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Vital to the human body, the earth's surface, and the carwash industry, water is the elemental carwash imperative. We heat it, spray it, combine it with solvents to do the job of washing cars. In our business, as in life, water is everything. It makes sense, then, to investigate products and practices to treat our water well ... to recycle and reuse it ... to make it a sustainable resource.
Carwashes are the "greenest" way to keep a car clean
The industrial components in a carwash system ―high pressure nozzles, sanitary sewers, controlled water usage ―make our services more environmentally sound than an at-home do-it-yourselfwash. And investing in efficient carwash systems increases capacity, quality and profitability by reducing usage, expense and waste.
Reclaiming carwash water
Recycling runoff water through a series of filtration and treatment systems is one method for reducing water usage, which can be especially appropriate in drought-prone regions. Recycled water is typically used in the early rinses mixed with detergents. Proper chemistry and balanced filtration are critical to an effective reclamation system.
Start with pure water
Purified, or "soft," water helps reduce energy, maintenance and hardware costs. Free of pipe-clogging sediment and debris, pure water provides better quality cleaning results which, in turn, encourage and attract more business.
Why hard water hurts profits
Water, the "universal solvent," dissolves more substances than any other liquid, which means it carries along every chemical, mineral or nutrient in its path. Water with an appreciable quantity of dissolved minerals ("hard" water) can lessen the effectiveness of cleaning agents and shorten plumbing life. When heated, the minerals from hard water precipitate out and form a scale in pipes, narrowing and possibly clogging them. Scaling in a boiler system prevents efficient heat transfer, thus increasing energy demand (and fuel costs) to produce hot water.
Untreated, over time, hard water can seize up a carwash system like a heart attack.
Reverse osmosis (RO) rescue
Simply put, an efficient filtration system eliminates the damaging and costly effects of hard water. Reverse osmosis systems remove about 90 percent of the impurities in water which contribute to corrosion and scale deposits; they help make water more compatible with cleaning solutions, and produce a clean, spot-free rinse to make your facility's services shine.
Invest in a high quality reverse osmosis system for top returns and the best value. You want stainless steel valves and fittings, which protect against corrosion, and the most accurate flow rates for greatest efficiency. Look for extra low energy elements, which operate at less than half the operating pressure, and fiberglass membrane housings which have a higher resistance to varying feed water conditions and chemicals.
Custom systems, with expansion options, offer long-term value.
Hard water regions
Geography and industry contribute to the naturally-occurring mineralcontent in water. More than 85 percentof American homes have hard water. The softest waters are found where mountain lakes and snowmelt provide the water supply, such as in New England and the Pacific Northwest. The hardest waters are found in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and Southern California.
Regardless of your location, water testing is a simple preventive measure to determine water quality. Don't wait for system failures to alert you to hard water hazards. Some companies offer free water testing. Ask a carwash professional or the author for options.
Mike Simmons, Vice-President of Sales at Carwash Boilers, Inc, brings 13 years of water treatment expertise from Ionics, the largest water purification company in the world, to the carwash industry.