Innovation Drives the Business of Drying Cars
By Angela Altass
Dryers that minimize noise, increase energy efficiency and still do an excellent job of drying vehicles are the dreams of carwash owners and vehicle drivers alike. Product innovation can go a long way in meeting these lofty goals.
“New product development is vital to any industry and especially the carwash business sector,” says Jeff Reichard, president, Proto-Vest Dryers, LLC. Noting the rapidly increasing cost of energy and electricity, Reichard talks about some of the challenges facing the industry.
“According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, our biggest challenge is that for the past 20 years there has been a lot of conversation about the need to eliminate fossil fuels in the production of electricity but nothing has significantly changed,” says Reichard. “In the year 2000, fossil fuels produced 60 per cent of our energy while renewables and nuclear produced the remaining 40 per cent. The percentages for 2000 and 2020 are virtually the same.” (See graph on next page)
Based out of Glendale, Arizona in the United States, Reichard feels strongly about the energy challenges.
“Compounding the issue is we’ve lost our energy independence and now will not be able to export oil and will have to import it,” states Reichard. “We have over 300 years of oil reserves in the United States, the largest in the world, and we must import crude oil – crazy! Gasoline prices have doubled and thus everything that is moved on a truck is, and will be, more expensive.”
When it comes to choosing dryers, Reichard advises taking a tally of the true needs of your carwash business. Reichard believes that less than 20 per cent of the carwashes in America dry an average 200-230 cars per hour.
“One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in our industry is overpaying for a drying process of which you will never fully utilize the capabilities of,” says Reichard. “It is not about the number of cars you wash; it is all about how much money you make. Honestly and objectively investigate what is the true average of the number of cars you wash per hour and purchase a dryer that truly fits that requirement. It is easy to find the right fit to balance energy consumption, sound requirements, and line speed for the optimum drying performance predicted on cars per hour.”
Purchase dryers that can meet your true carwash needs with very low maintenance requirements, advises Reichard.
“Let’s be honest, if you are running an average of 170 car washes per hour, at 10 hours per day, with a $12 average cost per car, that equates to $2,040 per hour or $20,400 per day,” says Reichard. “If you are open seven days a week, that is $142,800 per week. With this type of income, are you really going to maintain your dryers to the level that the manufacturers are requesting? It must be a very hard decision because this is a boat load of money. However, conversely, if you are down for just a single day, you lose $20,400 of hard and real cash.”
Proto-Vest recently invented the Elite 460 dryer system, which Reichard says has been well received in the marketplace.
“We at Proto-Vest felt that the 80-120 cars per hour carwash was underserved with older product so we invented the Elite 460,” says Reichard. “This dryer system has a small footprint that is substantially and quantitatively energy-efficient, maintains or enhances Proto-Vest’s reputation of being the quietest in the industry, with drying performance exceeding customer expectations.”
The Elite 460 has two 30HP motors and is installed with a silence package at no charge, adds Reichard.
“Many of our competitors have eight to 10 15HP motors for a total of 150HP in their offerings compared to our Elite 460’s two 30HP motors for a total of only 60HP,” states Reichard. “This is a savings of 90HP, which delivers a 60 per cent reduction in energy cost. The Elite 460, depending on cars per hour, literally pays for itself within one to one-and-a-quarter years. It also drastically reduces the cost of not having to electrically install eight motors at a cost of $4-5,000 each, which is a $40,000 cost avoidance. This avoidance alone is the total price for an entire Elite 460.”
The issue of noise is becoming more common with carwashes, says Arthur D. Stephens, president/CEO, International Drying Corporation.
“As we continue to build washes closer to residential and other businesses, our neighbours are acutely aware of the noise pollution,” says Stephens. “This causes most new construction operators to fight through zoning, causing expensive delays for permits and/or the issue of not being able to attain the zoning requirements to receive permit approval.”
Stephens advises carwash operators to look for a company that will help them achieve the standard they would like to set for quality.
“Warranty is important but also don’t skip on what is recommended to save a few dollars,” states Stephens. “We are now spending $200,000 and more on free vacuums and POS systems but we tend to skip on blowers to save a few dollars on a three-to-five-million-dollar investment.”
Stephens notes that International Drying Corporation has several new products available this year: The Stealth Predator, Intelligent Control Panel, and The Black Widow. Further information on these products is available at www.internationaldrying.com
Cheryl Ehmen, chief executive manager, Aerodry Systems, also notes that sound is a large issue for carwashes.
“Municipalities require acoustic studies at build to protect the neighbourhood,” states Ehmen. “Even then, sound levels emitted to nearby residential areas and businesses can become an issue later, resulting in the wash taking steps to construct walls and berms to mitigate the sound produced by their operations.”
Installation layout can also be an issue for carwashes, says Ehmen.
“More HP does not always mean a dryer car,” states Ehmen. “Too many blowers may create turbulence by conflicting airflows. If the car is not clean and rinse water is not properly treated, too many blowers improperly installed cannot cure the issue.”
Quality motors and fans are important aspects of carwash dryers, notes Ehmen., adding that Aerodry is continually working on improvements, both in effectiveness and mechanically.
“We just upgraded our standard stock motors to 91 per cent efficiency, the highest available, which save power and increase longevity,” says Ehmen. “Additionally, we now have a domed plate below our air intake to further ensure moisture does not accumulate in that area.”
Many operators, especially new owners, are under the impression that all motors are alike, which is not true, says Ehmen.
“Some companies take advantage of this and furnish inferior products,” comments Ehmen. “It is important to know and fully understand what mechanical components you are getting and verify them when received. A carwash environment is wet and harsh. Motors are available in a variety of duty ratings, many of which will not withstand the carwash environment. All motors should be totally enclosed and sealed with no greasing required, and cast body to dissipate heat and prevent overheating. Fans in the carwash industry spin at a high RPM and should not be welded as welds weaken over time and could create a catastrophic failure.”
In-bay dryers is a feature that can keep customers returning to self-serve carwashes.
“In our world, dryers mean drying/blowing out the engine compartment, wheels, door jams, chrome on motorcycles, etc.,” says Kraig Snyder, sales and marketing manager, J.E. Adams Industries Ltd. “When ambient air temperature reaches 79 degrees or lower, our Turbo Towel has a heating element that engages to help the drying process and to make it more comfortable for the user. This style of dryer is an amenity that not every other wash offers. This is an excellent way to generate additional revenue and keep customers coming to a specific wash.”
Ease of use, high air volume and warm air gets the Turbo Towel high marks with end users, says Snyder.
“The heated air is a game changer,” states Snyder. “The flexibility to meet the different demands with our three Turbo Towel versions is unmatched in the industry. We offer an in-bay style that is controlled by a carwash box, a standalone version that is mounted on a pedestal as one of our detail solutions and we also offer one that is a combination with our vacuum.”
New product innovations are helping carwash operators keep on top of the business of drying vehicles, ensuring that motorists exit their establishments in sparkling clean, dry vehicles, ready to hit the road in style.