• By Sarah Coffey
  • Posted Monday, July 8, 2024

Breathe Better, Save Money: Reducing Engine Idling in Forsyth County

You may have noticed the “Breathe Better, Save Money” signs at various county-owned lots such as the Chestnut Street lot across from the Courthouse, the Health and Human Services campus, and the Government Center. Property Management has worked with the Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection (EAP) to install these signs as a part of a Triad Air Awareness initiative. Unnecessary vehicle idling not only contributes to air pollution in Forsyth County; it also wastes money. The simple act of turning off an engine can help protect everyone’s health, and it saves on fuel and engine maintenance costs. We have summarized the major benefits of idling reduction below:

Idling pollutes our air and threatens our health.
Cars produce more tailpipe emissions (including hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide) when idling—up to twice as much as when they are in motion. Restarting a vehicle causes less wear and tear on the engine than idling, and it uses less fuel and produces fewer emissions than idling for just 10 seconds! Even in the winter, modern gas-powered vehicles do not need more than thirty seconds to “warm up” before driving off.

In North Carolina, roughly half of ground-level ozone-forming emissions come from on-road mobile sources (aka, cars and trucks). Ground-level ozone damages the respiratory system and can be especially harmful for children and teens, older adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma. In fact, air pollution not only aggravates asthma, but it can actually cause it to develop.

Idling is expensive
An idling car wastes up to ½ gallon of gas per hour. If one gallon of gas costs $3.50, idling a vehicle for the average lunch break (30 minutes) costs up to $19/month ($228/year) in fuel alone. It also causes more wear and tear on the vehicle since idling engines do not operate at peak temperatures, resulting in incomplete fuel combustion. Fuel residues can condense on cylinder walls, contaminate oil and damage engine components. These residues can build up on spark plugs more quickly with greater engine idling, which can increase fuel consumption by 4 to 5%. Excessive idling can also cause water to condense in the vehicle’s exhaust. This corrodes and shortens the lifespan of the exhaust system, whereas frequent restarting has little impact on engine components such as the starter motor and battery.

Each of us can make a difference.
Idling our personal vehicles produces roughly 30 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO_2) every year. If everyone in the United States avoided unnecessary engine idling, it would be like taking 5 million vehicles off our roads! We can start small by promoting idling reduction right here in Forsyth County. Here are a couple of tips: 1) If you are waiting outside a building, and it is too hot or too cold to turn off the engine and still remain comfortable or safe inside the car, park and go inside. 2) Rather than eating lunch in your car during your lunch break, choose to eat in the breakroom, at your desk, or outside in the shade.

To learn more about the benefits of idling reduction and other ways to reduce air pollution, please reach out to our Air Awareness Coordinator, Sarah Coffey, at coffeyse@forsyth.cc, 336-925-4952 or 336-703-2449.

Thank you for making Forsyth County a cleaner, healthier place to live!

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