Idling Isn't Good for Our Pocketbooks or Our Lungs
Thankfully, it is less of a problem with newer fuel injected vehicles than it was with their predecessors. Today's vehicles emit fewer pollutants while idling than those of older generations. Still, idling wastes money and contributes to increased asthma and other respiratory problems.
There are multiple factors to be considered in deciding when to turn your vehicle off. We've listed those we think represent a common sense approach.
A major study done on the costs of idling found:
- Idling for 10 seconds uses the same amount of gas as restarting your car.
- The typical amount of vehicle starts per day is estimated at between 5-10.
- Increasing the number of vehicle starts by 6-10 a day probably would not increase operating costs.
- In order to balance the cost of starter maintenance with the benefits of idling reduction, the study suggested turning the vehicle off after 30-45 seconds of idling. (Source: Review of the Incidence, Energy Use and Costs of Passenger Vehicle Idling)
- Use common sense. Don't turn your vehicle off in a situation where you will need to constantly restart it, such as a drive thru.
- Park your car and put those legs to work rather than sitting in drive-thrus.
Students at the University of Alberta monitored a drive-thru in Edmonton last year for 54 hours, during which time they found that 3,756 cars idled in line for at least five minutes each.
At this rate, if you pick up your coffee at a drive-thru five mornings a week, you're spending almost two hours idling a month and unnecessarily increasing your fuel costs. Think of the extra coffee you could be purchasing instead. (Source: Climate Change Central)
- Never turn your vehicle off in traffic unless you are experiencing a long delay and it is safe to do so.
- Newer vehicles need no more than 30 seconds of idling time in cold temperatures. The best way to warm up your car is to drive it.
- For temperatures below 5° Fahrenheit, use an engine block heater to warm the engine. This improves fuel efficiency and reduces emissions.
- Use remote starters wisely. Don't turn your vehicle on before you are ready to leave.
Click on the following links for additional facts. Different sources may list different recommendations. The information is provided to help you make the best choice for your lifestyle.
Note: idling standards may be adjusted over time as vehicle technology changes and more studies are done.