Garages, Block Heaters, and Thermal Cameras

by Ben N on January 9, 2015


In my area, we are now in the depths of winter, with the air temperature hovering right around Zero Fahrenheit, and wind-chills down to near fifty below.

Maybe it’s time I put on those snow tires.

Just kidding, I already have the snow tires on, although I only got them on about a week ago. I also worked REALLY HARD to clean out the garage. I hope my wife appreciates that. She’s the primary driver of the Prius. With no basement or other workspace, the garage is my only storage area/machine shop/electronics lab/shed/laboratory. In other words, it was a bit of work to clear out, but it’s all worth it if we can have our 2004 Prius parked inside to keep the wife happy.

Besides keeping the car out of the wind, it also keeps the snow off, prevents having to scrape the windshield, AND is convenient for plugging in the block heater! The car is equipped with a 400-watt OEM-style heater, which directly heats the aluminum block. I have a mechanical timer in the garage (plugged in through a Kill-a-Watt) that goes to an extension cord to the block-heater plug, which is near the windshield. This way, the block heater can run for an hour or two, automatically, before the car is driven in the morning.

I also recently got a thermal camera.

The other day, I took some photos of the car right after my wife got home on a trip of about 10 miles, driving freeway speeds. Surprisingly, one of the warmest things in the thermal photo was the tires themselves! Although in contact with the cold road, the friction and movement of the rubber itself creates heat! The other bright parts of the thermal photos was the windshield and windows. Being glass, they don’t insulate well, and the cabin heater would have been running the whole drive home. When I opened the door to the car, the entire interior absolutely radiated heat compared to the outside surfaces.IMG_1656

IMG_1661I parked the car in the garage and plugged in the block heater, setting the timer to run for about two and a half hours before the next time we would be using the car.

When it was time to go, I pulled the car out of the garage and took another thermal photo. (Bottom-most Image) This time, the tires themselves were cold, as was the car interior and windows, but the aluminum HOOD of the car was glowing with a steady heat. I could also see that the upper grill showed high heat as well. Although the car has a permanent lower grill block, I hadn’t gotten around to adding the temporary pipe insulation upper grill block for this winter. In the thermal image, you can see how the upper grill isn’t insulated. I’ll have to insulate that and take another thermal image to compare the results.

Block heater_IMG_1679Thermal imagery is a pretty amazing way to see the world differently, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you should use your garage if you have one, and plug in a block heater if you can.

Til next time, stay warm, and keep your wife happy.



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