By Chelsey Ehlers, June 24, 2015
Did you know that a typical car wash can use up to 200 gallons of water? Or that washing your car at home with a garden hose can use as much as 250 gallons? Water Works Car Wash, headquartered in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin uses only a quarter of that with amounts ranging from ONLY 15 to 50 gallons! All depending on the type of wash and size of vehicle! Water Works Car Wash has two locations, the original, in Wisconsin Rapids and a new location in Stevens Point just opened this spring. The Stevens Point wash is fully functional, but is in hopes of expanding with the acquisition of a neighboring lot! This expansion will allow for all the Wisconsin Rapid features and then some!
The arc at the beginning of the Car Wash assembly, note the Certified Earth Friendly logo.
Cutting down the amount of water used isn’t the only sustainable practice in which Sheldon Ferkey and his team utilize. They’ve adopted a business model that specializes in less water, less energy, less chemicals, and a lower bottom line. This lower bottom line is a big deal because this allows them “wiggle room” to do fun things for their customers. Such fun things include a $3 basic wash, a Saturday morning early bird special, and free vacuums! It’s important to them to incorporate their customers into the business model with these neat savings opportunities, as it corresponds with their “everybody wins” philosophy. Sheldon says, “It’s now smarter both environmentally and financially to be organic and/or green, a few years ago you paid a premium, if you could find these types of products, now it’s what the people want, standards have changed, it’s what makes sense and they’re more affordable.”
Okay folks, back to why they’re so “Earth Friendly”! Besides using less water and electricity due to new advanced equipment and technology, they also reuse water, have energy efficient lighting systems, and use Earth Friendly chemicals, soaps, and fluids. They’re certified “Earth Friendly” through their chemical supplier who performs an audit of chemicals, via a flow test, every 90 days and of water every 6 months. This is a certification that can be revoked if they do not continue to comply with set standards.
Using less water is greatly due to the large advancements in technologies over the past 10 or so years. When the Ferkey’s began their car wash research about 10 years ago, water and energy conservation wasn’t a concern, utilities were relatively cheap allowing for a lack of care. When the Wisconsin Rapids site was purchased about 3 years ago, Sheldon noticed a huge change, now water and energy conservation measures were being incorporated and that excited him! Equipment now can determine size and shape of vehicle to determine how much water, soap, and dry time to provide. Sheldon installed state of the art systems and equipment, participated in trials for chemicals and equipment and continues to do so today. He knows that someone needs to be trying these things for the companies in order for them to continue to advance their work and he’s willing provide that service and maintain the partnership.
Not only does Water Works use less water, they also reuse as much as possible. About 80-85% of the water used in the wash is reclaimed water from previous washes! They have an onsite reclaiming and recycling system which consists of 4 underground tanks to collect and filter out solids and impurities after flowing through the floor drains of the wash basin.
This is the logo on the control system for the Dry N’ Shine equipment
Energy saving occurs with the drying systems as well. On the touchless wash, the dryers are incorporated into the moving mechanism that travels over the vehicle as the water and soaps are sprayed on. This incorporation allows the vehicle to be dried more efficiently as the dryer only runs while the vehicle is below it. The dry time is based on the exterior air temperature, and the center dryers will turn off while over the bed of a pick-up truck. The drying system on the other wash, in correlation with a blow drying system, uses a machine which dries and buffs the vehicle using a towel method. These Dry N’ Shine machines are the first in Wisconsin, come from a Michigan company, and use only 8hp to operate! Regular dryers usually use about 115 to 150hp!
Another major energy savings occurs in the lighting system. All exterior, signage, and equipment lights at both locations are LED lights. The Stevens Point location has LED lights everywhere. When the Rapids location was retrofitted 3 years ago, LED technology wasn’t as feasible and advanced as it is today, so all interior lights utilize the most energy efficient fluorescents that were available at the time. Sheldon said the saving surely add up! They also switched out all garage doors to full-length clear glass doors in order to allow as much natural light to enter the buildings as possible.
The container of food grade hydraulic lubricant
Almost all of the chemicals and soaps used are water-based and are created using a grading system based on how quick they break down into natural components. The major brand used is LUSTRA and comes from a chemical manufacturer called “CSI” in De Pere, Wisconsin. They do use one acid-based chemical but it is also one of the most friendly since it only takes 30 days to break down. Water Works also uses food-grade vegetable based hydraulic lubricant in all hydraulic lines within the business.
Why don’t all car washes function this way and act in a more environmentally friendly way? Cost could be a factor. The older washes may not want to retrofit, it can be very expensive up front, but Sheldon says the payback period can be rather short! For example, the reclamation system at Water Works was initially about $50,000, it paid for itself within 15 months! That’s not too bad! Sheldon also said that it can cost less than $1,000 to completely change over petroleum based hydraulic fluids to vegetable-based food grade fluids.
This new technology is available to everyone; it’s the way the industry has gone. According the Sheldon, there are newer carwashes who may actually have some of these types of equipment whether it’s a water recycling system, more energy efficient dryers, friendly chemicals, or equipment designed to conserve water; however, most of these washes fail to incorporate the customer. These washes tend to raise their bottom line, rather than share the savings with their customers by offering deals and free services.
After contacting a few other local carwashes, a few claimed to believe they had environmentally friendly chemicals or water reclamation systems, but the cheapest wash found was $5. Although many gas stations which contain washes offer a deal where you receive a dollar off when you purchase so many gallons, they don’t offer free services or an early bird special day.
The plan for the Stevens Point facility expansion
So what’s next for Sheldon at Water Works? Well, he said first they need to finish up their efforts in Stevens Point as expansion efforts were tabled in the last Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. He said the proposal is working its way through the political process. The expansion in Point would allow space for the vacuum stations, a future building expansion which would provide more wash bays, a better customer pathway for entering and exiting the facility, and lots of plants!
If your vehicle’s looking a little dull and in need of a quality quick wash that won’t hurt the planet or the pocket book, swing on into Water Works Car Wash! More information about the business, as well as special offers can be found on their website as well as on their Facebook page.