Having an auxiliary power unit installed in your truck can be a game changer. This is especially true if you are a long-haul driver and are spending multiple days and nights on the road. How many times have you been at a truck stop, rest area, or parked on the shoulder of an off ramp all the while wishing you had heat or air conditioning? Sure, you could idle your engine but do you really want to idle the engine for the entire time you are trying to sleep? Or, do you want to idle it for an hour, shut it off, then wake up a few hours later and start the whole process over again?
It is a pain in the ass and not to mention inefficient. You’re burning through fuel and to top it all off you may even be illegally idling depending on what state or jurisdiction you are in. Adding an APU to your truck solves all of these problems. The APU will provide you with power. It will provide you with air conditioning. It will provide you with heat. But, before you decide to purchase an auxiliary power unit let us first look at their various pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision when it comes time to buy.
APU Pros & Cons
As can be expected, the biggest pro when it comes to APUs is being able to generate cold or hot air whenever you need without having to idle your engine. This puts you in compliance with various state laws and also allows you to be comfortable in your cab while sleeping or while just having some time off. This alone is worth it to many truckers. You get a good night’s sleep without risking any fines. Besides this obvious benefit there are a few others to look at though.
The APU is typically tied right into your truck’s diesel fuel tanks. However when the APU is running it will only use twenty to thirty percent of the fuel that your truck’s engine does while idling or running. That means an instant fuel savings when running your APU. If you are in a very cold environment then you can also prevent your diesel from gelling due to your APU engine running. This is just an added benefit that a lot of folks do not consider.
Along with the fuel savings you will also save your engine from additional wear and tear. Idling is never good for your engine and by reducing the hours that you idle you also reduce the maintenance and servicing that your engine needs. This holds especially true nowadays with trucks made from year 2010 and up. As most of you know these trucks all come with a diesel particulate filter, or a DPF. Idling your truck not only increases the wear and tear on your engine but also on your DPF… and maintenance or replacement on a DPF is NOT cheap… that I can assure you. I spent ten years working at Kenworth dealership. I know just how expensive it is just to clean a DPF. We have specialized machines that do just this that cost us thousands of dollars just to purchase… and that is just to clean the DPF. Imagine now how much it costs to completely replace the DPF.
While running the APU will actively charge your truck’s batteries as well. So, if you wish to power other electronics or appliances in your truck then you could also run a power inverter. A power inverter converts your trucks stored battery direct current (DC) power over to alternating current (AC) power. AC electricity is what all of our standard home appliances use such as microwaves, refrigerators, etc. Now some APUs come with built in power inverters and some do not. But, if your batteries are being charged by the APU then you do not have to worry about draining your batteries while running your power inverter. So, you prevent your diesel from gelling and your batteries are fully charged when you want to start up and go in the morning. Not a bad thing if you ask me!
There really is only one major downside when it comes to APU folks and that is price. Adding an auxiliary power unit to your truck is NOT cheap. These can range from five-thousand dollars all the way up to twelve-thousand dollars or more. This cost is assuming the purchase of the unit as well as the installation charge. It is because of this cost hurdle alone that many fleet owners do not put APUs in their trucks. This creates an overall bad experience for their company drivers and may cause them to end up leaving to another fleet that provides APUs for their drivers. In fact many drivers may reject a job offer if the truck they’ll be driving does not have a built-in APU.
There are ways to reduce the cost numbers that I stated above. Of course if you are an owner operator and you have the money you may spend twelve thousand and purchase the top of the line Thermo King TriPac APU. But, if you just want to purchase a middle of the road APU you can as well for a much cheaper price. If you really want an APU but just can’t swing the expense there are also refurbished APUs out there that you can purchase from various APU houses. One such example of this is https://www.dalesapusales.com/ . Lastly, if you still can’t swing the cost then you can always look into what’s known as a ‘Red Neck’ APU. I went into what this is in another article that can be found by clicking here. Now, these redneck APUs are not the safest approach and I typically do not recommend them… but if you are in a pinch it may be worth looking into.
To close this article out folks APUs come with a variety of benefits ranging from savings on fuel, savings on maintenance, as well as charging your batteries and helping to stop gelling of your diesel. Their only real con or downside is their expense to purchase and install. The price range can vary wildly depending on what brand and model you choose and you can save even more by going with a APU refurbishing house.
If you are on the road for multiple days a week then I am going to highly recommend you look at adding an APU to your vehicle. It is a large quality of life improvement and will help make your day to day more enjoyable.
Thanks for reading,