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Staying warm in your car if stranded

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Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Crusis » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:08 pm

I have been re-organizing my garage and getting all my preps into containers that I can quickly load in a bug out situation. That's not what I want to talk about here, however, but what gave me this idea.

I was organizing and came across my 750w inverter. It gave me this idea.

This inverter was $40 I think. A good space heater is less than that, most likely. I think it might be a good investment for those who live in places that occasionally get crazy snow like Colorado does to put a charged battery, an inverter, and a space heater in the trunk of their car or locking bed box or any other location you use for storage on your vehicle. Right now West of the Front Range is just getting hammered, and with the avalanche risk way up right now this is something that might keep you alive.

If you get stranded, simply open the trunk, get the battery, inverter, and small space heater out, get back in the car with them and hook it all up. With the avalanche risk in CO you might want to just keep this stuff in the cabin of your vehicle because getting out might not be an option.

I've always thought along the lines of burning a small fire in my e-kit box, which is an ammo box. It is a dangerous thing, produces carbon monoxide, but if you're stranded you have to stay warm, right? You can do it without an open flame that might either kill you with emissions or force you out of your shelter as you burn it down. Another thing is that if your car is buried a flame will eat up your O2 even quicker than just breathing. An extra hour or two of air might be the difference between life and death.

This will beat starting your car to stay warm. You can buy quick connects for your car battery, and use it to swap out with the one you store so that you actually have two batteries for juice. You can turn the car on to charge a battery back up. Make sure you don't run the battery down so far that you can't start the car, or you'll have to swap them while the engine is running, which I'd rather not do. If your car is buried in snow, DO NOT START IT. Carbon monoxide from the engine will quickly kill you. That is not how you want to go.

Get a heater with a thermostat and set it low so that you don't use the battery any more than you need to. It will take a lot less juice to heat the car to 55 degrees than to keep it at a toasty 72 degrees. If you're buried you might even go lower to conserve juice since you won't be able to start the car.

I might get on this project now. I have my inverter already, I just need to buy another battery and either some quick connects for the battery in the truck or keep the tools on hand for a quick swap out.

Don't forget while you're charging the battery you've used up that you will also have the heat from the vehicle's heating system for a while then. But if you're just idling the engine to charge the battery and taking advantage of that occasional heat as well as that created by your heating system, you'll probably have a lot longer heating time available than if you had to start and stop your engine to reheat the cabin now and then. I haven't done the math, but it might mean the difference between hours of heat and days of heat if your gas tank is full.

Look into it, see if it's for you. If you're really an electronics genius you could probably run hookups from the engine compartment to the cabin so you never even had to get out of the car. Don't try that if you don't know what you're doing. Car fires are bad.

BTW, don't bother with 12v heater unless you buy several. All the ones I've seen have pathetic heat output.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby cherokeenut » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:04 pm

It might work, those heaters usually draw about 750-1500 watts, not sure how long the battery would last. Would be fun to test it out and see.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Crusis » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:24 pm

Can you get them in the 500w range? That might last longer. I know my wife has a 125W one that is 12v and plugs into her cig lighter. It's not worthless if you were to use it to directly heat you, but it's not going to do much for the cabin of the vehicle, I think. Plus more wattage would mean it would just run less.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby cherokeenut » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:28 pm

I know that with 5 batteries running a 2000 watt inverter I plugged in my 750 watt heater and within 10 min the inverter was beeping the low bat alarm, that was with 5 12 volt batteries in parallel.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Crusis » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:35 pm

I guess my plan might not work then... Full charges and continuous operation I presume?
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby cherokeenut » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:39 pm

Well the idea has merit, we just need to know first off what size heater we want to run, maybe think smaller. Then we want a good battery like a deep cycle, I'd say if we can find a small heater say maybe 125-200 watts then your small inverter would operate it for maybe 1/2 - 1 hour.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Laythar » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:39 pm

I think you'd have better luck with a few cans of Sterno. Burns clean and one can in a car should keep you from freezing, their small so a few cans won't be much of a burden and could easily fit under a seat. I think each can burns for about 2 to 2 and half hours of continuous burn time. Just a thought. The Inuit can keep an igloo warm with just a candle. Seems like a Sterno can for a drafty car might be about right, could even make it too warn in which case you could cap it till you got cold again and extend the time. Of course be sure and have an ignition source maybe the cigarette lighter would work, never tried it for that though.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby cherokeenut » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:46 pm

Laythar wrote:I think you'd have better luck with a few cans of Sterno. Burns clean and one can in a car should keep you from freezing, their small so a few cans won't be much of a burden and could easily fit under a seat. I think each can burns for about 2 to 2 and half hours of continuous burn time. Just a thought. The Inuit can keep an igloo warm with just a candle. Seems like a Sterno can for a drafty car might be about right, could even make it too warn in which case you could cap it till you got cold again and extend the time. Of course be sure and have an ignition source maybe the cigarette lighter would work, never tried it for that though.

Definitly a good idea too, just have to make sure you have inlet air and can exhaust the carbon dioxide.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Crusis » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:52 pm

Ok, I just went and did my research, and that's not really adding up, 'nut.

The average car battery is about 1200 watt hours.

http://www.windsun.com/Batteries/battery_comparison.htm

If your heater is drawing 500w, that should give you 2 and 2/5 hours from one battery, but you have to add in the inefficiency of the inverter so you would multiply that by .85. That gives you just over 2 hours. (2 hours and 2.4 minutes :) )

If you're alternating batteries, you'd need to probably hot swap them then if you're charging them with your car, but you could do it every 1.5 hours or so. That assumes constant operation. If you're running the heater 25% of the time, it should last 6 hours or more! If you run the 500w heater for 15 minutes, that's 125 watt hours so 1200/125 = 9.6 x .85 = 8.16 hours.

That seems to be a viable option to me. 'nut, the math on your setup isn't adding up to me. You sure there wasn't a power drain like a bad inverter or something?

Even if the runtime was half that, you should be able to get out every three hours or so to swap batteries without dying, I'd think.

It might not be that practical for avalanche usage, although if you only used it when you REALLY needed it you might get half a day or more out of the battery you have in your car since you won't be able to get out. Let's face it, you'll be out of air by then, so if rescue doesn't come heat will no longer be an issue.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Crusis » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:58 pm

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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby cherokeenut » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:04 pm

Admitedly the batteries were used but fully charged, I was wondering about that when I did the test. Sometime when I have time I need to get some new ones from inventory and try it again.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby CajunDaddys_girl » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:07 pm

Crusis wrote:I have been re-organizing my garage and getting all my preps into containers that I can quickly load in a bug out situation. That's not what I want to talk about here, however, but what gave me this idea.

I was organizing and came across my 750w inverter. It gave me this idea.

This inverter was $40 I think. A good space heater is less than that, most likely. I think it might be a good investment for those who live in places that occasionally get crazy snow like Colorado does to put a charged battery, an inverter, and a space heater in the trunk of their car or locking bed box or any other location you use for storage on your vehicle. Right now West of the Front Range is just getting hammered, and with the avalanche risk way up right now this is something that might keep you alive.

If you get stranded, simply open the trunk, get the battery, inverter, and small space heater out, get back in the car with them and hook it all up. With the avalanche risk in CO you might want to just keep this stuff in the cabin of your vehicle because getting out might not be an option.

I've always thought along the lines of burning a small fire in my e-kit box, which is an ammo box. It is a dangerous thing, produces carbon monoxide, but if you're stranded you have to stay warm, right? You can do it without an open flame that might either kill you with emissions or force you out of your shelter as you burn it down. Another thing is that if your car is buried a flame will eat up your O2 even quicker than just breathing. An extra hour or two of air might be the difference between life and death.

This will beat starting your car to stay warm. You can buy quick connects for your car battery, and use it to swap out with the one you store so that you actually have two batteries for juice. You can turn the car on to charge a battery back up. Make sure you don't run the battery down so far that you can't start the car, or you'll have to swap them while the engine is running, which I'd rather not do. If your car is buried in snow, DO NOT START IT. Carbon monoxide from the engine will quickly kill you. That is not how you want to go.

Get a heater with a thermostat and set it low so that you don't use the battery any more than you need to. It will take a lot less juice to heat the car to 55 degrees than to keep it at a toasty 72 degrees. If you're buried you might even go lower to conserve juice since you won't be able to start the car.

I might get on this project now. I have my inverter already, I just need to buy another battery and either some quick connects for the battery in the truck or keep the tools on hand for a quick swap out.

Don't forget while you're charging the battery you've used up that you will also have the heat from the vehicle's heating system for a while then. But if you're just idling the engine to charge the battery and taking advantage of that occasional heat as well as that created by your heating system, you'll probably have a lot longer heating time available than if you had to start and stop your engine to reheat the cabin now and then. I haven't done the math, but it might mean the difference between hours of heat and days of heat if your gas tank is full.

Look into it, see if it's for you. If you're really an electronics genius you could probably run hookups from the engine compartment to the cabin so you never even had to get out of the car. Don't try that if you don't know what you're doing. Car fires are bad.

BTW, don't bother with 12v heater unless you buy several. All the ones I've seen have pathetic heat output.

A small ceramic heater would be ideal for a stranded car.. It has a built in tip guard, no flame so almost no chance for CO poisoning because of a very limited potential to start a fire due the use of ceramice versus the ole hot wire coil method, and they run about 20 - 25 dollars and you can find the buy one get one...
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Crusis » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:12 pm

I was just researching the ability to recharge such a setup with your car idling. Say you slid off the road and were stuck waiting for help. The most fuel efficient way to extend the run time of your engine is idling, of course. But is that the most efficient way to recharge a battery setup like this?

The rate your battery will charge will be determined by the rate of output by the alternator over and above the usage of the car itself. That means if you have a 150 amp alternator, your car is using 50 amps because you have everything turned off, the radio, headlights, etc, then 2/3 of the alternator output would be going to the battery for recharge. I seriously doubt that an alternator would put out anything like that at idle, however, so the question would become: Are you better revving up the engine to increase alternator output or letting the engine idle to save fuel but take longer to recharge. I have no doubt that the battery would be recharged long before you'd have to swap again, but how long would that take? You should know these numbers before you setup a system like this because in a life threatening situation you wouldn't want to waste any fuel or shorten the duration of available heat.

There are a lot of variables, some of which are beyond my meager electrical skills. Not to mention the variables of idling your car giving you longer heat from the cars systems and reducing battery usage in the first place.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby cherokeenut » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:20 pm

It really depends on the vehicle. Some require an increased engine speed to produce a higher amperage but others can put out over 100 amps at idle, most newer trucks can, it just depends on the load.
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Re: Staying warm in your car if stranded

Postby Alaska Rose » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:19 am

Instead of a heater to heat the whole car interior, how about a blanket? You could wrap the electric blanket around one or more people and heat only them, plus have more blankets over that, to hold the heat in longer. Standium blankets that work on batteries might be an option.
If you are running the vehicle for a bit of heat or to charge up the battery, make sure to have a window cracked open a little bit for some fresh air and keep the tailpipe cleared.
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