Auxiliary Heating Systems 101

Essential considerations for choosing reliable, easy-to-maintain units


Carrier Transicold's Lande also advises looking at the manufacturer's recommended maintenance intervals. "Some units, such as Carrier's ComfortPro APU, provide service intervals of 1,000 hours of operation, which provides plenty of flexibility for synchronizing service with the truck's service schedule," he says. "In typical long-haul operations, 1,000 hours of APU use equates to about six months, so at that rate, service will be needed twice a year."

COMPETENT INSTALLATION

"The more complex the unit is to install, the more time and, consequently, cost for putting it in," says Lande. "Likewise, it's worth checking the accessibility of the unit's components for ease of service and repairs."

"The robust nature, construction, proper assembly and professional installation of any unit is very important," Shikany adds. "My suggestion is look around, check the options and most importantly, put your eyes on the unit before you make a purchasing decision."

Poor installation has a major impact on the operation, performance and reliability of any unit. With some auxiliary heating system manufacturers, installation by anyone other than an approved installer could void the system's warranty.

SERVICE SUPPORT

Reliability is yet another key factor in making a decision to purchase one auxiliary heating system rather than another.

This is especially the case for tractors traveling across the country, points out Carriers Transicold's Lande. A large dealer network and nationwide service support is critical for such applications so there is the ability to have work performed nationwide.

The stability and reputation of the manufacturer is also important, adds Tridako Energy Systems' Tolstedt, and "service needs to be reliable, available and convenient."

"You expect that the solution you buy will have the utmost quality and durability," says Lupu of Webasto. "But what if something unforeseen happens where you need service or repair? If you're on the road, you want to be able to find an authorized dealer or repair facility and get back on the road quickly with as little downtime as possible.

"With rising fuel prices and the demand for idle reduction devices, new companies are popping up every month," he continues. "Make sure the solution you buy is backed by company with a history rooted in heating and cooling, and that the company will be there if you need service."

WARRANTY COVERAGE

Warranty coverage, both in terms of the length and major component coverage, is one more matter to keep in mind, recommends Lande. Extended warranty service plans are sometimes available and could be a good insurance policy to help protect the investment in an auxiliary heating system.

"Large interstate and national carriers should strongly weight the availability of parts and service through a dealer network that spans their entire operating region," he suggests.

"Make sure you fully understand the warranty," adds Lupu. "In the event that a problem does occur, you want to be covered. Check the length of the manufacturer's warranty and make sure you're not being short changed."

ROI EVALUATION

The return on an investment in an auxiliary heating system depends on a number of variables, including type of system, its capacity, length of time in use, cost of fuel and how the system will affect overall truck performance.

Figuring cost savings in fuel usage is a common calculation when considering an APU, says Tridako Energy Systems' Tolstedt. Instead of idling the truck engine all night for heating or cooling and other power needs, an APU can do the job and consume less fuel.

The U.S. EPA SmartWay Transport program estimates that long-haul trucks outfitted with an APU save an average 8 percent in fuel costs each year.

In addition to these savings and the reduction in diesel emissions, there is the reduced hours on the truck engine.

"For a truck with a preventative maintenance schedule of 10,000 miles between servicing, the addition of an APU can reduce actual hours on the engine by over 38 percent," Tolstedt says. "This can translate into an additional 3,800 miles of operation on the truck engine between servicing. Over the course of a year, the owner can save $550 on engine preventative maintenance alone."

There is also the savings from truckers not incurring fines for violating the ever-spreading anti-idling laws, says Lande of Carrier Transicold. Plus, units like the company's ComfortPro APU "can significantly help to reduce wear and tear on the truck engine and allow for extended maintenance intervals, which also results in a savings."

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