Safety is a prime concern for most businesses. This is especially true for carwashes operating self-service bays, which cater to the public any time during the day or night. Unfortunately carwashes regardless of location or price, cannot thrive, let alone survive, without a reputation for reliable customer service. Few people will venture to dingy, dark locations without doubts about their personal welfare and the safe, efficient treatment of their cars.
Choosing the right lighting is crucial. While most owners take safety and liability very seriously, they often undervalue the ability of the newest, energy-friendly LED systems to create bright, clear environments that foster a sense of security and attract customers during evening or early morning hours. These LED products are also ideal for cost-efficiently lighting areas that are often prey to theft and vandalism as well as reducing potential hazards, such as fire and shock risks.
Seeing is believing
Furthermore, a well-lit wash is often viewed as inviting and always open for business. Some owners have even noted customers actually thought tunnels and related equipment looked new after the facilities were retrofitted with the latest LED technologies. Consequently, many other patrons have reported that dimly-lit locations, which appear dark or unsafe from the street, can result in customers who fail to visit during any time of the day or night — circumstances that are never good for increasing car counts and profits.
In the past, few lighting choices were available. And, these older options were predominantly specified by architects, engineers and even carwash owners, who were unaware about the latest LED options. This included the installation of high-intensity discharge fixtures (e.g., metal halide) that tend to lose about half their light output midway through their lifecycles. These fixtures also generate heat that can “bake” residue from the carwash environment onto the hot lens. Another option was the use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are known to falter in severe applications, especially cold temperatures, and cause health risks if broken or cracked.
Recent advancements in LED
In contrast, LEDs have been around for decades but have only recently advanced enough to supply warm color values with heatless fixtures designed specifically for wet, harsh environments like carwash tunnels and bays. A great way to add flair and ambiance at price points that can pay for themselves within two years of installation, LEDs dramatically reduce energy consumption when compared to their traditional counterparts. For instance, LEDs do not burn out like typical bulbs, offering 10-plus years of operation life while still emitting up to 70 percent of initial light output after this point. They also commonly use 60 to 70 percent less energy than metal halide and CFL bulbs.
Moreover, lighting that is Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-listed also has safety advantages. UL is a global safety consulting and certification company that provides the UL Listing of products tested against the organization’s set standards of safety found to meet rigorous UL requirements. UL Listings not only help ensure products are not fire or shock hazards, but they also help to eliminate liability.
Section 410.6 of the National Electric Code published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires that “all luminaires and lampholders shall be listed.” In addition, if government inspectors find non-UL equipment or products on-site, the liability resulting from their use may fall directly onto the property owner.
Unfortunately, some LED manufacturers have assembled and sold “quick-and-dirty” fixtures without seeking the rigorous testing of recognized organizations like UL. Buying from these businesses can be risky since the quality of their components and manufacturing processes is difficult to verify.
UL Listings for wet-rated lighting products offer car care businesses a high safety value and are great choices for carwashes, which are usually wet, chemical-laden environments. Non-UL, wet-rated fixtures in these locations can pose significant shock hazards, especially when mounted to machines, tunnel arches and other metallic equipment. These same conditions will also intensify the chances for a fire.
Operators should also be mindful of LED products listed on the DesignLights™ Consortium (DLC) Qualified Products List (www.designlights.org), which is an independent listing of “qualified LED fixtures that meet energy efficiency, color quality and projected lifetime requirements.” Used to promote the latest quality, energy-efficient technologies, the DLC requires manufacturers to submit demanding industry standard test data on products as part of their applications. The purchase of DLC-listed products (the DLC logo can be found on specification sheets and other marketing materials) can make carwash owners eligible for any available rebate programs offered in their areas.
In addition, reliable LED lighting manufacturers offer quality warranties accompanied by excellent customer service, including a limited, five-year warranty for products that surpass industry standards and are manufactured in the U.S. under stringent, quality-control conditions.
However, as mentioned and most importantly, never risk the safety of employees and customers as well as the bottom line on lighting products that fail to display the proper certification for use in very demanding carwash settings. Without the certification label, there is no clear-cut indication of the LED fixture’s efficacy or even long-term durability in these harsh, wet and hot applications. Choosing products that are certified, such as by UL, not only removes the guesswork, but also greatly diminishes exposure to liability.
Jason Baright, president of G&G LED, co-founded the company in 2010 to fill industrial lighting needs for high-quality, linear LED products, especially those suitable for wet locations and harsh environments. Since its introduction, G&G LED has developed a widespread reputation for innovation and outstanding customer service within the carwash industry and is rapidly gaining traction in the automotive, food/restaurant, transportation, industrial and agriculture fields. He is available at [email protected] or 800-285-6780.