Most of us, when we sit in a car wash, focus more on the phenomenon of the sensation of movement when we are still rather than on the intricate apparatus going over and under our vehicle. And even if we do turn our attention to the machine, we rarely consider the water. But in that five minutes of relative quiet, we would be well served to ruminate on the entirety of the car wash process, including the water treatment system.
Efficiency is the defining characteristic of a quality car wash water treatment system. An efficient system recaptures at least 90 percent of water used, cleans and recycles it. This is not to say these treatment systems use recycled water exclusively. Fresh water is required for the initial wash, rinse, etc. Reclamation tanks (also called clarifier or oil/water separator tanks) capture the solids and oils in the water. In an efficient tank, the solids cumulate on the bottom while oils and other lighter particulates are trapped at the top of the tank. Since the average car wash uses between 15 to 20 gallons of water per vehicle, efficient water reclamation determines which operations literally stay above water.
A relatively recent development in car wash treatment technology is the process of reverse osmosis (RO). During RO, recycled water is pumped through a wash filtration system to create a spot-free final rinse.
What to look for in a car wash water treatment system
The Australian Car Wash Association published a paper on the fundamentals of automatic car washes. This primer (if you will) is indispensable to anyone who is thinking about starting his or her automatic car wash business. The paper includes information on capacity, water usage, storage tanks and, yes, what treatment system works best. Highly recommended.
Car wash water filters
This article would be remiss if it did not discuss the different types of car wash water filters. As mentioned above, car washes and car wash treatment systems are intricate processes. According to one Los Angeles-based car wash filter manufacturer, “In car wash systems, improving water use efficiency benefits the bottom line. Reducing water use also saves energy, benefits the environment and promotes a company’s commitment to sustainability and Green Technology.” After – some argue before – reclamation, filtration is second most important component of a car wash treatment system. Absent an efficient water filter, there really is no point to operating a car wash.
Car wash water filters are not cheap. According to one manufacturer, a commercial RO system can cost over $6000. Convention filters are upwards of $4000. Our recommendation: if you are considering opening a car wash, do your homework. Read the article from the Australian Car Wash Association to determine what equipment best suits your needs.