What is Idling?
Idling is the running of a vehicle's engine at any location while the vehicle is stationary.
While you cannot avoid certain activities such as waiting at a red light, you can take other preventive measures to ensure you reduce unnecessary idling on a daily basis.
What are the Effects of Idling?
- Idling largely contributes to air pollution and related health illnesses. Idling negatively affects our community and the environment by significantly contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, thus increasing Tallahassee's carbon footprint.
From 1990 to 2008, greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities increased by 14 percent in the United States. Carbon dioxide accounted for most of this increase and for most of the country's greenhouse gases. As a result, human illnesses related to air pollution is also on the rise. Studies have linked poor air quality caused by greenhouse gas emissions to asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and other cancer risks, chronic bronchitis, childhood respiratory illnesses, and lower IQ levels.
- Idling waste fuel and money. Contrary to common belief, idling does not save more fuel or money; in fact it does the exact opposite. For every hour a vehicle is not idling, an individual can save between 1/5 to 7/10 of a gallon of fuel depending on idling habits and vehicle type. In the United States, an idling diesel vehicle burns approximately one gallon of fuel an hour. Using the current price of one gallon of diesel fuel, that would mean a loss of $27,605.76 annually.
- Idling significantly contributes to negative climate change. Across the lower 48 United States, an increased rate of warming has occurred over the past 30 years and average temperatures have risen since 1901. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The carbon dioxide emissions that an idling vehicle emits are increasing significantly each year.
- Idling causes engine wear-and-tear. Contrary to popular belief, idling does not help reduce engine wear-and-tear. Instead, idling does quite the opposite. Idling increases engine wear-and-tear because the vehicle is operating longer than necessary. Studies have found that battery and starter wear-and-tear costs approximately one to two cents per restart. According to that finding, the additional wear-and-tear, or an additional two restarts a day, would cost approximately $10 annually. In comparison, an idling vehicle could cost between $70- $650 annually depending on fuel prices, idling habits, and vehicle type.
How Can I Live Idle-Free?
- Turn off your ignition if you are waiting more than 10 seconds. Turn off your ignition to avoid unnecessary idling. For every 10 minutes your engine is off, you will prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
- Warm up your engine by driving it, not by idling. The most cost-efficient way to warm up your engine is by avoiding excessive engine revving and allowing it to warm up once you already start driving. Once a vehicle is driving, the engine warms up twice as quickly than when parked. Warming the vehicle once driving is also better for your health. If you warm your car while stationary, you are breathing in more of the fumes from the vehicle's exhaust pipe. If idling is necessary, shift your vehicle into neutral so that it consumes less fuel.
- Drive your vehicle less. Find alternative ways to travel besides using your own vehicle. Using mass transit, carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling, and walking, all help to reduce your individual carbon footprint. You can also schedule personal or business meetings over the phone or video conferencing technology and live closer to work to reduce your carbon dioxide output.
When traveling in your own vehicle, avoid making a lot of small trips. Instead, when you are making multiple stops, go to your farthest destination first to warm up your engine more quickly and for better fuel economy.
- Drive the posted speed limit or the minimum allowed. When a vehicle is driven over 60 miles per hour (mph), fuel consumption increases about 5 percent for every 5 mph. You can save between 7 percent to 23 percent in fuel costs from driving at a slower speed.
- Avoid rapid starts and stops and maintain a constant speed. When accelerating or decelerating your vehicle, do so gradually. When you accelerate quickly or decelerate abruptly, you can increase fuel consumption by up to 40 percent, but reduce travel time by only 4 percent. Drive your vehicle at a constant rate to avoid red lights and help keep other vehicles moving at a safer and more efficient pace. Following this recommendation will help you save between 5 percent to 33 percent in city driving costs.
- Lighten your load. Remove unnecessary items from your vehicle to increase efficiency and improve better fuel economy. For every additional 100 pounds in or on top of your vehicle, mpg is reduced by up to 2 percent. To increase your vehicle's mpg, remove unused roof, ski, or bike racks, and avoid carrying items on your roof.
- Put down the windows to cool your vehicle instead of using air conditioning. When cooling off your hot vehicle put your windows down and let air come through the vents instead of using air conditioning, typically when driving under 40 mph. When driving above 40 mph, it is more fuel efficient to put on the air conditioning than open the windows. When you do use air conditioning, use your vehicle's "recycle inside air" feature to reuse the cooled air inside the car to use less fuel. When you are parking your vehicle in hot temperatures, look for shaded areas and use a window heat reflector. By doing so, you will use less energy to cool off your car once you return.
- Check your tire pressure monthly. In the United States, an estimated 25 percent of all vehicles are driving on underinflated tires. Check your tire pressure monthly to ensure your tires are inflated correctly. By maintaining your vehicle's proper tire pressure you increase its safety, extend its tire life, and improve its mpg by up to 3 percent.
To maintain your vehicle's proper tire pressure, purchase a quality tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure when tires are not driven for at least 3 hours or for less than 1.5 miles. Keep in mind that tire pressures change an average of 1 PSI for every 10°F change in air temperature and can deflate naturally up to 1.5 PSI per month.
- Consider alternative fuel vehicles when purchasing a vehicle. Consider purchasing a hybrid, electric, flexible fuel, or fuel cell vehicle. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, hybrid electric vehicles help you prevent idling. They are designed with innovative idling prevention features. New diesel truck technology also provides innovative idle shut down features in recent models.
How Can I Make a Difference?
Pledge to be idle-free! Take the pledge to reduce unnecessary idling or share positive environmental actions you already practice.
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