The dirt on dryers
Dryers dry. Pretty simple, right? Well, if you are an owner or operator you need to know there is more to it than that.
We all talk about making a carwash or a water supply or a soap more efficient, so now it’s time to talk about how to make dryers run better and last longer, too.
The dryer the better
According to J.R. Klemmer, vice president and general manager of Glendale, AZ-based Proto-Vest, Inc., a manufacturer of drying solutions for the carwash industry, there is a lot more to dryers than meets the eye. “With vehicle advancements and an increasing environmental awareness, dryer technology is evolving to produce systems that dry all vehicle types and require less energy, less noise and leave less water on the vehicle,” Klemmer explained.
Dryer quality has a lot to do with maneuverability, speed, noise levels and power usage of the dryer system. In addition to these features, Klemmer said elements such as drying agents, RO water, and drip space should all be considered when evaluating the finished result.
“Less drip space makes dryer efficiency especially crucial where it has to rely on good water separation or ‘break’ to dry vehicles properly,” said Klemmer. “Another variable in this drying process is the air itself within the carwash. If there is a lot of mist in the enclosure, drying becomes problematic since wet air is being circulated back onto the vehicle.”
Other areas to examine are drive-though speeds, customer control rates and drying times, said Klemmer, who added if the customers go through the cycle too fast, drying performance may be compromised. “Often operators will install timers next to the dryers to indicate the best drive-through speed,” he said. “Different dryers will have different drying times depending on their efficiency so it is important to set the timer accordingly.”
Save energy, the earth and drying time
In order to save power costs, Klemmer suggested operators invest in staggered starts, VFDs and other motor load control devices to help minimize demand rates and improve energy efficiency between vehicles. Other improvements, like efficient impellers, nozzles and bag designs, help increase the amount of velocity that reaches the vehicle to dry the car more efficiently with consuming less energy.
Manufacturers, Klemmer pointed out, are constantly working to upgrade the materials and configurations of these systems to withstand the carwash environment and provide higher efficiency. An example, he said, are the plastics like polyurethane now used on some systems for the body of the dryer to help which help resist corrosion and denting.
Check it before you wreck it
Proper maintenance schedules are important for any successful carwash and dryers should be on that checklist, too.
An area to pay particular attention to is the inlet region of the blower/motor assembly, which when blocked can create many adverse effects on the dryer’s operation, Klemmer said. “To keep the dryer running at peak performance it is important to clean this area often and inspect the impeller(s) in the blower where wax, soap and auto exhaust may build up.”
Check for vibrations, too, as all blowers produce “minimal vibrations during normal operation, nevertheless when the vibrations become greater it is usually an indication of a potential problem.” Some of those problems could be:
- Worn motor bearings;
- Foreign objects in the blower; or
- Missing balance weight
“If left unchecked,” Klemmer cautioned, “this type of situation could lead to motor or blower damage that can be very expensive to repair.”
Consider the noise factor
When updating an existing location, the system’s blower placement may become problematic, Klemmer warned, adding that most IBAs have limited space don’t provide the necessary room to install a dryer. “Custom construction is a great option in these cases where the blowers can be installed in a remote location such as the roof to allow for more room within the bay. Another instance where custom construction is useful is for reducing the decibels emitted from the wash,” he said.
Many locations are closer to residential areas or in places with stringent noise regulations and dryers produce a great degree of the decibels (see sidebar). Some operators have taken the option of installing the blower/motor assemblies in the attic or adjacent rooms, Klemmer said.
According to J.R. Klemmer, industrial dryers are usually considered to be the loudest equipment in the washing process, with levels measuring from 75-100+ decibels. This becomes an issue when OSHA monitors noise levels anywhere at or above 85 decibels. To resolve this problem certain manufactures offer optional silencing equipment to reduce the noise generated by the dryer.