Keeping Equipment Toasty Warm and Working in the Cold: An Alaskan Perspective.

By Martin Klein, CAPP

The thermometer reads -13 degrees this morning. A parking operator might be concerned about equipment continuing to run at that temperature but having spent 30+ years managing parking in Alaska where winter temperatures of 40 below zero are not uncommon, we’ve learned how to keep things going. Many printers, readers, and electronics in parking equipment are happiest when kept at room temperature. This can be a challenge when that equipment is housed in a metal box while wind and snow are swirling outside.

Parking equipment has improved but most equipment still isn’t really designed for Alaska conditions, which is understandable. We’ve learned a basic concept: Focus first on insulating your equipment. You will then be able to use smaller, lower temperature heaters.

At trade shows, mentioning one is from Alaska frequently generates the response, “We can put a bigger heater inside to keep it working.” When we first started in the parking business, I remember regularly getting burns on my hands and arms while servicing a parking gate that had been “fixed” by putting in a couple of large strip heaters. Servicing the gate was like trying to service a plugged-in, turned-on toaster!

Imagine one is warming themselves on the beach in front of a small fire. If the night starts getting really cold, one could pile more logs on the fire, but at some point, you’ll start getting too hot on the side facing the fire while your other side is still freezing. A better solution might be to put on a jacket. (think insulation). Putting a larger heater in a metal parking equipment enclosure often results in a small area inside the enclosure that is too hot, while the rest of the enclosure is too cold.

By approaching the issue of keeping equipment comfortable by focusing on insulation, the need to apply additional heat is greatly reduced. We’ve had good success by creatively adding insulation to the inside of the enclosure and/or wrapping the equipment in a custom-made jacket.

Martin Klein, CAPP, is a lifelong Alaskan and has operated parking equipment in Alaska since the early eighties. He currently works with REEF Parking overseeing their Alaska Airport Parking Operations.