Professional Carwashing & Detailing

He’ll keep the light on

March 8, 2011

For Patrick Mull, owner of Mt. Olivet Car Wash, a 11-year old 4/1 self-serve/in-bay automatic carwash in Wheeling, WV, saving money was as easy as flipping a switch – a light switch, that is. Mull has realized a 50 percent reduction in his electric bill since replacing his metal halide lighting with LED (light emitting diode) technology.

Shining a light on the problem
Mull told Professional Carwashing & Detailing he had wanted to replace his lights for several years due to electricity rate increases that started in 2006. “Two things prevented the change five years ago,” Mull explained. “Availability and cost. I only found one company that was interested in giving me a price and it was $1,000 per light.”

But after several years of consideration and careful research, Mull finally stumbled across a deal on eBay, the online auction website. He was able to replace 30 lights for only $5,200 – a far cry from the original estimate he had in 2006. He even ended up with a shipping discount for the large purchase order, and the light fixtures rounded off to about $125 per fixture.

All in all, Mull ended up replacing sixteen 175-watt metal halide wall packs and two 125 watt metal halide soffit box lights with 40 watt LED bulbs. All the light bulbs were distributed by Orled (www.orled.com) and purchased for $190 per bulb.

Cashing in his savings
Mull pointed out that electric utility companies are required under federal law to provide a rebate for energy saving fixture replacement, and Mull made sure to take advantage of this policy. “I could only get the rebate for the wall packs that I replaced and AEP Ohio rebates $25 per light, but I understand that other parts of the county, the rebates are greater,” he explained.

He made the switch in June, finishing the job in early August, and handled all of the replacement work on his own. “I feel it would be an easy job for anyone with a knowledge of electricity and mounting lights,” he added.

For example, the wall packs were a simple replacement, Mull said. You simply turn the power off, disconnect the wiring, remove the fixture and then reverse the process. “It took me about 45 minutes per light fixture,” he stated.

The other lights had to be rewired, according to Mull. “I again turned off the power, disconnected the electrical lines to the transformer, disconnected the wires from the light socket to the transformer and then connected the electrical lines directly to the light socket wiring,” he explained. “It took me about 30 minutes per light fixture.”

The pros and cons
Mull did point out that you won’t find replacement parts for his China-manufactured lights at any local hardware store. Instead, this Internet-savvy operator turned to the World Wide Web when a wall pack stopped working due to a malfunctioning LED driver and was able to obtain a replacement LED driver by contacting the original eBay seller. He also purchased two back-up LED drivers from an Internet electrical supplier.

Mull also suggested that operators consider their security surveillance equipment when making the switch. His cameras that do not have infrared lighting no longer work well at night, he said. But one important advantage he hadn’t considered is that insects are no longer attracted to his lights – a pleasant surprise for any nighttime washer.

The most significant perk is, of course, the cost savings, though. With his lights operating from dusk ‘til dawn, Mull realized a 40 percent reduction in his electricity usage within the first two months, and a 50 percent reduction in October – from 4240 KVH in 2009 to 2120 KVH in 2010. “I expect a ROI in two years due to electrical cost alone,” Mull said. “Needless to say I am very pleased.”