- Buyer's Guide
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In-bay automatics are often unmanned and open late at night, therefore security is vital, not just so that your wash is protected, but so that your customers feel safe as well. Installing the proper surveillance equipment is something every carwash should have, especially an in-bay automatic. It can not only thwart criminals, but also catch them if they “red-handed.”
Proper equipment might cost a little more, but will save you money if lasts longer and also catches criminals in the act.
According to Allen Spears, chief engineer at CarWashCameras.com who has designed security camera systems for over 4,000 carwashes, thebiggest problem he sees is owners buying an off-the-shelf security equipment thinking that it will be fine in a carwash environment. “Most cameras available on the Internet or from a Warehouse club,” said Spears, “usually have a wide-angle, short distance fixed lens. A wide-angle fixed lens is great for looking at something a short distance away, but a larger, adjustable lens is needed when you need to watch something beyond 15 to 20 feet out. Getting the right lens for the job, is usually the most important aspect of setting up an effective camera system.”
When it comes to outdoor areas and carwash bays and equipment rooms where there is moisture, chemicals, overspray and possible leaks, a camera, noted Spears, “that has not been hardened, sealed and coated to withstand such a corrosive environment will not survive for long.”
Spears said your cameras must be designed to survive in a constantly wet atmosphere and must be totally sealed against any moisture incursion. They also have to have a coating on the lens or front glass that resists etching by the chemicals and soaps.
Other locations around your property need a whole other type of camera, said Spears. For example, a camera in a high-traffic area, such as near the vending machines, needs to be stylish, and have a lens that will allow you to fine tune the picture zoom and width to see the areas that need to be monitored closely. A camera that is focusing in on something far away, such as the dumpster area or the entrance and exit of the wash, has to have a telephoto zoom lens that can zoom in close enough to capture details.
Equipment room cameras also have to be waterproof and provide enough infrared light to illuminate the room when the lights are turned off. Also, the DVR recorder has to withstand unconditioned environments as well. A well designed system should not be affected by extreme heat or cold.
According to Spears, “super-wide” analog technology, high definition (HD) systems, are some of the latest offerings in terms of equipment. Super-Wide systems do not cost any more than regular analog, but they give you a wider (960 pixels) picture and recording. This new wide format now works on your regular 16:9 format monitors and TVs. There is also 33 percent more resolution. “This extra width works great on Vehicle Damage Inspection systems in tunnels, because that extra width is able to see so much more of the car now. This is breathing new life into analog, and users are loving it,” Spears said.
As for HD systems, Spears said these Megapixel systems give you real time views in 1080p resolution and are now at half the price they were a year ago. “Many operators are upgrading to Megapixel HD because it can be accomplished with the same wiring that your analog cameras are now using, which is not only a huge cost savings, but it also makes switching over to HD really quick and painless,” Spears said.
There is one simple rule to keeping your cameras safe, said Spears. “That rule is: If a camera is mounted low enough that a thief or vandal can reach it easily or hit with a stick to turn it to the side, then use a Dome Camera.”
A dome camera, Spears said, isn't mounted on an arm that can be turned away and you can't hang a cap on it to block the lens. “And,” he added, “spray paint doesn't stick to the polycarbonate domes very well at all. Most other types of cameras have glass in the front, and paint sticks to glass a lot easier.”
Spears suggested keeping a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) safe requires by placing it in a closet that can be locked, and in a locked cabinet, or even using a steel DVR. “However,” he said, “if you don't have a safe place for the DVR, then find a brand of DVR that supports recording to hard drives that are placed elsewhere in your facility. This feature is called NAS, or Network Attached Storage. That way, if your DVR is stolen, your recordings and archives will still reside elsewhere on your network.”