As a truck driver, there are times when you need power in your cab, but you want to avoid running your truck. Maybe you are in a no-idle area, or perhaps you want to reduce the amount of fuel you are using. This is where an auxiliary power unit can be your best friend. With an APU, you can reduce diesel use as well as extend your truck’s engine by thousands of miles. But how do you know which type of APU is best for you? Maybe you aren’t quite sure that you need to invest nearly $10,000 in an auxiliary power unit for your truck. To help clear the air, here is everything you need to know about APUs and how to decide which type to buy if you choose this energy source for your rig.
All About APUs
An auxiliary power unit is an extra power source that allows you to get power in your cab without cranking up your truck. It is also highly beneficial for truckers wanting to avoid idling. An APU for a commercial truck is a separate diesel engine, much smaller than the one powering the semi. Within this separate engine setup are an air conditioning compressor, cooling system, generator or alternator, and a heating system. You can get an auxiliary power unit that is affixed to the frame rails of your truck or a type that is installed for complete integration within your chassis.
An APU system requires a small amount of diesel in comparison to the main engine. For example, you can often operate an APU with only 1 gallon of diesel for a full eight hours. So, if you are using an auxiliary power unit to avoid long idling time at docks or when sitting with a refrigerated trailer, you can save up to 20 gallons of diesel a day. Plus, you are reducing the amount of time and wear and tear on a diesel engine by using an APU whenever possible. If you use an auxiliary power unit for long idling times on a regular basis, you can theoretically add 100,000 miles to the life of a diesel engine.
Whether you are an owner of a trucking company or an owner-operator, you could save a lot of money on maintenance and replacements of your tractors—all with the installation of an APU. However, there are other benefits to truck drivers who use this kind of external power system.
Top Uses for Auxiliary Power Units in Trucking
If you have equipment that requires a constant source of power, such as a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, then you need to have an APU for safety reasons. However, you can also use this setup for powering your air conditioning or heater when you are sitting at a truck parking space overnight, thereby controlling your climate without using excess fuel. This also reduces a number of diesel emissions released by trucks, which brings up another point.
Several cities and states, including California, have no idling laws that limit the amount of time truck drivers can sit idling. Whether in traffic, at truck stops, or in truck loading areas, truckers in these areas can be fined hundreds of dollars for not abiding these laws. This is where an auxiliary power unit becomes a necessity. If you are a frequent trucker in areas with no idling or low idling laws, then getting an APU is your saving grace.
Choosing the Best APU
So how do you know what kind of APU to buy for your diesel truck? Start by considering the price point. A new auxiliary power unit will cost you anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000. This high price often excludes installation, so you’ll need to find a diesel technician who can handle this project for you.
Next, you need to decide whether to buy an all-electric APU powered by battery or a combustion-power APU that runs off diesel. If you have a truck with an alternative fuel source, such as propane autogas or natural gas, then you want to go with a unit that will run using the alternative fuel source.
Which is best? You will need diesel to operate a combustion-power APU unit, which is generally not an issue for truck drivers. All-electric APUs are powered by electricity, which requires four APU batteries that can also pull power from the tractor batteries. However, once those batteries are drained so is your APU’s ability to operate.
As for functionality, an all-electric APU is completely silent, which is a consideration if you are already a light sleeper. Yet more than 70 percent of trucking companies opt for the diesel-powered APUs due to the convenience of running off diesel. The reason being? Most trucking companies find diesel-powered APUs to be more efficient since they operate on an already existing power source. Trying to keep your APU batteries charged up when you are over the road or busy with trucking jobs is just a bit too much of a process