“Idle Index” acts as guideline for running vehicles in cold weather

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

“We’re not promoting people to stop idling their vehicles indefinitely,” maintains Program Coordinator Karen MasonBennett. “What we’re trying to do is provide some guidelines so we’re not sitting there watching vehicles idles for 45 minutes to an hour.” 

For instance, on a day like yesterday when the temperature was around minus three degrees in the morning, idling for one to minutes would be fine, and later in the day when it was below minus 20, up to five minutes was appropriate. 

Mason-Bennett explains that in addition to using up a lot of gas, idling emits a lot of unhealthy emissions that can be pulled in through home and storefront air systems. 

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“If we’re idling from a cold start in the morning, we see a lot of incomplete combustion of fuel, which means that the chemicals that are being introduced to the air through your exhaust pipe really haven’t been properly combusted, so they’re a little bit more toxic than they would normally be.” 

According to Idle Free B.C., if vehicles avoided idling by just three minutes a day, over the year Canadians would collectively save 630 million litres of fuel, and $945 million in fuel costs based on $1.50 a litre. It says it would also save 6.3 billion kilograms of Greenhouse Gas emissions. Mason-Bennett also adds that idling for too long also isn’t healthy for a vehicle. 

“It’s really not good for your engine. There’s a lot of build up that can happen on the inside of the cylinders within your engine when you’re idling for excessive periods of time. Engines really aren’t built to do that; they’re built to run. 

While the argument can be made that five minutes often isn’t enough to fully defrost windows, NEAT is instead encouraging drivers to help in the process to reduce the amount of time vehicles are left running. 

Here’s the full Idle Index: 

O degrees C = no idling


-1 to -10 = 1-2 minutes or less 

-11 to -20 = 3 minutes or less

-21 and below = 5 minutes or less

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