Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Factoring in power

December 1, 2011

With the downturn of the economy, the carwashing industry has seen a significant decrease in profit margin. There are certain aspects of the industry that are out of the proprietary control of the business owner. There are, however, certain important aspects regarding profit margins that are controllable through the use of the new technology readily available to the carwash industry by the use of Power Factor Optimizers. Due to the stress that has been put on the infrastructure of our energy providers, it has put a tremendous strain on carwashes to find alternative ways to lower this variable cost.

Finding ways to offset these costs is no longer an option but a necessity.

Power Factor Optimizers are a cost effective solution which promise a substantial return on investment, without sacrificing performance or quality. Carwash facilities are such a large consumer of electrical energy because of the amount of motor drives used in the process of effectively cleaning an automobile. Conveyors, compressors, blowers, motors, pump motors and a vast array of many other smaller motor drives all contribute to the high electric consumption of your facilities.

By the numbers

Let me explain what a Power Factor is and how it is directly related to energy cost. A perfect Power Factor is a 1.00; this means an establishment is using 100 percent of the electricity being sent to it from the power company in an efficient way. Most establishments' Power Factor numbers do not even come close to 1.00. Why? The motors that run a carwash facility are only manufactured to a minimum efficiency rating usually .80 or an 80 percent efficiency rating. This means that right out of the box, the facility is only using 80 percent of the electricity passing through the meter and paying for 100 percent. So, 20 percent is being wasted and sent back to the power company.

In many cases the Power Factor numbers are even lower, even in modern, newly-built facilities. Power Factor Optimizers bring the Power Factor up to, or as close to a perfect 1.00 as possible, through the use of capacitors. This allows the facility owner to use as close to 100 percent of the energy he or she is paying for as possible. The numbers directly relate to the amount of savings shown on the electric bill. For example: A 20 percent Power Factor correction means a 20 percent decrease in the energy cost. The other contributing factors leading to the poor Power Factor are as follows:

  • Motors that run hot, due to surging or lagging power supply;
  • High amperage pull;
  • Line resistance; and
  • Bad electrical harmonics.

This inefficient Power Factor is only the first part of the equation. In most facilities, there is a vast amount of wasted amperage. Motors draw a certain amount of amps, depending on their size. Different size motors need higher or lower amperages to run. During start-up, a motor pulls electricity, which is converted to amps. This initial pull of electricity is usually much higher at the start-up as opposed to when the motor is running. This directly relates to energy costs because many electric companies bill at a peak rate. This also means that your kilowatt cost is based on the highest point of amperage draw, usually the high pull of the start-up of the largest motor in the facility.

Power Factor Optimizers lower the amount of amperage a motor needs, not only the start-up, but also when it is up and running. Power Factor Optimizers lower the amperage draw on motors without even realizing it has been done. This drop in amp load directly relates to the lowering of the cost on the electric bill. The motors are now running efficiently, running cooler, extending their life and reducing maintenance costs in the process. Power Factor Optimizers also supply superior surge protection for your fine electronics and motor drives far and above those provided by most utility companies.

In conclusion, Power Factor Optimizers reduce the amount of power drawn from the utility company by capturing the otherwise lost electricity in its capacitors and sending that electricity back into the facility to be reused, rather than back to the electric company to be re-sold to someone else. This recaptured electricity reduces the demand from the utility company. When you decrease your demand, you have reduced usage, therefore reducing your energy bill.

The addition of Power Factor Optimization to your facility is great way to cut energy costs without sacrificing the performance or efficiency of your carwashing establishment. The start of raising profits and reducing variable electric costs is well within the grasp of not only the large operators, but the smaller operations as well.


Alfred Rodney Christiansen is an industrialist and founder of Vortex Power Products, Inc. He is a first generation entrepreneur who started very small and through sheer hard work and perseverance made it to the top. Today, Vortex Power Products, Inc. is now is the largest manufacturer along with Power Save Energy Products of Power SAVER Capacitor banks in the world.

If you are interested in acquiring additional information regarding this technology, please contact the Vortex offices, based in Orange City, FL, at 386-774-0000.