Pressurized aircraft that use their air cycle air conditioning systems combine bleed air with cold air created by the air cycle machine expansion turbine to receive warm air for the aircraft’s cabin. Aircrafts powered by a turbine but lacking air cycle systems still, utilize the engine compressor bleed air to warm up the cabin. The bleed air can be mixed with ambient or cabin return air and is transported throughout the aircraft via ducting. Air can be mixed in several different ways. Switches located in the cockpit control the mixing of air valves, flow control valves and more.
An electric heating device can be utilized on occasion. The electricity that flows through the heating elements makes the element heat up. A fan is used to blow the air above the elements and into the cabin. This transfers the heat. The sidewall elements emit heat to keep the cabin warm. Electric heating elements heaters need a large amount of the aircraft’s generator output. This is best dedicated towards the operation of other electrical devices. Because of this, electrical heaters are not very common.
Exhaust shroud heaters are mostly used by single-engine light aircraft. Ambient air is moved into a metal jacket that encloses a portion of the engine’s exhaust system. The exhaust warms the air and is transported through a firewall heater valve into the cabin. This process requires no electrical or engine power and utilizes the heat that would in other situations be wasted. One major concern of the exhaust shroud system is the possibility of contamination via the exhaust gases to the cabin air. Even a tiny crack in the exhaust could spread enough carbon monoxide to be fatal. There are strict procedures and inspections to minimize this possible threat.
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