The car wash company saving heaps on energy and water costs

Father and son team Rick and Andrew Trezise at the Ballina Car Wash in northern New South Wales have used solar power, modern lighting and water conservation to reduce business running costs and increase profitability.
Installing solar panels on the roof of the car wash and replacing halogen lights with LED lights has reduced daily drawdown from the grid from 220kWh to 63kWh per day. With these changes, quarterly electricity bills are down from $6,700 to $2,300. Water consumption in the Lazer Wash is down by 50 per cent.
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Peter: Why did you decide to look at the solar option to power your car wash?
Rick: It is the perfect business for solar. When it is raining people are not here and we are not using a lot of electricity. Whereas in sunny weather people are using the carwash and we are making electricity.
Peter: How long have you had the solar panels?
Andrew: The eastern side went on about Sep 2012 and the other side in Feb 2014. We went for 21.6kw initially and then upped it to 31.8 kw. At the same time in Feb 2014 we replaced 16 x 400-watt little halogen lights with 16 x 80-watt LED lights in the 4 bays, the vacuum sites and 2 in the Lazer Wash.
Peter: You have also introduced recycled water?
Andrew:  Reclaimed water. We call it reclaimed because we are using water that has already been used in the Lazer Wash for the high pressure and rinse cycle in the Lazer Wash. The water is cleaned by reverse osmosis. The water we use for the rinse has less than one part per million impurities. Town water has 110 -112 parts per million. Town water contains minerals that leave spots on your car unless you chamois it off.
Peter: When did you introduce the reclaim system and how has it affected your water consumption?
Rick: We installed it in 2010. We went from 25.1 kl a day to 12.6 kl a day. So our usage has halved.
Peter: Did it cost much to install?
Rick: The Reclaim System was around $5k – $6k to install but the savings have been immense especially with water costs continuing to go up.
Peter: What was the approximate water saving cost?
Rick: Couldn’t tell you off hand. Come inside and we can have a look at the bill.
Andrew: So, here is an example of the water bills. As you can see, 25.1kls a day before the reclaim system was installed to 12.6kls after.
Peter: And these are the power bills?
Rick: Yes. As you can see in 2011, pre solar, we were using 220kWh per day and then we put on 21.6kw of solar. In November 2012 after being on solar for a year we were using 143 kWh per day. In Nov 2013 we are down to 92 kWh per day. In Feb this year, with all 31.8kw on board, we are down to 63.5kWh per day drawn from the grid.
Peter: So your consumption from the grid has dropped from 220 kWh to 63.5kWh? That’s amazing.
Rick:  Yes, just amazing. And if you consider that in that time power has gone up by 33% or from 30c kWh to 42c kWh and our bills have gone from $5,300 down to $2,300 it is amazing. The price of power has gone up and our bills have gone down. Using this amount of power without the solar our bill would be more like $6,700 a quarter.
Peter: What was your investment cost for the solar panels and the lights?
Andrew: The total investment on the solar and lights was $76,000. Of that the lights were about $8,000. Back before we put in the LCD lights we used 6.4kw per hour to run our lights at night, average 5 hours per night. That is an expense we can’t get away from; the lights have got to be on at night. Now we use 4.28kw per hour, just changing the lights from halogen to LCD. The lights are going to pay for themselves in about a year and when I did my figures about 12 months ago, calculating at the current price per kWh, in about 2.8 years the savings in our electricity usage would have paid for the investment.
Peter: So over the period of say 3 years your electricity expenses have come down from $6,700 to $2,300?
Andrew: Currently from about $9,000 a quarter to $3,000 a quarter. So with electricity costs reduced by $24,000 per year and the install costing $76,000 in roughly 3 years the install will be paid for. Installing the energy efficient LCD lights helped pay back the cost in a little less than 3 years.  Although we spent more to include the lights, the savings have offset the install cost and resulted in greater savings. If we hadn’t gone solar, our bills would be up there.
Rick: I would have had to get a paper run. Or at least we would have had to look at what we charge our customers.
Peter: What does it cost to have a car wash?
Andrew: The automatic Lazer Wash is $10, $12 or $14 depending on which options you choose. The do it yourself is option is 1.15 minutes for every $1 and most people spend about $8-$10 to wash their car. Having said that, some people drive in give it a quick wash with hot water and soap, rinse it off and are gone in 2 minutes.
Peter: Have you ever explored the possibility of going off grid altogether and having your own inverter and battery?
Andrew: No. It is not feasible with the power that we draw. The 25 horsepower, 3 phase motor that kicks in for the Lazer Wash draws a lot of power at start up. The guys that set up the solar system said that once it was running the solar system would keep it running but the start-up would probably crash the system.
Peter: Do you put any power back in to the system?
Andrew: Yes, but you certainly don’t get much back from the power company. For the 4,582kw we put back into the grid in the last period we were paid 8c per kw for the energy we put in and charged 42c per kw to buy it back.
Peter: Thank you for allowing us to interview you today and sharing your experience of using solar energy and modern technology to run your business.
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