Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 215 of our Green Year: Dealing With A Cold Weather Car

When we used to live in Rossland, the temperature would get down to roughly minus five or so in the wintertime. This made it very easy to go green with the car because when we did have to go out, we did not have to let the vehicle warm up at all, nor did we have to plug it in at night.
However, now that we are in central Alberta, at our ranch where the temperature can hit minus 40 at night sometimes, the need to go green when getting the car ready for a trip into town is very important.

First of all, there will be no warming up the car to clear the frost off the windows. The frost will be cleared in the traditional fashion, which is to get an ice scraper and begin carving away at the frost and the ice on the windows.

Second, only on nights before when we have to go out (usually Sunday for our grocery trip Monday) will the car be plugged in. In addition, it will be plugged into a timer, so that it begins drawing power in the early morning, only a few hours before we leave at most. There will be no plugging the car in at 8 pm for a 11 am trip the next day. Luckily, we do have a large shed that all the vehicles can be parked in, which will keep things warmer inside than the -40 outside. So unless it is extreme cold when we have to go out, there will rarely be a time when we actually have to plug the vehicle in. One of the beauties of working from home is that we can choose when we want to leave, and therefore only leave on warmer days rather than -40 days.

As much as we would like to in the winter, there will also be no idling of the car when we are in town. If we stop for anything longer than a stop sign or red light, then the car will be turned off. Even if we are just running into a store to drop something off. The car will not lose that much heat for the few minutes you may be out of it. Plus, not leaving the car sitting there running means a much lower chance of having it stolen.

On nights where freezing rain is expected, we will put a piece of cardboard over the windshield as this is supposed to prevent ice build up, and that means less time we have to chip away at it with the ice scraper.

Thankfully, there will be no need to start our car in the mornings because of the shed. Many people think that idling the vehicle for a few minutes in the winter will help it heat up, but from what we have read, this is not true. With fuel-injection engines, no warm-up period is needed and long periods of idling can lead to excessive engine wear. In fact, idling the car for more than 10 seconds will use more gas and create more CO2 than simply restarting the engine. Therefore, the car will idle in the mornings for as long as it takes us to put on our seat belts.

As I mentioned before, Layla and I work from home, so we only go into town once a week for groceries. If it is too cold to go in, then we will just stay home. Of course, if there are several days of -40 in a row, we may have to go out to restock for our suppers. When we do have to go out on those really cold days, we will use these tips to stay green during the frigid Alberta winter.

A cool note today. We passed 7,000 hits for Our Green Year. We are averaging about just under 1,000 hits per month now.