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Tweak and save

March 08, 2011
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Small changes can make a big difference, especially in your conveyor carwash tunnel. What may seem like minor tweaks and adjustments of your carwash equipment can actually add up to huge savings when chemicals, water and energy are concerned.

So it is important to also monitor every detail of your full-serve, flex-serve or express eterior carwash in order to make sure money isn’t being poured down the drain. In other words, do not “set it and forget it.” Or, as Anthony Analetto, president of the carwash equipment division at SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory explained, when it comes to managing a carwash, “the devil is in the details.”

Adjust your tunnel, adjust your chemicals
One of the biggest mistakes an operator can make is not realizing that one change can affect other elements. That is why it’s important to reanalyze all systems after a change is made or occurs inadvertently.

For instance, adjusting the carwash’s nozzles can have a ripple effect on other equipment component. “A clogged nozzle or weak spray pattern will not provide full coverage and can immediately affect the cleaning ability of the wash,” according to literature from CarWash College, a carwash training and educational service for the industry.

The same goes for worn out pumps and various chemical distribution systems. “Improper controller timing, worn nozzles and small leaks are the usual culprits,” when it comes to excessive detergent consumption, said Analetto, who also warned to evaluate the estimated utility consumption on older compressors and pumps.

“The data is available,” he said. “And, fortunately, computers are allowing you to review those details with ease.”

Be mindful of the domino effect
Ron Holub has been in the carwash industry for over 30 years and is now a national sales manager for Transchem, a private label carwash chemical company. He said that making adjustments in a congruent manner is the best way to operate. For example, Holub said if any changes are made to a nozzle or if water pressure is reduced, be sure to check and see if chemicals need to be reduced as well.

“Check your nozzles for wear and the volume they are putting out and be sure to check your chemical usage to make sure you’re not wasting anything,” he explained. If you make any changes in chain speed, you also need to make an adjustment on the amount of chemicals being applied. If you speed it up, you may not be using enough to clean properly. If you slow it down, you may be using too much chemical.

According to Analetto, the air pump and hydrominder proportioning systems have proven to be popular at carwashes nowadays, but due to city water pressure changes throughout the day, dilution ratios can vary. The fluctuations are negligible, he said, but when a system adds in more detergent to recompense the fluctuations, it can add up.

“I think it will be increasingly common to add individual pressure regulators to each hydrominder,” Analette stated. “Even at locations with comparatively steady water pressure.”

Maintain. Check. Save.
Every carwash should have a preventative maintenance schedule in place. And employees should have a list of jobs to complete when things are slow. Checking the nozzles should be a part of the preventative maintenance schedule. Train employees on how to check them for wear and tear and throughput capabilities and be sure to replace them when necessary.

According to Tom Frietsche, carwash tunnel product manager for Mark VII Equipment, Inc., cleaning out and checking the nozzles should be on an operator’s list of the top five preventative maintenance schedule tasks. Also, the Equipment Maintenance Certification Program at CarWash College advises all students to check nozzle spray pattern on a daily basis.

Need to save water?
Carwashes that are under drought conditions should also look at the tunnel’s nozzles to make sure water is not being wasted. The Water Management Policy at Autobell Car Wash Inc., the third largest conveyor carwash chain in the nation with 61 locations and an eco-friendly branding program, states that “all fresh water spray nozzles are replaced annually to assure maximum efficiency of water use.”

Autobell locations are in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and many of the washes are in areas commonly afflicted by drought or low water level conditions, forcing either mandated water restrictions or volunteer-based water-saving initiatives. And, when mandatory restrictions are enforced, their policy states that the carwashes, “Reduce fresh water use by adjusting nozzle sizes on final rinses.”

As Frietschealso added, carwash water conservation is possible through employing efficient nozzles. “The days of dumping huge amounts of water through holes in a pipe are ending,” he explained. “Additionally, regulatory requirements will accelerate these conservation efforts.”

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