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8 simple rules for saving at your carwash

October 11, 2010
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Whether you face the harsh winters of the north or the year round heat in the south, carwash owners need to take measures to reduce the cost of their energy bills.

The following tips are simple, inexpensive and, most importantly, could substantially reduce your energy bills, saving you a significant amount of money every month.

Rule # 1: Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room
Leaving the lights on in an unoccupied room is a big waste of energy and, therefore, money. For those of us who forget to turn off the lights when we leave the room, there are occupant sensors available.

These sensors will turn the lights off when a customer leaves the room, and turn them back on when they return. The sensor must be placed in an area where it will be easiest to sense that someone is in the room.

The most ideal locations for these sensors would be the ceiling, on an unobstructed wall facing a desk or near a doorway.

When placing your sensor, make sure that nothing is in its line of sight, otherwise it will not work.

Rule # 2: Adjust the lighting to your actual needs
Sunlight is a free source of heat and light, so take advantage of it. If you can, open your curtains or blinds and use the sun instead of using electricity to power a lamp.

If the amount of sunlight on a given day is not adequate, use a dimmer to control your lighting. This will allow you to use less energy while taking advantage of nature’s light bulb.

It is important to note that over-light an area can cause as much trouble as not providing adequate light; it is a waste of money that can cause strain on your eyes, computer screen glare and headaches.

Taking advantage of sunlight and using a dimmer will help prevent these problems.

Rule # 3: Use a programmable thermostat
A regular thermostat heats a building to a set temperature regardless of whether the building is occupied, but a programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature and time for the heat or air conditioning to turn on and off.

For example, if your customers begin arrive around 7 a.m. and you want the building to be warm, you can set the thermostat for 6 a.m. and not have to worry about whether not the building will heat up in time for your customers arrival.

You can also set the thermostat to turn off at a specific time. With a hectic schedule, it’s easy for your night manager to forget to turn off the heat or air conditioning, which could run your electric bill through the roof, the programmable thermostat remembers for you.

Installation costs for a programmable thermostat vary but, on average, it will reduce your energy costs by 30 percent.

Robert Parella of Brockton Touchless Car Wash in Brockton, MA, said that installing a programmable thermostat provided him with a significant decrease in his energy bills.

Parella’s new thermostat allowed him to have better control over the heating and cooling of his wash, saving him money.

Rule # 4: Add insulation
Poor insulation is a good way to spend more than necessary on your electricity bill. Adding insulation to your walls, ceiling and in-bay doors can reduce your heating costs and eventually pay for itself.

Check around your doors and windows for drafty areas. If you find drafts, you can stop them with door sweeps and caulking.

These inexpensive items can be purchased at a hardware store and are easily installed with no professional help required.

Scott Perkin of Scotty’s Shine Shop in Ontario, Canada, recently added insulation to his in-bay doors.

The building he operates out of is older, and the setup does not allow him to add insulation to the walls and ceiling.

By insulating the in bay doors, Perkin expects to see an immediate reduction in his energy bill.

Rule # 5: Maintaining your heating and cooling equipment
Poorly maintained equipment will contribute to increases in your energy bill. A solution to this problem is to have a professional tune-up your system before each heating and cooling season.

Dirty filters also cost you extra money because it causes your system to work harder and reduce the quality of the air. Change your filters on a monthly basis or invest in an electrostatic filter, which is washable, according to Energystar.

If you are in an environment where there are pollutants, such as exhaust from a car or smoke, your filters need to be changed more often. Pollutants will clog your filters more rapidly than if the air was pollutant-free.

Rule # 6: Use fans in all weather
Fans are a good way to circulate air, but are not limited to circulating cool air. In the winter months, a ceiling fan set on low can circulate warm air trapped near the ceiling throughout the room.

On the contrary, if the air is cooler outside you should place a box fan in the window do draw the cooler air in, instead of turning on the air conditioning.

If the air conditioner is necessary, turn it a few degrees lower and use a ceiling fan on low to circulate the air.

Rule #7: Consider other methods of heat
Considering the alternatives of regular gas or electric heat can save you money on your monthly bill. One popular alternative is radiant heat.

Perkin said that adding radiant heat has saved him quite a bit of money. According to Perkin, the past few winters have been brutal in Canada, so his heating bills were quite high.

The radiant heat system heats solid objects rather than the air, so, Scotty’s can work with its in-bay doors open and not have to worry about losing warm air.

Parella originally heated with natural gas and electricity but, by adding a radiant heat system, he has significantly reduced his heating costs during the cold winter months.

Mark Curtis of Splash, LLC, based in Greenwich, CT, said that adding kerosene heaters to their tunnels day and night has cut the energy bill in half. Before using the kerosene heaters, Curtis used gas fired radiant heat.

Rule # 8: Do your homework
Your utility company does not want you to waste energy almost as much as you dislike paying for wasted energy. The demand for energy from businesses is growing rapidly.

Contact your utility company and have them perform an energy audit of your business, where they come view your facility to see if there are any measures that can be taken for you to reduce the cost of your energy bill.

They will look at the way your business is rated as well as what causes as spikes in demand. One big cause for spikes in demand is turning on equipment with large motors, such as blowers or vacuums. This is because the larger motors need more energy start.

Curtis said that his company is having an audit done by their electric companies as a means of determining whether their rates are proper and whether or not there are ways to cut their energy costs. According to Curtis, his rates are based on the peaks per kilowatt-hour.

Curtis said that the utility company might suggest installing variable speed drives to cut back on the high peaks caused by the equipment. Curtis may have to spend some money to make these improvements, but he expects the return to be between $7,000 and $10,000 per year.



Special thanks to Energystar and Deborah Fowles, author of Financial Planning newsletter for about.com.