Car washes are a quick and easy way to clean your vehicle. In the United States, car washes are a big industry, bringing in $5.8 million in revenue every year. That being said, the machinery used to get cars squeaky clean is powered by electricity (and in some case natural gas), and requires proper maintenance and care in order to keep business running efficiently.
Number of Car Washes in U.S.: 113,000
Number of Cars washed per day: 8 million
Average Electricity Consumed Per Week: 30,600 kWh
Average Electricity Cost Per Car: $0.50 – $1.00
Average Natural Gas Cost Per Car: $0.12
Average Estimated Water Used Per Car (automated wash): 10 gallons per minute
Annual Revenue in U.S.: $5.8 billion
Busiest Car Wash Day: Saturday
Car Wash – Small Business Electricity
Over 90% of car washes in the United States are considered small business. More specifically, car washes are a small business that requires and relies heavily on electricity and water to clean vehicles repeatedly throughout the course of a day.
There are several different types of car washes in the United States including,
Self-Service – These types of car washes require the driver or a person to wash the car. Typically there is a power washer and a foam brush to assist in the washing process.
Exterior Rollover – These are a fairly common type of car wash. It requires the driver to drive the vehicle into a bay area. Once in position washing and drying equipment moves over the stationary vehicle.
Exterior Only – This is a very common type of car wash, where the driver drives their vehicle onto a track. The track then moves the vehicle forward, through the different elements of the car wash like washing, rinsing and drying.
Full Service – The exterior of the vehicle is cleaned via either Exterior Rollover or Exterior Only, and then an attendant cleans the interior.
Detail Shop – This type of car wash is typically done by hand to remove small scratches and dull paint. The interior of the car is also cleaned.
For Exterior Rollover and Exterior Only car washes, the average cost per car for electricity runs from $0.50 to $1.00. In addition, many car washes also use natural gas for heating water and air. The average cost per car for natural gas is, $0.12.
One important factor for car wash business owners to consider is the amount they pay per month for their energy services. For business owners living in energy regulated states, they might not really have much choice when it comes to what they pay for the energy their car wash uses. However, business owners living in states where energy deregulation is an available choice, they can investigate their options to find an energy supply plan that is more competitive or that has more reasonable rates.
Car Wash Equipment
For both Exterior Rollover and Only car wash services, electricity is a large part of getting a car wash up and running. From the moment a vehicle is driven onto the car wash track, to the time it exits the bay area, all of that automated machinery consumes energy.
Lighting – All car washes have lighting so that the driver and passengers aren’t in the dark while moving through the car washing process.
Water – Water is used in the process of washing and rinsing the vehicle. The machinery used is typically an automated power washer (or in the case of self-service it is a hand held power washer). In Exterior Rollover or Exterior Only car washes, approximately 10 gallons of water per minute is used per wash.
Detergent – During the washing phase of the car wash, detergent is used to help remove dirt and grime from the vehicle. The cost per vehicle for these chemicals is $0.45 – $1.20.
Dryer – Both Exterior Rollover and Only car wash types have equipment that blows hot air onto the vehicle once the washing process is complete. The purpose of this is to prevent water spots from appearing. In many cases, natural gas is used to heat the air.
Vacuum – This equipment is typically used when cleaning the interior of the vehicle (detail shop and full service). In order to power the vacuum to clean carpets, etc., electricity is required.
Car Wash Green Energy Initiatives
Many car wash business owners are aware of the fact that a lot of water and energy is required to run their daily operations. It is for this reason that they update their facilities to accommodate more energy efficient equipment and processes. As a result, they do not need to charge as much for their services because their energy bills remain low and affordable (over time).
LED Lights – Replacing inefficient bulbs with LED bulbs helps to significantly lower the cost of electricity. The lights in a car wash remain on all day – even if the machinery isn’t at work. Therefore, more energy efficient bulbs help to reduce both cost and consumption.
Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) – These types motors decrease the amount of energy or power used in the car wash process. They also use softer stops and starts while moving the vehicle through the car wash, which prevents or slows down wear and tear on equipment. The federal government and many utilities also offer rebates for upgrading existing systems to use a VFD. The return on investment for installing a VFD is approximately $18,473.83 over 12 – 24 months.