by Amit Patel, Senior Engineer & Technical Support, HYDRO-SPRAY
Car washes in this particular economy have to be operational year round and have to be profitable to offset the costs of operation of business and make a living out of it. Unfortunately, there are several factors other than the usual statistics and demographics that affect the operation of the car washes. One of the biggest factors is weather. It’s not unusual to find a car wash being closed temporarily or dysfunctional because it froze, particularly in areas around the country where temperatures fall below freezing point like the northern region of the country. It’s highly unfortunate to see that water and soap, which are the main cleaning agents in any car wash beside the equipment, are actually their worst enemies. The reason being low temperatures cause them to freeze the hoses, wands and tips in the bays and render the car wash useless to wash a car. Not only that, it will cause mechanical problems with equipment and add a burden of maintenance cost to the owner. It’s highly imperative that such additional costs are minimized and/or completely eliminated while keeping the car wash running 365 days a year.
People in the past have been engaged in various solutions to prevent freezing of their bays or closing of their bays temporarily in winter season. Majorly, they will incorporate a floor heat system with doors or they will implement a weep system. Both the approaches have their own merits and faults.
A floor heat system is absolutely recommended to provide safer operations inside the bay. However, it brings with it costs of water, energy used in heating the water, equipment used for heating water, storing heated water, circulating the heated water and necessary sewage.
Doors come into the picture when we want to close a bay and preserve the temperatures inside the bay to non-freezing levels. Nonetheless, a blowdown system in addition is always helpful. This approach adds cost of doors, installation and maintenance in the long run. Sometimes, it is not feasible to have doors installed in the bay for reasons like shorter bays, no room to install doors etc. In such scenarios, a weep system is implemented.
A traditional weep system weeps water out of all the hoses, wands and tips in the bay that prevents them from freezing. Typically, the idea is that flowing water at a certain flow rate cannot freeze. This process continues until the car wash is in use for washing a car. The process returns to weeping the water once the wash is over. Simple approach, until we incorporate the costs of fresh water used and sewage associated along with electrical power usage cost. The cost drastically changes the bottom line in current times, where prices of fresh water on average, have raised 27 percent in United States in the last five years.
Recently, developments have been made in the field of freeze protection system suggesting a totally different approach. A totally new system named the blowdown antifreeze protection system, antifreeze system in short, have been introduced in the market. The antifreeze system is hooked up to the car wash and works very closely with it. It monitors the car wash and understands when the car wash is being used to wash the car. It also monitors the ambient temperature. Depending on the temperature, once the car wash is idle, it will clear the hoses, wands and tips using air. If need be, it will also coat them with a layer of antifreeze. The idea is that air will clean wand and tips and push the residual soap and water out of the hoses which leaves little to no room for them to freeze up. In extremely low temperatures, a coat of antifreeze will provide additional safety against freezing. In terms of cost, we have the cost of the antifreeze system, the air compressor and the antifreeze and electrical power usage cost.
There is a point of consideration though; what happens if the antifreeze system fails to operate properly for reasons like the antifreeze supply was empty, the air compressor failed, or the antifreeze circulating device failed or even power outage for that matter? Such incidents are common and occur more often than not. They eventually end up causing freezing bays and lead us back to square one again. The car wash is rendered useless and no income is generated. The antifreeze system should be smart enough to understand and detect these anomalies and counter act. There should be some kind of backup plan incorporated in the antifreeze system which will prevent the car wash from freezing and maintain its operating condition even when the antifreeze protection system is not able to function properly.
The antifreeze system can eliminate the water weep system majorly if not completely and can use it as a backup. This way it will be a less costly alternative to water bills. Not only will it improve the profits but it will also prevent sewage of fresh water. Green, Clean, Mean. How’s that?
Concluding the topic, I would like to say that there are various factors which affect buying decisions of a car wash owner, but a well thought rationalized decision based on facts and calculations will go a long way in their favor and make business available to their customers and profitable to them.