In frigid temperatures of 32 degrees and below, the components of an airplane can reach damaging temperatures that reduce their longevity. When an airplane is started up before it is evenly heated, it has to work much harder to get going. The extraneous efforts can cause wear and tear on mechanics that can reflect 100 to 500 hours of operation. Uneven heating can detrimentally affect pistons, cylinders, camshafts and other components. In a cold weather predicament, it is important to have an aircraft preheating method.
Preheaters are often used for aircraft cockpit and engine heating. These devices are designed to heat airplane components during cold weather and can come in a multitude of configurations. Preheating devices that are the most commonly used in avionics are a forced-air preheater, an electric heater, or a heated hangar.
Forced-air preheating mechanisms can be provided by an FBO (fixed base operator). In which case, a forced-air cart will likely be used. Typically, these tools will have capability to simultaneously vent exhaust and pump hot air through their heating tube and are safe to use on the engine and cockpit. Downfalls of using a forced-cart include uneven heating, and high demand if you are docked at an airport.
Electrical heaters are a more practical option in a bind, but they need to be installed on the aircraft. FAA regulations allow the installation of heating components as long as they are made under a parts manufacturing approval (PMA) and are inspected by an airframe and powerplant mechanic (A&P). Electric preheaters operate through heating elements that can be attached to engine components. This device is handy in a bind but can take up to 6 hours to heat an engine evenly.
Another preheating option to consider is a heated hangar. Using this technology allows comprehensive heating of the aircraft. Heated hangars take around 8 - 12 hours to fully heat an airplane, depending on size and entering temperature. However, an evenly heated aircraft will save time and money in the long run.
Additions that may aid in faster preheating is an insulated cowl attachment, and a thermostat. Insulation provided by the attachments can help keep heat trapped in the engine compartment or cockpit, which is integral to time efficient preheating.
A thermostat, on the other hand, can help to automatically regulate temperature control in your engine compartment and cockpit. Well-designed thermostats will be able to detect outside temperatures, and jumpstart preheating. Thermostats can also be equipped with overheat protection systems and low to high watt power settings to give more protection to the aircraft components and more control over the preheating process.