Saturday, February 13, 2021

Let's Talk Seat Heaters

The first car we ever had with seat heaters is our 2015 Chevy Volt. Now, we don't get much call to use those here in the deep south. However, they're an essential part of the Volt's climate control system when it's cold out, especially when the Volt is running on battery power. 

The Volt's climate control heating system is fairly complex, using whatever waste heat is generated by the electric propulsion system (which isn't much), along with a supplemental heating coil (?) to heat the coolant going to the climate control coils (which heats the air being fed to the cabin). That supplemental heater only comes on when the climate control system is in "comfort" mode (the climate control has three modes: fan only, economy, and comfort; generally speaking, economy works just fine when cooling, unless you really need to cool the car quickly after it's been sitting out in the sun, but even then economy is usually "good enough"). When the car gets to where it's running the gas engine (either you've depleted the battery charge to the point that it enters hybrid mode, or it's cold enough that "engine running due to temperature" is displayed on the dash and it, you know, runs the engine, even though you still have battery charge left), there's a valve that switches to run the engine coolant to the cabin heater heat exchanger. There's a lot of waste heat from an internal combustion engine, and that works the best to heat the cabin.

The seat heaters, when the climate control settings are fully on auto, turn on when it's cold out in order to more quickly warm the body and provide the sense of overall warmth (level 1, 2, or 3 depending on the outside/inside temperature, and changing to lower levels, and then off, automatically over time). The seat heaters are actually more economical to run and more efficient for heating the person than using the supplemental coolant heater. Save battery charge, more quickly warm the person while the supplemental heater and waste propulsion system heat build up warmth to the cabin heat exchanger coolant system. Complicated, but it works.

That said, if you've never experienced heated seats... Wow, that first time. What a sensation! I can't fully explain it, and I'm not really going to try. I can only recommend that you rent a car with a seat heater and turn it on. Or, rather, get someone else to turn it on for you when you're not expecting it. It doesn't take long to get used to it, after which you'll probably love it, especially in cold weather. But, oh, that first time!

We still love our Volt, even when she surprised us with automatic seat heaters for the first time (and now we love those automatic seat heaters, too).

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