Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Workshop

It looks like winter may be cold and wet in spite of the best pronouncements of Pope Prius 1, and at the risk of sounding like Red Green, here's a tip for those of you who have filled your garages with useful stuff, and leave your car out in the driveway.

You need one of those small space heaters, of the size found under the secretary's desk, about 1000-1500 watts. If possible, get one with a thermostat. You also need a lamp timer, the kind you use to turn the lamp on and off to signal the burglars that no one's home.

Plug the timer in to the indoor outlet nearest to your vehicle. One in the garage works best, as the timers are typically not rated for outdoor use. Run an extension cord from the timer to your car, and place the heater on the floor on the passenger side. Be careful not to crowd it into a cramped area, and remove all the burger wrappers and magazines from within 2 feet of the heater first. Set the thermostat for 50 degrees, and the timer to turn on about 1/2 hour before you normally leave for work, and off about 15 minutes after you expect to leave. When you come out, the car will be comfortable, and all the frost will be gone from the windscreen, or at least it will come off with a couple passes from the wipers.

Do not forget to disconnect the cord and toss it outside the car before you back out of the drive. Try to toss the receptacle far enough away from the car that you do not back over it on your way out. BE SURE to use an extension cord rated for 15 amps minimum. Required amp rating is (heater watts)/120. Be sure the heater plug / cord receptacle is in an open area, and not slammed in the door when you hook up in the evening. Buy me some beer, then ask me how I know all this. Don't waste time getting in, and the car stays comfortably warm untill the engine warms up.

Pity this doesn't work on the return trip.


Anonymous said...

How do you get the extension cord into the car?

If it's snowing, leaving the window open -- even slightly to get the cord in -- may not be desirable.

Anonymous said...

On a related note:

"The Carton and the Candle"
by Dean Ing
from his book "The Chernobyl Syndrome" (1988)

Soon after milk bottles became waxy cartons, my father began carrying a couple of half-gallon cartons in the trunk of his car.  Whenever he squirreled something away in an unusual place it was usually worth my while to ask why;  when he was a kid on the Texas plains, folks took self-reliance for granted.

Well, Dad kept fat candles and ashtrays inside the milk cartons. Highway flares are fine, he said, unless you need some to last several hours.  Beacon batteries die after a year or two.  But a thick candle sitting in an ashtray in the bottom of an empty milk carton will make the carton glow, and the carton stops the breeze.  You can't see it as far away as you see a flare, but you can see it all night long.

Later he adapted the flare as a space heater.  When he moved to Colorado Springs he had to park his VW bus outside, far from an electrical plug, in nights that were thirty below.  He couldn't use an electric dipstick, but durnnit if a little cold weather would turn _his_ oil to mud; no sirree.  He got a gallon milk carton and a squat Christmas candle, lit up this rig like one of his highway flares, then shoved it under the casing of his VW engine every night.  It burned all night and the heat was enough to keep the engine oil reasonably thin.  He used up several candles that winter -- but that engine started every time.

Billll said...

Car doors do not close like house doors. There is a significant gap between the door and the frame, which is normally filled with a thick, soft gasket. An extension cord will go through this gap without damage. Best place is the bottom rear corner of the door.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the newer space heaters (at least for the past five years) with "digital" power switches will not work with an outlet timer.

When power is applied to them, either via timer, or just plugging them into the outlet, they will not turn on. Instead, you have to actually press the on/off button.

I know, because I tried using a combination of outlet timers and space heaters as an energy saving measure -- rather than running the furnace -- several years ago when I bought my house. It didn't work for the reason I stated above.

If you're going to put a space heater in the car with an outlet timer, make sure it has an analog power switch and thermostat. I don't know if they sell them anymore.

What would be ideal, but I haven't found yet, is a space heater with a built in clock that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain times.