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By Phillip Lawless Managing Editor
Another industry segment that has seen significant technological advancement is drying. One of the most notable improvements was the “direct-discharge nozzle” that was introduced in the early 1990s, according to Archie Johnson, owner of The Dryer Pros. Before this nozzle, most manufacturers offered only vertical side vents and top follower vents that rolled over the top surfaces of vehicles. The new nozzles significantly improved drying efficiency without requiring anything to actually touch the vehicle.
Now that almost every manufacturer in the industry has developed their version of a direct-discharge nozzle, Johnson said more nozzle advances have followed including oscillating nozzles and a “flip” nozzle used to dry the back of vehicles.
Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) are another advance that created substantial savings for carwash owners. VFDs reduce energy consumption significantly by bringing motors up to operating speed slowly, reducing peak in-rush current. Also, between vehicles, VFDs keep dryer motors running at lower speeds so the motors require less in-rush current to reach their full speed.
“There is no question that VFDs can save power. However, each carwash facility has different parameters to consider like volume and chain speed before installing a VFD,” Johnson said. “Operators considering installing a VFD should do the math to make sure the power savings justify its cost.”
A recently developed alternative to VFDs is a remotely controlled air gate that blocks the intake of air producers. With motors running, air gates are opened and closed on command. As a vehicle’s front end approaches each nozzle, the air gate opens allowing air to flow over the vehicle, Johnson explained. When the vehicle clears the nozzle, the air gate closes stopping the air flow and reducing full-load amps by over 50 percent. These gates also offer a reduction in electrical consumption.
J. R. Klemmer, vice president and general manager of Proto-Vest Inc., noted that new drying systems purchased will generally include at least one year of warranty coverage. This warranty is meant to ensure that the dryers are free of defects in material and workmanship.
There are separate warranties that will most likely apply to motors, Klemmer stated. In the event that a motor fails, manufacturers will require the motor to be sent to an Electrical Apparatus Service Association certified motor shop for inspection to determine the cause of failure. These shops can offer an unbiased opinion of what caused the motor failure.