It’s cold and frosty outside and windscreens need defrosting up and down the country! It is tempting to turn the engine on and let it run while heating up the car and to defrost the windscreen. But idling is bad for the environment and costs you money. Every 2 minutes you idle your engine, it is the equivalent of driving a mile.
Of course if you have an electric vehicle which you charge at a charging point like NewMotion Charging Points then the stats will be different. Regardless of whether your car is electric, petrol or diesel it is still better for the environment and your wallet not to idle.
You can calculate and track your cost per mile by logging your mileage and fuel ups in sites like fuelly.com. My car costs around 14p a mile to run. If I leave my car idling for 5 minutes in the morning it will cost me around 35p to defrost the windows and warm up my car.
You can also calculate the amount of CO2 emissions your car produces per mile using online calculators. Using a calculator I worked out my car produces roughly 347g of CO2 a mile. After 5 minutes of idling, I will have produced 867.5g of CO2 – nearly 1kg. That’s the equivalent of around 9 apples or a small, slightly used, bag of sugar.
Alternative ways to defrost your car windscreen and windows:
So what can we do instead? There are alternatives to idling.
While running the engine, often people will scrape the windows too, as it speeds things up. It is possible to clear the windscreens with scraping power alone though! It just might take a little longer and is a bit more effort.
To speed up the scraping, it helps to use a de-icer. Don’t go out and buy a de-icing spray though. It will come in a disposable plastic bottle and may contain nasties.
Instead a very low tech option is to melt the ice with a hot water bottle full of hot water. I have been experimenting with this and to start with I was a bit nervous about it being too hot. So I diluted the boiling water with cold water and gradually progressed to the water bottle being full of boiling water and it worked out fine.
The added advantage of using a hot water bottle is that you can take it in the car with you afterwards and use it to keep warm, while your car is heating up. I took mine with me on the school run and left it on my seat while dropping off the kids. Was nice to come back to a warm seat in the freezing weather!
To compare to idling, it costs around 2.5p to boil a full kettle and emits around 10g of CO2.* We have solar panels and are on a green energy plan, so the CO2 emission figure should be lower if you have green sources of energy at home too.
A winter cover on your car windscreen that you can take off in the morning, makes de-icing easy! When I started writing this post I suddenly remembered that I have one of these covers. It is hidden somewhere in my boot though (I’m hoping – otherwise I don’t have it any more). Next time I get an opportunity I will go and have a look for it.
Based on my experience, I think covers are a good idea, but if you are a bit disorganised like me you have to remember you have one and to use it! Also they are usually just for the front windscreen, so there is still the rest of the windows to clear.
The amounts of money/ CO2 emmissions you stand to save by avoiding idling your engine to de-ice and warm up your car may seem fairly small, but scale them up over years and households and they become far more significant. So it’s definitely time to stop the morning idling habit and swap it for a scraper, a hot water bottle and / or a windscreen cover!
Thanks to Newmotion for sponsoring this post.