If you are like me and built your tunnel prior to the widely accepted Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) wave, then you likely have hydraulic hammer starts, constantly running vacuum producers and a bank of 15-hp blowers that start and stop far too many times throughout the day. When my power bill arrives I cringe a little just before opening it, hoping I don't have to insult myself again for not having VFD technology or other energy saving measures in place. I open it up anyway, then I cringe again as I contemplate a price increase, but my cell phone rings and the distraction sweeps the thoughts from my mind for another 30 days.... If this sounds familiar, please pay attention to what I've learned recently.
Apparently, for over sixty years Capacitors have been used to correct the "Power Factor" quality on the utility provider's side of the electric meter, but recently small business owners have become aware of a Capacitor's potential to help reduce energy costs on our side of the meter. An adjustment in "Power Factor" will reduce demand charges and kilowatt usuage, by reducing the heat created by the electro magnetic forces (EMF) on the electrical system.
In other terms, the EMF forces the voltage and the amp phases to be pushed apart, resulting in a lagging condition. This lagging condition lends itself to the inefficient use of the power supply. When properly sized for efficiency, Capacitors reduce this lagging shift in phases, which in turn reduces electrical consumption and prolongs the life of our motors and transformers.
While there is a push for more use of variable frequency drives (VFD) within our industry, Capacitors can be commissioned at a fraction of the cost. VFDs have a more useful application where motors in very short cycles without the need to vary in speed. While VFDs are a necessity in many operations and applications they may be over kill in some car washes.
Capacitors, heat loss and electro magnetic forces are terms I never used last year. This year however, I added Capacitors to my largest and oldest express tunnel and experienced significant power savings as a result. In fact, over the last 5 months I've been able to reduce my power bill by an average of $614 per month! This means I've already paid for my investment in Capacitors and am now on track to saving some significant dollars. And the best part is I don't "cringe" anymore when I get that power bill; I actually look forward to seeing it every month!
Jim Rooney has been in professional car care for 14 years and is the Owner and Operator of 3 Minute Magic Car Washes and NDI Group, Inc.