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Waste not, get more

June 01, 2011
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The green movement isn’t going away any time soon. For a while, it may have seemed like it was a fad, or something that would fade away once the buzz wore off, but if anything, the need and desire and push to be green is growing and becoming almost commonplace.

There are carwash companies, such as Tommy Car Wash SystemsTM by AVW, which are building new carwashes in an eco-friendly mind frame. Unique ideas which don’t cost much — like using glass tunnels for natural to save on electricity — are helping operators decrease expenses and “green” their businesses in subtle ways.

But before even considering saving on energy, a carwash must make sure it has enough and won’t abuse the availability of one key resource: Water.

When the water runs dry
As this issue was going to press, droughts were being undeclared across the Southeast, but this doesn’t mean they won’t happen again — and carwashes need to be prepared for whatever comes their way.

David Woodcroft, a carwash consultant who once worked for Crystal Wash Services of Canada as a sales consultant, said carwashes and their suppliers will need to take responsibility for ensuring their businesses are allowed to operate even during drought. This is especially important along the east coast, Woodcroft explained.

“In an industry that depends on the resale of water it only makes sense that we keep our supply channels open. Becoming environmentally sensitive and responsible can also make good business sense.”

According to Michael D. George of Auto Wash Services Inc., using a water reclaim system is a good idea, even though it will cost you. “Now a good reclaim system is going to be expensive. But the payback is well in the range of three to five years. Not too bad,” he said. He said one inexpensive way to be more environmentally friendly is to recycle and promote your services as a eco-friendly alternative to home washing.

Reducing pressure
One simple way to conserve water is to reduce the pressure on high pressure pumps, according to Woodcroft. “Test vehicles in the wash while adjusting the regulating or unloading valve to find the minimum pressure at which you can still clean a car. In some situations you can reduce the size of the nozzle which will allow you either to remain at a higher pressure or reduce consumption even more.”

Nozzle orifices will increase in size as the nozzles wear, requiring more water to keep pressure up, said Woodcroft. The small cost of changing nozzles regularly will be more than offset by the cost of water.

It is good practice to change your nozzles every six months. “A switch to premium high pressure nozzles can also save close to 15 percent,” he said, adding, “Remember: A reduction of 15 percent in water usage also means a 15 percent reduction in the chemicals mixed with that water.

Ensure quality reclaim water
According to Woodcroft, carwashes need to be cognizant of the water quality exiting carwashes. Proper pit maintenance and regularly scheduled pit cleanouts by a registered hauler are important aspects of conservation of our water resources, he said. “You may find that having your pits cleaned at regular intervals before sludge has time to harden is actually more cost effective than waiting to the last moment; and empty pits have a greater capacity to settle out suspended effluent from the wash.”

The most important way for carwashers to avoid the detrimental effects of a water crisis is to get involved, Woodcroft said. “Whether with municipal government or local environmental groups, it is important to spread the good news about what the professional carwashing industry is doing to conserve water. Anyone and everyone can do some part to monitor and reduce their consumption.”

Talk the talk
Building a new carwash today is as much about walking the walk as it is about talking the talk. According to Ryan Essenburg, the chief operating officer of Tommy who has assisted in the development and construction of over 100 conveyorized carwashes, city councils all across the U.S. are now asking investors to include information on how their carwash will impact the environment during the approval process.

Essenburg suggests this list of potential green areas for carwash construction and operations that he uses for Tommy Car Wash presentations:

  • Recycled materials;
  • Energy consumption;
  • Heat gain;
  • Rainwater collection;
  • Solar power collection; and
  • Sustainable chemistry.
  • See Tommy go green
Tommy Car Wash Systems has been working diligently to build carwashes that are more eco-friendly and economical, too.

Concerning recycled materials, Essenburg said that on a total weight basis, Tommy uses virtually all recycled materials since the building is steel, aluminum and glass. “In many cases the precast masonry panels also meet the definition of recycled,” Essenburg said.

As for energy consumption, Essenburg said that within commercial markets, one of the largest energy consuming devices is the lighting. Therefore the glass walls and ceilings of Tommy carwashes help reduce energy expenses through the use of natural light. “In addition to having a ‘lighter and brighter’ environment that is overwhelmingly appreciated by customers, it is an absolutely brilliant option for minimizing associated lighting energy,” he said.

Esserburg said that the glass can also be used for heat gain via solar panels. “The roof system not only allows for natural daylight, but for solar heat gain as well,” he said. Solar can also be used with specific standard canopies (pay station, vacuum, etc.), according to Essenburg, where solar (photovoltaic) or solar thermal energy is used. Essenburg recommends coming up with a comprehensive assessment of all Federal, State and Local Renewable Energy Credits applicable to the project.

To save water, Essenburg recommends operators consider collecting rainwater to reuse in the wash process. Integrated gutters and downspouts can be channeled into the carwash building where rainwater can be captured and directed into the reclaim system if desired is a good way to save.

Sustainable chemistry is another way to be eco-friendly. Essenburg suggest using sustainable solutions. “This program not only includes brand name added services which generate huge revenues like Rain-X®, but the Blue Coral® Beyond Green program is designed to meet or exceed VOC and chemical formulation requirements across North America.”

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