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July 29, 2013
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Look at your dryers

According to Jim Belanger of Car Wash Management Integrators LLC, dryers are the mother lode of power savings opportunity for carwash owners. Often times they are 50 percent or more of the horsepower at a carwash. “The good news,” according to Belanger, “is that there are a number of proven VFD applications that drive big savings in power use for dryers.”

Belanger shared these proven applications they have pioneered to drive big savings:

  • If you sell Good-Better-Best wash packages, match them with Good-Better-Best drying packages. Use your controller to provide inputs to the VFDs to change the drying system performance to match your wash packages. Like other merchandised services, a confirmation sign is used to communicate dryer performance to the customer. Common savings range from a nickel per car on the top package to 15 cents per car on the base package – depending on horsepower and runtime.
  • All car washers know that it is easier to dry cars when it’s hot out. Integrate an outdoor temperature sensor with the VFDs to automatically slow the dryer motor speeds down when it is warm out. Savings range up from a penny per car depending on what other measures are also being used.
  • Enhance quality by programming the VFDs to reduce motor speed over pickup truck beds to reduce water blowback.

“An aggressive strategy for dryers only on a new build carwash generates an 12 to 24 month payback. The same strategy applied to a retrofit is more like 36 months because the owner has to consider the money already invested in his/her installed motor starter panel,” said Belanger.

What are airgates?

A large portion of the energy consumed by dryers happens during start-up when inrush current can spike 300 percent to 400 percent, said Archie Johnson, owner of The Dryer Pros. Even though the spike lasts for just a few seconds, it produces peaks that are often used by power companies to calculate energy rates, he said.

"One way to reduce these spikes is to install a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) which bring motors to operating RPM slowly lowering the inrush. Another way to address this problem is the use of gates located over the air producer inlets," said Johnson. "When this gate is open, the air stream is allowed to dry the car as usual. When it’s closed, the air flow through the air producer is stopped, causing a reduction of motor load and energy consumption of about half. A tunnel controller opens the gate when a car approaches and closes it when the vehicle exits the dryer, similar to how a rinse arch is operated." 

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