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Advice from Steve Tucker Jr., president of G2 Equipment LLC, a manufacturer of industrial vacuums, parts and accessories headquartered in San Diego, CA. Tucker has more than 15 years’ experience in the carwash industry and can be reached at Steve@G2Equipment.com.
If space permits, some operators install additional vacuum/detail islands. Others choose to maximize their vacuum/detail space by installing a central vacuum system in the equipment room and piping suction to the vacuum islands.
With a central system, the same existing vacuum area can serve twice as many users while reducing energy consumption.
By running a central vacuum system with a variable frequency drive (VFD) or computer-controlled electric motor regulator, energy consumption is reduced tremendously.
For example, operators currently running six high-speed vacuums (standalones) can expect to save more than 55 percent off their new central vacuum electric bill with a VFD.
These central vacuum units are virtually maintenance-free and have a life expectancy of more than 11 years.
Plus, many power companies offer rebates at the time of purchase to operators who install these central vacuums with VFDs.
Considering the rebates offered by the power company, along with the reduced monthly electric costs, the ROI on the central system can be as short as 12 months.
Quieting the noise
Sometimes self-serve vacuums can be loud and therefore cause customers to rush through the vacuuming process. Central vacuums solve this problem because the vacuum that powers the hoses is located away from the actual vacuum islands. All the guests see and hear is the vacuum hose and its suction.
Customers will likely spend more time vacuuming and detailing their vehicles. Since there is room for plenty of hose drops, this extended vacuuming does not create a backlog of cars.
Carwash owners who face noise abatement regulations also benefit from the quieter self-serve central vacuums. Residential zoning requirements often preclude vacuum stations or limit the hours of operation because of their high noise level.
Advice from R.L. “Bud” Abraham, president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems of Portland, OR, and a nearly 40-year member of the car care industry. He is a founding member and the first executive director of the International Detailing Association and a member of the Western Carwash Association Board of Directors. He is also the Detail Editor of Professional Carwashing & Detailing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting longer life out of your vacuum
Keep in mind that it will cost less to repair equipment than to replace it. But it is still an operating expense that every detail business owner would more probably like to avoid. That is easy to do. Just read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for daily and weekly maintenance.
For example, on vacuums and soil extractors:
- Turn off and empty recovery tanks when full because overfilling the recovery tank can lead to motor failure.
- Turn them off when the solution tank is empty because continuing to operate can damage the pump and in-line heater.
- Always clean out the vacuum and soil extractor recovery tank and store them properly.
- Always remember to check electrical cords daily to make sure they are in good repair.
- Wipe your equipment down every day. This not only keeps it looking better, but it also allows you to spot a potential problem.
- Deal with a problem immediately.
- And, never, ever operate equipment that has any kind of problem.
Advice from Tom Tucker Jr., president and founder of Vacutech, a manufacturer of vacuum technologies for the carwash industry. He has been hard at work in the industry since 1968. Tom can be reached at 1-800-917-9444.
Cleaning out the vacuum system and its accessories
Follow these tips to make sure you are properly cleaning and taking care of your vacuum system's hoses and accessories for optimum performance.
- Inspect turbine bearings for exterior grease build-up and remove [clean] if necessary. Excess grease will attract dirt and it will be sucked into the bearing causing bearing failure.
- Check turbine rotation and correct if necessary. Incorrect rotation will cause loss of air flow, pressure [suction] and can damage turbine assembly.
- Inspect motor turbine drive rubber coupling for correct alignment and proper tightness.
- Keep rear motor fan guard clean and free of debris.
- Inspect check valves for proper operation when two turbines are connected to one filter separator. Never operate one turbine only if check valves are not used.
- When a bearing becomes noisy, replace immediately and never turn turbine on and off more than two times per day as the motor life, bearing life and coupling life will be shortened and warranty will be voided. These are continuous duty motors and are built to run all day. Turning on and off not only shortens the life of the motor and coupling, it also increases your electrical costs.