Terry Howard was motivated to adapt idling-reduction technology, becoming more common in trucks, to ASRC's off-road equipment because the best way to get machines rolling after 14 hours off shift in the Alaskan winter was to leave the engines running.
"During initial tests of Temp-A-Start systems (in Dead Horse, on Alaska's North Slope) the temperature averaged -10 degrees Fahrenheit to -20 F," says Richard LeFrancois, a technical advisor to ASRC who introduced Howard to Temp-A-Start. "Run time for the machines was cut from 14 hours down to three hours."
During the three or four months when Alaskan companies leave machines run round the clock, the difference comes to about 1,000 hours of idling saved each winter.
The Temp-A-Start patented system consists of a control module, sensors for oil temperature (actually measuring block temperature) and battery charge, a thermostat for monitoring cab and ambient temperature, and a wiring harness. Since ASRC's adaptations, Temp-A-Start has begun producing 24-volt systems without the cab-climate controls for off-road machines.
The system can be activated when the ignition is on. The operator throws a switch and then can turn the ignition off, pull the key, and walk away. Temp-A-Start senses block temperature and automatically starts the engine if it drops below 55 F. If the transmission is put in gear with no key in the ignition, Temp-A-Start shuts the machine down.
Temp-A-Start has raised the target block temperature to 170 F (standard is 135 F) using engine speeds up to 1,200 or higher, depending on OEM recommendations for operation in sub-zero conditions. When the engine climbs to the appropriate temperature, the system turns it off.
The system also monitors battery voltage, and when the charge drops below a preset level, it will start the engine and run it long enough to charge the batteries.
Installed, Temp-A-Start units cost about $3,700. Howard says the units reduce fuel and maintenance cost enough that they pay for themselves in one season of use. LeFrancois and ASRC's Howard extrapolate additional benefits to consider. Reduced idling time extends the engine-oil drain interval, which reduces oil, filter and disposal costs. It also makes more technician labor available for other preventive maintenance.
Because Temp-A-Start monitors and reacts to battery charge level, it reduces starting-and-charging-system failures. When it begins cycling the engine on and off more frequently, simple troubleshooting will indicate if the battery, ground, starter, or alternator need repair or replacement.
Howard says all machines added to ASRC's fleet from now on will come with factory-installed idle-reduction systems.