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The eco-friendly tunnel

October 11, 2010
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It doesn’t matter what your reason is for going green — a marketing tool, a cost-savings plan, or simply doing “what’s right” — today’s conveyor equipment manufaturers have got you covered. From electric tunnels to variable frequency drives, our experts explained the new technologies helping tunnel operators green up their conveyors while maintaining wash quality.

Water and electricity DO mix
Water reclamation systems are getting a lot of attention these days, according to Jeff Sturges, director of NorthAmerican sales for the tunnel division at Mark VII Equipment Inc. “I would say that the use of water reclamation systems is one of those important technologies [on the market],” he said, explaining that they help to utilize a smaller incoming water service which is a huge savings and much more efficient in the long term.

Sean McBride, tunnel product sales manager at Belanger, Inc, a manufacturer of carwash equipment, said that for tunnel washes using water reclaim systems, electric conveyors can be especially appealing.

“That’s because there is no chance of the conveyor developing a hydraulic fluid leak, which can foul reclaim water, necessitating costly and time-consuming remediation,” he said.

Improving efficiences
Richard Castellow, Western Regional sales manager for MacNeil Wash Systems said there are several technologies employed today that improve overall efficiency, including controllers which can offer improved reporting features and equipment functions. “Controllers now offer precise control of equipment, such as turning equipment on and off within an inch of the vehicle,” Castellow explained.

While performance metrics have improved and operating expenses are more manageable, operators also have easy access to make adjustments, schedule maintenance and view reports, he added.

Another big power saver gaining widespread use is the dryer inlet gate, he said. Castellow said there are several different versions on the market, but all function on the same basic principle: Closing off the inlet of the dryer producer to reduce energy consumption between vehicles, intrinsically minimizes wear on the motor.

Also worth mentioning is the use of more environmentally-responsible construction materials, like insulated wall systems for the equipment room and maintenance free wall systems for the tunnels or bays.. Struges said this relates to efficiency from the standpoint of needing less cleaning and repair due to the materials used, and reduced heating and cooling costs.

“As we all know, new construction materials do not clean themselves, but certainly can make life easier,” Sturges explained, “which translates indirectly to increased efficiency.”

VFDs and your tunnel
Many operators have gone to VFD (variable frequency drive) controls or VFD blowers to reduce use of electricity, according to Ron Holub, national sales manager of Transchem. “I am seeing more equipment going to electric power instead of hydraulic driven as well,” he added.

Sturges said being able to initiate and have control over how one uses electricity in the wash can have a great impact on the overall quality and timeliness of the operation, not simply the electric bill, although that is an important benefit.

“By using these technologies, an operator can save literally thousands of dollars each year as well as make for a more sustainable business both for their employees and mother nature,” he pointed out.

McBride added that because the electric conveyor uses VFD technology for speed control, the operator can easily slow down or speed up the conveyor with the turn of a dial. This reduces wear and tear on the conveyor, and aligns energy use with demand, saving energy while preserving throughput and quality.

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