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In-bay drying 101

October 11, 2010
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An in-bay wash owner should select a dryer based on the space available in the bay, the volume of cars cleaned, the power available, and the location.

To do this effectively, a wash operator will need to research requirements, check out the available systems, and install and service the dryer properly.

Researching it right
What is the average number of vehicles that move through the in-bay in an hour’s time? Owners should consider:

  • Floor space;
  • Drip space;
  • Ambient temperature; and
  • Available power.

Also, are there any special considerations such as traffic flow, turning radius or noise restrictions at the location? What about energy costs?

Most importantly, think about the desired results and how they can be achieved. Considering all these factors will help an owner choose the most productive drying system for his or her location.

Site requirements
Before choosing a dryer, a wash operator needs to determine if the bay has space for a free-standing dryer located either inside the bay, or outside the exit end.

If he or she doesn’t have the needed space for a free-standing unit, consider a dryer that mounts above the exit end of the bay. Additional space-saving options would be an in-bay overhead-mounted drying arch or even an on-board system.

Of course, for the driest vehicles possible, it’s important to allow drip space between the final rinse and the dryer. Consider using a spot-free rinse and adding a drying solution to the in-bay wash cycle to help the vehicles dry more efficiently.

Another factor to consider in obtaining a dry vehicle would be the speed at which customers move through the drying system. A proven way to help control this movement is to install a highly visible count-down timer with a large, bright display.

Most people will pace themselves to use all the time on the display, thereby ensuring a drier vehicle when they exit.

Technology for today
There have been significant innovations in dryer technology in recent years. One design idea that improves drying efficiency is oscillating the air stream to cover more vehicle surface.

While many dryer designs bend the air stream causing a pressure drop and added noise, the oscillating method actually changes the air stream by simply rotating the location of the nozzle opening.

Also a direct-discharge nozzle requires less energy — 10 to 15 horsepower (HP)-per-nozzle — to provide better drying results.

Today, almost all dryers being manufactured for the carwash industry utilize a type of direct-discharge nozzle.

With today’s drying systems, not all fans are created equal. Many manufacturers use welded-steel fans with the vanes welded to the backing plate.

The integrity and durability of the fan is totally dependent on strength of the welds. Balancing can be difficult, if not impossible.

A steel fan built with advanced slot-joint technology could be a better choice. This produces an incredibly strong, precision-made fan that requires less than 10 grams to balance.

Fans built with slot-joint technology often run quieter and more efficiently than other types of fans used in dryers today.

If the additional dryer noise is a concern for the location, there are many options available to help solve this problem.

One of the most popular and simplest solutions is a sound deadening material applied directly to the fan housing.

Conservation considerations
Conserving energy is a major concern of every carwash operator. Since dryers are the biggest single user of energy in a typical carwash, operators need to establish procedures to help reduce operating costs.

Think about the amount of energy that will be required to run the dryer of choice. The more horsepower used, the higher the energy costs.

For the most energy savings, look for a dryer requiring only a 10 or a 15-HP motor-per-nozzle. And to make a difference in energy costs, plan to step-start the fan motors for optimum efficiency.

Step-starting the motors in five second increments will substantially reduce dryer start-up load. Starting all blower motors at once is not only more expensive, but it also puts an extreme load on the entire electrical system.

Protecting your investment
After the dryer is installed, the operator will want to protect his or her investment with a planned maintenance program. When setting up a program, follow the guidelines from the manufacturer.

As a rule of thumb, any good dryer maintenance program should include checking the inlet screens for debris and checking the vanes carefully for cracks, loose welds, loose bolts, etc.

By following the steps outlined in the maintenance program, the in-bay owner can maintain the safety and efficiency of his or her drying system.

An experienced operator should know how important it is to listen. Know what the dryer sounds like when it is running properly, and if there is a strange noise shut it down immediately and investigate.

A fan that is out of balance can sometimes cause a vibration. A grinding noise might mean the bearings need to be lubricated or replaced.

Convenience sells
After carefully reviewing all the needs and finally choosing and installing a new drying system, the in-bay owner is finally ready to reap the benefits — the main one being happier customers.

Customers appreciate the fact that they don’t have to get out of their vehicle and wipe it down. In fact, they’re willing to spend additional dollars at your carwash for this convenience, which translates into increased profits for you.

Andre Guilbault handles distributor services for Superior Car Wash Systems, Inc. and has been with the company for three years. He supports distributors in the eastern US and can be contacted at