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.