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Spec smart: Tips for selecting an auxiliary heater

Special to Land Line

“And don’t your feet get cold
in the winter time?
The sky won’t snow, the sun won’t shine
It’s hard to tell the night time from the day”
– Don Henley, Glenn Frey, “Desperado”
 

With winter right around the corner, many truckers are feeling increasingly desperate, but it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Brian Curliss, product manager for Teleflex Power Systems, maker of advanced auxiliary heaters that include the Proheat X45 and the Proheat Air.

Properly chosen auxiliary heaters can provide truck operators considerable savings in fuel costs and engine maintenance costs and a comfortable environment when the mercury falls.

Here are eight tips Curliss suggests when considering auxiliary heaters.

#1 Choose the right
tool for the job.

Before you choose a heater, determine how often and how long you idle your truck engine to heat your cab or sleeper. That will help you determine which type of heater you need. Fuel-fired auxiliary heaters come in two types: coolant and air.

A diesel-fired coolant heater circulates truck engine coolant through a heat exchanger. Coolant heaters reduce wear and tear on your truck engines and can help you avoid a call to the tow service to warm up a frozen engine block, Curliss said. Generally, coolant heaters come in two different capacities: light-duty and heavy-duty.

Light-duty coolant heaters can preheat your engine blocks or provide supplemental heat, but typically can’t provide enough heating capacity to heat your cab or sleeper by itself. Because a heavy-duty coolant heater can do both, it’s a good choice when you run in extreme cold climates. Generally, a heavy-duty coolant heater burns about a quart and a half per hour, far less fuel than the average gallon per hour that a truck engine burns when idling.

Diesel-fired air heaters draw air over a heat exchanger. They can preheat your cab or sleeper or provide supplemental heating. But they can’t heat the engine block. Depending on their capacity, air heaters burn anywhere from a half cup to a full cup of fuel per hour. Air heaters are excellent choices if you run trucks in cold weather, but not in extreme sub zero temperatures, Curliss said. Air heaters balance your heating capacity needs with low fuel consumption.

#2 The heat is on.

Once you’ve determined the type of heater you need, consider the heater’s capacity, Curliss said.

As a rule of thumb, Curliss said, maintaining a comfortable inside temperature when the outside temperature is 32 degrees requires 20 Btu for every cubic foot of space. If you need a heater that can heat things up quickly, you should consider a unit with a high Btu rating.

#3 Don’t go out in that cold
without buttoning it up.

Like installing insulation in the roof and walls to winterize your home, installing thermal curtains and extra insulation in the cab and sleeper keeps the heat in and the cold out. It also reduces the amount of time it takes for your heater to warm things up.

#4 Mounting matters.

Because heavy-duty coolant heaters require open frame rail space, they can’t be mounted under the hood. Light-duty coolant heaters can. Air heaters and their ductwork are mounted inside your cab or sleeper to heat and circulate air for comfort. Optional mounting hardware makes it easier to attach the heater to the floor of some truck cabs.

#5 Keep it under control.

Generally, heaters have three types of controls: manual, automatic timer or full-temperature. With a manual controller, you must start and stop the heater and regulate its power. With a timer, you can set the heater to start and stop automatically. This allows you to warm up the truck, defrost the windows, or warm up the engine before you even open the door or turn the key at the start of your shift.

Full-temperature control is exclusive to air heaters and gives you the greatest degree of control over your cab or sleeper environment. You can control the heater manually or set it to operate automatically. Full-temperature control also allows you to control the heater’s fan speed and to regulate the temperature more accurately.

#6 Calculate your return on investment.

Heater capacity, length of time in use, and cost of fuel determine how you can save on fuel costs. For example, a bunk heater with a capacity of 6,800 Btu – such as the Proheat Air A2 – will more than adequately heat most truck sleepers. They burn about a half cup of fuel per hour, a 97 percent savings over the average gallon of fuel an idling truck engine burns. If you use the heater eight hours each day for five months each year, and your fuel costs are $4.50 per gallon, you’ll save about $3,450 annually.

#7 Consider installation and maintenance.

It takes an authorized technician about four hours to install air heaters and about six hours to install coolant heaters. Because air and coolant heaters are connected to the truck’s fuel tank and batteries, and in the case of coolant heaters, to the coolant systems, Curliss recommends that only authorized technicians install them in order to avoid warranty issues. Most heaters require a simple annual system inspection.

#8 Know the pertinent local, state,
provincial and federal regulations.

Turn to Page 78 of this issue for a list of regulations around the country. The list was comprehensive as of press time, but new regulations are popping up all the time. Check landlinemag.com for updates and changes to the regulations. LL

Aug/Sept Digital Edition