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Reclaim Fundamentals

NOW – Summary on Water Shortages

Water: in the car wash industry, everybody needs it and wants it and it’s not always easy to source; water in some areas may be dirty and contaminated. Before it is usable, water must be cleaned, and then cleaned again after use to discharge into the environment or to reuse again. The problem worsens yearly as supplies come under pressure, so as a high user of water we have to do more with less and clean up better when we are finished.

With increasing pressures water rates and sewer costs will continue to rise. Thankfully, with the use of technology in advanced reclaim systems available, your car wash can become environmentally friendly and save your business thousands of dollars annually.

HOW –Fundamentals for an Effective Car Wash Reclaim System

The two basic fundamental areas of reclaim systems are reclaim tanks and reclaim equipment in addition to the layout of the reclaim system itself.

Reclaim, or recycling, systems all use water tanks, known as clarifier tanks or oil water separator tanks. For sewer purposes these tanks consist of a catch basin to settle out the large solids followed by a three compartment underground settling tank to remove oil, greases, floatable materials and settable solids clarifying the water in the process. Solids settle to the bottom, while oils and “light” contaminants rise to the top and become trapped out of the reuse stream. Periodically, these tanks will need to be pumped out and the water hauled off by a licensed operator to be processed.

Reclaim water from the settling tank contains solids that have not settled in the tank. These solids are typically small in size and consist of sand, clay and silt. If these solids are not treated they will increase wear on pumps, piping and nozzles. A properly designed reclaim system must remove solids, provide biological/odour control and eliminate high maintenance typically associated with reclaim equipment. Further to this suspended solids in wash water may cause a variety of problems if not properly treated. Larger suspended solids can damage high pressure pumps, solenoid valves and spray nozzles, as well as vehicle finishes.

A reclaim system that consistently produces 5 micron quality water is the ideal solution for all car wash types. Micron size has a direct correlation to wash quality and car wash equipment failure. The smaller the micron achieved consistently, the more effective the reclaim system will be with less wear and tear on the car wash equipment.

A properly sized underground tanking infrastructure is critically important to the success of the water quality and the cost of ownership as related to reclaim. Operators should educate themselves to better understand the technology to determine if the system is capable of meeting their expectations.

In addition to the reclaim tanks and layout monitoring, the consistency of the chemistry used at your wash will enhance performance. The attendant should monitor water quality closely and always use reclaim compatible chemistry from a reputable and knowledgeable chemical manufacturer.

USE – How to Use Reclaim Water on Site and the Potential Hazards of Reclaiming Water from the Self Serve Bay

While in-bay automatics do not present significant challenges, self serve models are a different story. Self serve car washes can present unique challenges when it comes to reclaim equipment since in many cases, self serve pump stands today do not offer the availability to accept an alternate source of water. Hot water and cold water are offered as sources but if a third source is to be added, significant plumbing changes may have to be undertaken.

Another challenge to self serves is the products offered for various soap or chemical selections. Rinse and spot free rinses offered by most operators will always be ‘fresh’ or ‘spot-free’ water. Typically, the only functions that could be changed over to reclaimed water are high pressure soap, bay wash down functions or weep.

Self serve car wash models are also vulnerable to misuse and vandalism, which can cripple a water recycling program. There is always the potential for a customer to come in and change vehicle oil in your bay or dump waste, such as paint, and it will wreak havoc with the system.

If you're thinking about adding a reclaim system to your car wash or have any further queries about recycling systems don’t hesitate to contact our friendly staff at Prowash

© Prowash Australia
Author: Liz Reisman
Date Published: 14 January 2016