Don't let it idle

Editor of the Reformer:

Winter is finally upon us in Vermont. Does this mean more idling is needed to warm up your car? No.

The Department of Energy and many other expert sources tell us 30 seconds of stationary warm up is all that is needed on winter days for any light-duty vehicle (car, SUV, van, pickup) built after 1996. Driving gently is the best way to warm up in winter. In fact, a vehicle warms up in half the time when driving. Clear snow and ice off before starting (avoid using remote starters). Now, if defrosting is not adequate, or it's colder than 10 degrees, or for frail elderly and infant passengers, let it idle for a minute or two.

Idling has a surprisingly huge impact on air quality and health. Today's internal combustion engine vehicles, despite emissions controls, still emit harmful levels of exhaust chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and benzene. These emissions are worse during idling, particularly in hot and cold weather extremes. They can cause cancer over time, exacerbate heart conditions, and exacerbate or cause asthma. Children and the elderly are most vulnerable.

Idling an average vehicle for 15 minutes daily emits 785 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. This is the same as: Driving an average car for 14 hours non-stop; meeting the energy use of an average house for 10 days; using a 42" LCD TV for 89 days continuously; or using a 13-watt CF lightbulb for 3.13 years continuously.


At $2.25 a gallon for fuel, a new 2.5 liter Subaru Outback idling for 15 minutes daily will consume 35 gallons, costing $79 annually.

Break the idling habit and give up a few minutes of idling comfort in winter to improve our air quality, conserve energy, lessen carbon emissions, and save money!

Wayne Michaud, Director, Idle-Free VT, dEC. 30