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Free block-heater timers to be handed out

Timers that can be programmed to start engine-warming block heaters on cars and trucks will be distributed free of charge Saturday.

About 575 timers will be available, with the handouts starting at about 10 a.m. and continuing until 2 p.m. at the University Center mall near 36th Avenue and the Old Seward Highway. For a timer to be useful, a vehicle owner must already have had a block heater installed.

City officials say the timers will save on energy expenses. Instead of leaving the block heaters on all night, vehicle owners will be able to set them to start warming motors two to three hours before the morning commute. Preheating engines saves gasoline and reduces cold-start emissions by almost 60 percent, officials say.

Funding for the free timers is provided by the federal government through Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions, the joint city-state planning agency that sets Anchorage road construction and transit priorities. The goal is to improve the city's air quality by increasing use of block heaters.

This weekend's timer giveaway is sponsored by the city's Department of Health and Human Services and Green Star, a local nonprofit that advocates energy conservation and pollution prevention.

Staffers with the city's Share-a-Ride program also will be on hand to discuss carpooling and vanpooling. Experts on recycling and renewable energy will be available too.

Anchorage Daily News