Time to Plug In
Before I moved to
The plugs connect to one or more heating elements which must be installed to protect the vehicle’s motor during severe cold. The very minimum is to have a block heater which warms the engine block. The ideal is also to have an oil pan heater and a battery blanket. At -20F, motor oil has the consistency of something like mayonnaise, and cannot lubricate the moving parts as they need to be. All three elements are usually routed to a common plug which sticks out the front of the vehicle’s grill, ready to plug in.
Common wisdom around here is that you know it is time to plug in when your truck’s bench seat feels like a wooden church pew. After sitting overnight in the cold (meaning below zero mostly, but certainly below -10F) a vehicle needs at least an hour of plug-in time before being cranked; two hours are better and three are great. After two hours the oil is nice and slooshy and the battery has full juice. Of course, the engine is still cold, so the heater is a long way from warming the interior. Dutch and I crank the trucks at least a half hour before we plan to leave, with the defrosters going full blast to minimize windshield scraping before take-off. Those few people with heated garages (very few in
Leaving vehicles plugged in all night long is not a good idea, as doing so for many nights in a row can give you a power bill that will knock your socks off. My first winter here, when I didn’t know any better, I did just that. Two vehicles plugged all night for most of a month gave me a power bill of over $400! Now we keep a heavy-duty timer outside which switches on about 4 am, giving the trucks about three hours of block-warming before starting.
When doing errands around town, most people simply leave their cars running. When you pull up to the grocery store, every single vehicle in the parking lot will be idling away; fortunately, between the nearly constant wind and the lack of surrounding mountains, this does not create a smog problem like it can in Fairbanks, where even the parking meters have electrical sockets. Once it gets down to -20F, people leave their vehicles running even if they are going to be somewhere for a while—like two or three hours for dinner with friends. The cost of gasoline, nearly $5/gallon, does become a consideration.
Many people carry extension cords with them when driving in the winter, and many places of business have numerous power outlets placed throughout the parking area so that employees can plug in while they are at work. And the ultimate convenience is to have a remote starter, so your vehicle can warm up without you having to go out in the cold to crank it ahead of time. One of the mechanics in town does a thriving business in the after-market installation of this item, and I am one of a number of people on his list to get this done.
Labels: Life in Bethel