Quick lubes require a significant investment to get started, however they can provide a substantial income stream for your car care location. Moreover, the waste oil often generated at a quick lube doesn’t have to, well, go to waste. In this special Q&A, Group Assistant Editor Maria Woodie interviews Virgil Zook, sales manager for Clean Energy Heating Systems, on how car care businesses can repurpose their waste oil and in turn generate huge savings.
MW: What are the main factors car care businesses should keep in mind regarding waste disposal?
VZ: The number one thing is that there are options for how to dispose of waste oil. You don’t have to pay someone to haul it away. Our waste oil furnaces, for example, allow you to take that used oil and turn it into heat. This can eliminate your heating bill while making it easy to safely dispose of your used oil products. It’s a great way for car care businesses to save a great deal of money.
MW: Can you offer insight into the costs and upkeep associated with waste disposal?
VZ: It depends on the size of the quick lube. For example, there are air furnaces; hot water boilers are also available; and these products can vary in price from around $4,000 to $11,500. Ongoing upkeep and maintenance are minimal, especially compared to the cost savings of not having to buy heating oil.
MW: Are there any common mistakes, mishaps or pitfalls associated with waste disposal? If so, what can car care businesses do to avoid these common drawbacks?
VZ: One common challenge that most people think of is that burning waste oil is dirty and grimy when indeed it’s not. The oil is stored in a tank and pumped up in the furnace. So if the mechanics are clean, it’s perfectly clean and safe.
Moreover, most garages will dispose of their oil by hiring a separate company to come in and haul it away. And these garages don’t realize that an oil generator is legally responsible for the proper disposal of it. So it is very important to know what happens to your waste oil after that truck leaves your facility. Is the company going to properly dispose of it? If not, you could be held responsible for the cleanup. And that is where repurposing the waste with a waste oil furnace can eliminate the problem. It keeps the oil on-site and in a tank; you store that for winter, and use that waste oil as fuel to heat the building.
MW: Are there any best practices car care businesses should follow in regards to waste disposal from a quick lube? Any storage or disposal procedures they should follow?
VZ: No there aren’t really any specific best practices to follow. Most times, quick lubes and other car care businesses will use at least a 1,000-gallon tank; but again it depends on the size of the facility as far as what size tank is needed.
The owner of one car dealership here in Pennsylvania claims he saves $32,000 a year by taking waste oil, saving it for the winter and using that waste oil as fuel to heat his facility. He heats it with boiler systems, and he also has hot air furnaces. It’s a huge savings; and lube centers and carwashes can do the same thing.
If you have a lube center on-site you can take that drain oil or waste oil and burn it to heat hot water in the carwash. I know lots of people who do that. I know others who take the oil and heat their concrete driveways leading up to the carwashes and out of the carwashes.
Likewise, when a car comes out of a carwash, even if there is a dryer, a car can still be dripping wet; and in the winter, that just freezes up. Another carwash I am familiar with heats that concrete pad outside the carwash to keep it from freezing up. In most cases, you don’t want to put ice melt down there because that will start tracking up and getting the car dirty again. And side note: Keeping cars clean is good for repeat business.
MW: How can proper waste disposal impact the productivity, and in turn the profitability, of a quick lube?
VZ: If a carwash does not have to pay for natural gas or propane, or whatever fuel they use to heat the water, and they generate all this waste oil, that is a huge savings. I don’t know how you put a number on that, but it is a huge savings because these carwashes have to dispose of that waste oil somehow. So they might as well keep it on-site to heat their water, their facilities and their driveways — there are so many different things they can do.
MW: Are there any new technologies, products, services, techniques, etc., being incorporated in today’s quick lubes, and what can we expect in the future?
VZ: The current technology available has been working so great. There have been advances as far as electronics — the controllers on the burners, for example. There have been advances as far as Wi-Fi thermostats that you can upgrade remotely as well. There have been a few advances like that, but the basic technology of burning waste oil hasn’t changed for about 10 years.
MW: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know regarding quick lubes and/or waste disposal?
VZ: It is a huge savings for car care businesses to repurpose their waste oil. They can save themselves a lot — thousands upon thousands of dollars.