Munich - Iced-up windscreens, frozen door locks, chilly fingers – sub-zero temperatures can stop our accustomed mobility in its tracks. A parking heater for the car may be the answer, ensuring good visibility and free access to the vehicle as well as warm feet. And it protects the environment! TÜV SÜD's experts offer tips on purchasing and retrofitting parking heaters.
"A parking heater to pre-heat cooling water reduces hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by over 50 per cent", explains Eberhard Lang from TÜV SÜD: The heater can be retrofitted to most vehicles. There are basically three options to preheat your car, one electrically powered and two petrol-driven. In the electric version, the engine's cooling water is warmed up by heating elements in the engine block. This has the benefit that the engine is already virtually at operating temperature when you turn the ignition key, and the car's heating system also warms up faster. The disadvantage is that this option requires an external power source. Electric parking heaters start at EUR 400.
Petrol model 1 also pre-heats cooling water, but uses a small burner running on energy from the fuel tank. This model does not require any external power source and can be pre-programmed with a timer and switched on and off with a remote control unit - or even a smartphone. This type of heater is available from EUR 700. The second type of petrol-driven heater has a burner which only heats the air in the car interior. However, this heater warms up only the car itself and not the engine, and therefore does not provide the environmental benefits of a pre-heated engine.
Retrofitting: Both types of parking heaters – electric and petrol-powered – are suitable for all vehicle models. However, according to TÜV SÜD expert Eberhard Lang, finding the space to retrofit a parking heater may pose a problem in some cases. "When buying a new car, take upgrading options into account from the start or simply order a car with a built-in parking heater", advises the expert. An electric parking heater takes up less space but also offers less convenience, because its advantages do not kick in until the motorist has set off. Be warned: DIY installation is an absolute no-no! Parking heaters should always be installed by a specialist
Upgrading your diesel: Modern diesel engines frequently come with an auxiliary heater, as these engines have very high efficiency and produce less waste heat during operation. They already supply the required heat when starting and warming up, and can be upgraded to a full parking heater by adding a timer switch and water pump. Contact your specialist repair shop or the manufacturer to enquire about the possibilities of upgrading. Costs: from 300 euros upwards.
Protecting the environment: When the engine is cold pollutant emissions and fuel consumption are particularly high, at up to 40 litres per 100 kilometres. The engine only reaches its normal operating temperature, and thus its normal performance and fuel consumption, when the car has been driven for approximately four kilometres. A parking heater does away with this disadvantage. While a parking heating system consumes just over half a litre of fuel per hour, it need only be operated for 20 minutes to defrost the windows and bring the engine up to its optimum operating temperature, which practically compensates for the heater's additional fuel consumption. The eco-balance is that by using a parking heater which heats the cooling water, drivers can reduce their emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide by over 50 per cent in the first kilometres driven, and consume correspondingly less fuel.