the performance. We use the Espar Heater in our Cascadia and we used a Rig Master in the M2 Freightliner. The Espar is amazing as it runs quiet, uses little fuel, and heats the sleeper quickly. Works great as we do not use hotels and and we get our 34 hour restarts while out on the road.

December 31, 2012 14:17:49 PM

The ParkSmart system seems like a very nice factory-spec'd advantage to battling the cold winter months. Running out of Southern California, most might think that the weather is good enough that I would not need auxillary heat in my cab. The truth is though, that I often make moves through colder areas. When the shorter freight I usually haul becomes slow, I do not think twice about accepting hauls to places such as Reno/Sparks or Salt Lake City. I have traditionally used an APU, but the cost of a machine like this can be shocking to a great many truckers. The ParkSmart system, as well as the Webasto, seem to offer lower cost of ownership while not having another engine system to worry about. I would love to hear more on the ParkSmart system and its ease of use from someone currently using it.

December 31, 2012 8:58:14 AM