I live in AK where its most of the year that we have to cold start our vehicles, we always see the commercials that say plug in at 20 degrees or something, which is fine for at home, but for the most part people do not have this option when they get off work. Starting your car when it has been sitting for 8 hours at around 20 to -20 degrees if its Dec/Jan/Feb seems to be hard on my car. I have been daydreaming about a block heater that runs from the battery of the car which also can be charged with solar panels (the coldest days are the sunny ones) and or an alternate battery that can be charged as you drive the vehicle so that when the engine starts to cool down the heater kicks on to maintain oil heat? I am just not sure how much energy it takes to keep a little heat going. I don't know many specifics, but could something along the lines of an alternative energy block heating system even work?
It's a nice idea, but it's not practical, first off, vehicle mounted solar is a bad idea, you are putting a device that should last 50 years on a product that is designed to last 7-10 years, it will also spend it's life mounted reasonably flat, when solar electric panals (PV) wants to be pointed dirrected at the sun, in the winter this will be close to 60 degrees, thus mounting them on your doors would almost be more affective then mounting them on your roof, that is untill someone backs in to your car and sudenly your $1,000 dollar investment is scrap.
As I said, it's a nice idea, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
you would be better off cost wise dirrecting heating the coolent with the sun, but like I said, 60 degree angle is going to be close to ideal in the winter to get full use of the sun.
Another idea would be to have a insulated tank that stores a few gallons of coolent, replum your cars coolent system so that as you drive it insted of running coolet thru the radiator, it runs it in to this tank, and then thru the radiator if it's still hot, when you stop the car your coolent sits there for the day, hot, befor you start the car you could turn on a small pump that pumps the still warm coolent in to the engine, warming it, it would be a bit complex, but it should work if you have a long enough drive, the Prius does something simaler with a well insulatated coolent storage tank.
another option is something that was developed for tractors, basicly a very light weight instant propane hot water heater, two quick connect hoses are hooked up to your coolent system, a flame is lit in the device as it sits next to your vehicle, 5-10 minutes later your vehicles engine is nice and warm, disconnect the hoses and drive away.
personaly, I don't bother with an engine heater, altho I'm sure it would help with my gas mileage as it takes about 5 miles for my engine temp to start regestering.
You're talking a decent size and price solar panel to get that kind of wattage out of it and you're not exactly in the sunny part of the world especially when you'll need it most. I'd say well insulate the engine bay maybe with a removable cover over the grill if you do start to overheat.
If you were to run it off a pair of deep-cycle batteries though, I could send you my diagram of a cutoff circuit for a backup battery thought I might need to alter a thing or two on it since you're draining the backup and preserving the main.
The original design is from a professor of mine whos wife was one of those that left hte lights on always. he wired it up so when the car was turned off the backup disconnected and whenver there's 12v to the ignition or he manually presses the button on the relay, it's connected to start the car or charge while the car's running
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If I can buy a power block (rechargeable and with a 12 volt output) that can provided energy for a refrigerator, there is no way I couldnt buy a little one to put in my car where I would plug my block heater for 2 hours or 3 and charge it at home at night. No depend on solar, no depend on nothing, except the grid but its another story .
Please, go ahead and e-mail me the diagram for the cutoff circuit, my e-mail is email@example.com.
I am researching what would be the most effective heating would be now. There are the engine block heaters, and also the little stick on silicone oil pan heaters. The heating unit is so small on the pan heaters that I have heard that it won't work unless its running the whole time the vehicle is off (overnight or for those 8 hours at work) but I don't know how much power it takes to run one of them. Small heat should be small power, but I need to find out. I wouldn't mind using a heating system that would work in 2-3 hours with more power on a timer. Ah well, I shall see!
If you've seen the heater, it should give you its wattage.
I have a thermoelectric cooler in my bus, and it will usually crush the power in two deep cycle batteries, which are separate from my regular vehicle batteries, overnight. No inverter needed either as it's 12v. An inverter will cost more money if the only heater you can get is AC.
Charging with solar might be a problem too. I mean, a panel only has so much power that it generates, and winters, let alone winters in Alasaka, only have so much sunlight, right? Potentially, you might need multiple panels, a separate battery or two, and sunlight.
Even a decent size deep cycle battery shouldn't be discharged below 50% or you will shorten it's life a great deal, so give that it might store 800-1000 watt hours (volts X amp hours), so with a 1000 watt heater hooked dirrectly you have less then an hour worth of use befor your battery needs to be disconnected.
Have you checked in to a propane engine heater yet? I would think that being in alaska their would be people with devices like that.
Get an espar or webasto engine heater, most are diesel fired, some may be gas fired. They are about $1k, you can get 7 day timers so you can set it up to turn on everyday at the same time. You could use them all year around. The prius thermos idea is great they contain heat for about 3 days I believe, but you may need a few of them (think ebay).
If you have a high powered electric heating element in an engine hose that the coolent recirculates in you could fire it up off the 12 volt battery or a separate battery for a few minutes to get the coolent warmed up a little and then start the engine and go while keeping the electric heater running off the alternator. This will save some stress on the battery by not running it down too much and continue to add heat to the coolent to warm the engine up faster then once you are up to temperature you turn it off and recharge the battery the rest of the way.
The other more efficient option is an insulated tank with several gallons of coolent in it that just circulates with the gallon or two in the engine averaging the water heat saved with the cold engine water maybe with a bypass valve so once the coolent has raised the engine all that it can you restrict the flow until the engine get to full temp and then start heating up the extra several gallons for use later. No complicated pumps needed this way only a simple valve and taps into the heater core feeds should be simple. Probably could use a beer keg for the tank and insulate it really well.