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Traditional automotive heaters depend on a heater core, a small radiator that is warmed by hot coolant from the engine. There’s plenty of excess heat available when driving, but it also means the motor must stay on to provide heat.
For semis, that means running the engine while the rig is parked to keep the cab comfortable, increasing fuel costs and adding wear and tear to the powertrain. Meanwhile, heater cores aren’t included in tractors, skid steers and other small motor applications like utility ATVs. Air-cooled engines don’t have coolant, which makes it difficult to transfer engine heat to the cabin, but even on vehicles with water cooling, manufacturers leave this feature off to save costs for buyers who only need to use their vehicles in warm weather. All of these machines can benefit by the addition of an auxiliary cab heater, keeping temperatures bearable in cold weather without involving the motor.
A diesel cab heater works like a household oil-burning furnace, drawing in cold air and pushing it through a combustion chamber where it is warmed by burning fuel. This is a far more efficient way to heat the cabin than running the engine since all the fuel is used to generate heat. It also saves wear and tear on the motor: an idling engine runs less efficiently, leaving more unburnt fuel to be dealt with by the emissions system and increasing contamination of engine oil. Since auxiliary heaters keep the cab at a steady temperature, they also reduce the need to clear windows when bringing the vehicle back into duty.
Each hour of idling uses anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 gallons of fuel. Depending on the size of the cabin, a truck cab heater will consume anywhere from 0.02 to 0.13 gallons over the same time period. During a 10 hour break, this can represent a savings of as much as 14 gallons of fuel. That increased efficiency means the return on investment for cab heaters pay for the installation costs in a matter of months.
Mini Electric Heaters
On the other end of the spectrum lies the mini electric heater. These are great for warming small spaces, like the cab of a tractor or utility vehicle. Instead of coolant or burning fuel, this type of heater uses nichrome wire similar to what is found in a toaster or electric stove. The heat generated by this wire is transferred to a radiator and then blown into the cabin with a fan. Since this process is entirely electric, installation is as simple as mounting the heater and wiring it into the vehicle’s electrical system.
Although most of the output of Cary Products is made to order, we offer an off-the-shelf solution perfect for use as an ATV or tractor cab heater. Designed for 12 volt electrical systems, the heating element in this mini heater provides 7,500 BTUs and the built-in fan can move up to 125 CFM.