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Old 01-27-2010, 11:26 PM   #1
Red Squirrel
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Default How to safely use space heater in car?

I'm sick of frosted windows and 2 inches of ice on the car each morning, and I don't have an auto starter so I have to go outside ahead of time if I want to start the car, which normally does not happen as I don't really want to be going outside in -30 winds straight out of bed, I'm already cold enough and just want to get into the scalding hot shower. Also starting the car ahead is just a big waste of gas and creates lot of pollution, so this is also a "green" project if you will.

So I've been toying with the idea of finding a way to run electric heat to the car and have it on a timer so it starts automaticly a few hours before I leave.

I'd have to do a heat loss calculation but I'm guessing I'll probably want at least a 20 amp 240v receptacle and something like this: http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/brows...252BHeater.jsp

Another option would be a 120v / 1500w oil filled heater which would be safer, but don't know if that would quite cut it.

They do sell heaters made for cars, so how are those normally installed? Guessing since they are such low wattage they can be safely set on the dash... but they don't really put out enough heat to melt ice.

Also any suggestions on how to run the power from outside to inside the car in a way that is easy to plug/unplug from outside? Is there a standard way to do this or does it really depend on the car model/how it's built? Car is a 98 Buick Lesabre. Idealy it would be nice to have the block heater on the same power cord but it will probably be easier to make this a separate cord especially if I get into the 240v range. I know my stuff when it comes to the actual electrical work, I just don't know my way around the internals of a car. Really I'm hoping I can get away with something in the 1800w range so I can use a basic, cheap 120v timer but somehow I doubt it.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this, but I can't seem to find anything online about someone who has done this safely.
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Old 01-27-2010, 11:40 PM   #2
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Your car is a pretty small space, so even the smallest household space heater should work well, but I wouldn't use any heater that might catch anything on fire.

You are supposed to have a few feet of clearance with these type heaters.

The oil filled one should be safe, but they tend to be bulky.

This one could be just what you need:

http://www.jcwhitney.com/High-output...;0;2011034;0;0
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Old 01-27-2010, 11:42 PM   #3
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http://www.carparts.com/ZEROSTART-HI...=10618-2011034

Cheaper...
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Old 01-28-2010, 12:01 AM   #4
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As for power, you may be able to simply run a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord into the car and close the door on it. The rubber door seals should have enough "wiggle" room to allow for the cord without pinching it. The limiting factor is probably more likely to be your panel gaps around your car doors. If we're talking about a 90's Ford Taurus, you've probably got inch-wide panel gaps and could fit a fire hose through them, but other cars are built to much tighter tolerances and may not be able to clear the cord. Obviously you should test closing the door and examine the cord before actually using the heater to make sure it doesn't get pinched. They make cords with "flat" cabling rather than round, and those might work better.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:30 AM   #5
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Quick question, where do you park your car?
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Old 01-28-2010, 08:36 AM   #6
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Hmm true so if it's a small space high wattage is maybe less of a concern, and never even thought of trying to pass the extension and shut the door over it, I'll have to test that and see if it works ok. I can always just close the door slowly so it does not go all the way and still clicks.

As for where, I actually park in my own driveway, I do have a garage but it's currently full.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:28 AM   #7
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Look I live in Saskatchewan
I have a crappy tire interior warmer and its directed into the cabin, not the windsheild, and it does a nice job of taking out the chill in the air inside a minivan, huge space
It won't clear a windsheild but if it was directed at the windsheild maybe, they are about 900 W, 110 is run through the firewall and ganged on the block heater about 600W

If you already own say a small ceramic heater 1500 w you could set that on your dash and run the cord closed on the door to try. just member you have about 1800 W
I like the mounted interior warmer cause when I plug in at work for the day its toasty
The timer idea is a fine one and they come on sale at crappy tire often.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedSquirrel View Post
As for where, I actually park in my own driveway, I do have a garage but it's currently full.
Is it possible that you purchase a portable canopy for your car? Something like this?
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:41 PM   #9
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Is it possible that you purchase a portable canopy for your car? Something like this?
my neighbor has one of these for his car. and we dont get any snow. ever.
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SSSnail View Post
Is it possible that you purchase a portable canopy for your car? Something like this?
I've thought of this too actually. Would also save me lot of shoveling.
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Old 01-29-2010, 02:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
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my neighbor has one of these for his car. and we dont get any snow. ever.
Protecting the car from the sun is also good
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Old 01-29-2010, 02:19 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by RedSquirrel View Post
Hmm true so if it's a small space high wattage is maybe less of a concern, and never even thought of trying to pass the extension and shut the door over it, I'll have to test that and see if it works ok. I can always just close the door slowly so it does not go all the way and still clicks.

As for where, I actually park in my own driveway, I do have a garage but it's currently full.
I wouldn't do that. You might damage the seal. Is there anywhere else to run a cable?
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Old 01-29-2010, 03:16 PM   #13
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I wouldn't do that. You might damage the seal. Is there anywhere else to run a cable?
I could try to run through the firewall but I don't know enough about cars to be drilling holes, I might hit something that I don't realize is there. Not to mention it's freaken cold to be working on a car at this time of year. Maybe this project will just have to wait till next year so I can do it durring the summer.
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Old 01-29-2010, 05:35 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by RedSquirrel View Post
I'm sick of frosted windows and 2 inches of ice on the car each morning, and I don't have an auto starter so I have to go outside ahead of time if I want to start the car, which normally does not happen as I don't really want to be going outside in -30 winds straight out of bed, I'm already cold enough and just want to get into the scalding hot shower. Also starting the car ahead is just a big waste of gas and creates lot of pollution, so this is also a "green" project if you will.

So I've been toying with the idea of finding a way to run electric heat to the car and have it on a timer so it starts automaticly a few hours before I leave.
You're not willing to burn 5 minutes worth of idling gas but you're happy to run a 1500W space heater for several hours?



Get a 2-way remote starter. Driving a car when the engine is -30C is pretty much as bad as putting sugar in the gas tank and shooting the engine with a 308.
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Old 01-29-2010, 07:51 PM   #15
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Any chance you could clear enough space in the garage for the car?
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Old 01-29-2010, 09:28 PM   #16
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You're not willing to burn 5 minutes worth of idling gas but you're happy to run a 1500W space heater for several hours?



Get a 2-way remote starter. Driving a car when the engine is -30C is pretty much as bad as putting sugar in the gas tank and shooting the engine with a 308.
I know a lot of people use the remote starters but it seems like a bad idea unless the car is far from the house because of carbon monoxide and other fumes
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Old 01-29-2010, 09:38 PM   #17
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Remote start would probably be best. The amount of fuel at idle is insignificant, and if it's that cold, the engine really needs to warm up and not just be started up and driven off immediately.

I start my cars 5-10 mins before I leave in a closed garage on the coldest mornings. It's vented specifically for the concern you have with carbon monoxide and fumes (you'd have to plug the vents with blankets or towels if you were trying to kill yourself on purpose). Besides when it's time to leave, the big door is opening and you're only spending 5 seconds walking to the car.

As long as the auto start can work while the doors are still locked, you have no issues outside in an open area.

Make no illusions about what's "green", all you're doing with an electric heater is transferring the energy and pollution cost elsewhere, out of sight out of mind. Nothing is free.

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Old 01-30-2010, 12:01 AM   #18
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Any chance you could clear enough space in the garage for the car?
Not at this point (storing my dad's car in it, he needed a spot for it and paid me) and since my car is old, using the garage is a catch 22. It will rust out faster in a garage then outside due to the salt and such, or so I was told.

As for the green factor, that is one factor but cost is the main one. 1-2 KW/h extra per day is way cheaper then the gasoline I'm burning up, we're talking pennies, the gas we're talking dollars. (gas is over a buck a litre here) I have to consider that an electric heater would be running on/off so it's not a constant draw, while a car running is constantly burning gas.

Auto start would be nice but it's really not worth it on a car as old as mine. My next car will probably have it, and I'll just use that even though it burns more gas. Newer cars are more efficient so maybe it wont be so bad. I'll also store it in the garage when I buy a new one.

Think in the summer I'll just see if I can figure out a good way to run a wire from the engine block area to the inside, and make the engine block cord power the outlet inside, then I can experiment with different heaters from there.
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Old 01-30-2010, 12:06 AM   #19
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FYI, my 2008 Jeep with a 5.7L V8 burns just less than 1/2 gallon of gas per hour at idle.

IIRC, my 1996 Chevy Lumina 3.1L V6 was about half that.

Those numbers will be higher right at startup when cold, but quickly drop right down.

So, not going to cost much in fuel to warm up the car and defrost the windows.
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Old 01-30-2010, 12:19 AM   #20
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Remote start would probably be best. The amount of fuel at idle is insignificant, and if it's that cold, the engine really needs to warm up and not just be started up and driven off immediately.

I start my cars 5-10 mins before I leave in a closed garage on the coldest mornings. It's vented specifically for the concern you have with carbon monoxide and fumes (you'd have to plug the vents with blankets or towels if you were trying to kill yourself on purpose). Besides when it's time to leave, the big door is opening and you're only spending 5 seconds walking to the car.

As long as the auto start can work while the doors are still locked, you have no issues outside in an open area.

Make no illusions about what's "green", all you're doing with an electric heater is transferring the energy and pollution cost elsewhere, out of sight out of mind. Nothing is free.
Vents or not, the garage is still connected to the house right? If I were you I'd get carbon monoxide detectors for every room. Hell, everybody should have them no matter what. It's not that you either die or are perfectly fine. You can also cause brain damage.

Also, the CO can get trapped inside the car. Ever heard of those people who died because they sat in a parked car idling for too long?
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Old 01-30-2010, 01:01 AM   #21
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Vents or not, the garage is still connected to the house right? If I were you I'd get carbon monoxide detectors for every room. Hell, everybody should have them no matter what. It's not that you either die or are perfectly fine. You can also cause brain damage.

Also, the CO can get trapped inside the car. Ever heard of those people who died because they sat in a parked car idling for too long?
People die driving their cars down the street and when they get on airplanes too.

Common sense and precaution is one thing, but schizophrenic paranoia over everything that might kill you one day is entirely another.

The house was built with CO+smoke detectors in every room, have not had one go off in the 5 years I've warmed up my cars in the garage. The door between the garage and house is also equipped with a seal. Building codes these days are pretty good regarding the hazards of an attached garage.

Last edited by exdeath; 01-30-2010 at 01:03 AM.
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Old 01-30-2010, 02:00 AM   #22
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I would try and get it in the garage. My parents house has technically a one car garage but in the winter they can move stuff around and fit two cars in there. I don't know what you mean by rusting faster. A car kept inside is gonna be nicer than outside.

If not, I'd just start it. I know you live in a cold climate but it's not that bad (at least when you don't have to clean alot snow and ice off). It doesn't use much gas to idle. It only needs 10-15 minutes or so. Even 5 minutes is alright unless it's very cold.

The environmental impact is nothing to be concerned with. I mean that if you truly want to be more "green", there's probably tons of things you can change to achieve that. Sure it's idling but it is for a purpose. In addition, especially when it's so cold, it's better for your car to be started (especially short trips) and warmed also so oil flows fully throughout. It's funny to see people get in their cars in the winter and tear ass out as soon as it's started.

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Old 01-30-2010, 08:15 AM   #23
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This thread is amazing. I never would imagine someone would want to run a space heater in their car all night because they think running the car for 10 mins in the morning is too expensive. Also, their is another person that thinks he will die because the car is running too close to his house and has 25 carbon monoxide detectors in each room of his house. Please tell me this is a bad joke.
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