We do not sell boxes. We sell solutions, ideas and technology.
⇒ CLEAN The quality of CLEAN must top the list.
⇒ ROI Return on investment is a close second.
Actually, when you think about it, what other factors would there be.
The quality of the wash, of course, is dependent on the quality of the design, the usage method of the soap products, the impact of the rinse, and the quality of the brushes. So it is obvious that a customer must have a well-designed unit to get “CLEAN”. We will also talk about soap later. Without the proper soap, no system will “CLEAN”. RETURN ON INVESTMENT has more to do with cost-per-wash and life expectancy cost that it does simply on the cost of initial equipment.
Following will be a short explanation of why we think that even if the equipment purchased from Hydro-Chem is not the cheapest, it is certainly not expensive at any price:
In the broader strokes, it has been Hydro-Chem’s goals to utilize only components that have been tested and found favorable by us or another company in almost identical use and/or components in which the engineers from the manufacturer have worked with Hydro-Chem and fully understand the use and abuse the items will take in a truck wash environment and have, consequently, recommended their products. As you might expect, there have been times when engineers from very good companies with very good components have found reasons why the truck wash environment is not the best for that equipment and have advised us so. Sometimes this results in us having to source out more expensive equipment, but in our estimation, a few extra dollars at the beginning can be wisely spent. We are also very conscious that no machinery can run forever and we have tried to source all components from manufacturers that we feel will be able to give us long-term support. While we do not hesitate to use components that are built overseas, if they have a long track record of both quality and support, we have found in the long run we can look at five to ten years down the road at most domestic manufacturers with more confidence than many of the foreign manufacturers.
At this time, for instance, we are using a stainless steel pump made in the United States to pump water to the chemical delivery arches and we add the soap downstream of the pumps. To most observers this would seem like overkill. But knowing we want long life expectancy and we are using warm, soft water, we realize that there is wear on this pump that the average observer and our competitors would not realize or acknowledge. The same is true of the rinse pump. We are utilizing for the rinse pump, a stainless steel pump also manufactured in the United States. This pump has been designed to be able to handle water with chemicals and even small solids. We utilize this pump at all installations because at any time the customer may decide he wants to switch to recycled water for the rinse arch.
This company has assured us that this pump will stand up to minor pH fluctuations that might be present in recycled water. As long as we are speaking of pumps, our chemicals module, besides utilizing a stainless pump to pump the water to the soap arches, utilizes all Poly or stainless steel chemical injection/proportioning modules to inject a precise amount of soap into the stream of water to the soap arch. Our equipment may cost more that other simple proportioner's of many of our competitors use, but when accurate metering and low volume use is desired you need the best. Again, when the long-term desired result is “CLEAN” at a low cost-per-wash and a good return on investment, we feel that sparing any expense in the application of chemicals is, in the long-term, waste.
At this point, while speaking of soap, a slight digression about soap should be in order. One of the reasons that we are so fanatical about proper soap injection is that we build the soap products that should be used in the automated wash systems. We build these products to the highest concentration level possible short of liquids turning into solids. This, of course, means that these soaps carry a reasonable, but definitely higher cost than a ready-to-use soap product. Therefore, you are buying a highly concentrated product, even a small waste multiplied over time, can result in a large cost increase for the customer. Buying less concentrated products is always less efficient because the costs of mixing, delivering, and handling water has to be borne by someone. While we want to minimize the use of the concentrated chemicals as much, we also realize that under-utilization of soap will result in less “CLEAN”. If the vehicle is not “CLEAN”, then the exercise of installing a wash system is for nothing.
Hydro-Chem uses an expensive detergent injection/proportioning system in order to help control soap costs. Also important is the fact that HCS utilizes a booster pump to maintain a very specific pressure that is higher than that used by most competitors for the application of our soaps. This allows us to minimize the volume needed to properly WET the vehicle. We use very low volume, 8 – 12 gpm of water to the soap arches utilizing only a 3-5 HP soap pump. Many of our competitors will utilize one or two 7 ½ or 25 hp pumps for soap delivery. This would lead the buyer to believe he was getting more bang for the buck, but there are several problems. First, these types of pumps are high volume, low pressure pumps. They are required because at low pressure the extra volume is needed to achieve the water particles velocity that will propel the soap particles to the surface. Many times these units are sold as vehicle soap and wheel soap. These units are big and bulky and consume more electricity, but the worst problem is that they double or even more than double the water consumed. They must then also double or more than double the amount of soap needed to clean the vehicle. It is a fact that if soap is effective at a certain dilution rate, it must be brought up to that dilution rate or the soap will be ineffective and basically useless. Those suppliers that insist on supplying a soap delivery system utilizing too high a volume are sentencing a prospective customer to a life time of overly expensive vehicle washes. While a person may think these so called bigger pumps with higher volume would cost more, that is not necessarily the truth. The higher pressure type pumps constructed of stainless steel that Hydro-Chem uses are normally more expensive than the cast iron high volume pumps utilized by the competitors.
While talking of pumps, we should again compare the rinse pump. In talking about the rinse pump, it is important that a prospective buyer understand that in order to get effective cleaning, it takes a combination of pressure and volume. Pressure alone or volume alone does not allow the transfer of horsepower to the water particles. Cleaning is accomplished by the energy that creates the velocity of impact of water particles. The impact is affected by the pressure, but also by the size of the water particle droplets; such as the pressure developed by a garden hose or a fire hose being near equal, the impact of the fire hose is much greater. That is a comparison to the way Hydro-Chem supplies its pumps or it’s exclusive spinner arches. There are those who will tell you that as long as you get the volume of water, you will get the cleaning, that is not true. In flood rinsing, that’s possible, but not for an effective cleaning rinse. Even in the kind of pumps that can develop 300-400 PSI at a 120 – 250 GPM, there is a wide variety of styles and types. Over the years, we have used many styles and quite a few are dependable, especially when used with plain, cold water.
These pumps, when purchased from reputable manufacturers, are much more expensive than those purchased from overseas. While some of the overseas pumps seem to work quite well, we have strong concern as to how available the parts will be many years after the purchase. To complicate matters, we know that many of our customers planning ahead to the day when there is an economical advantage to recycle at least part of the water. Since the rinse arch is the largest consumer of water in the wash cycle, we realize the first and most obvious place to reuse water would be in the rinse. I think it safe to say that most of the pumps being used by the competition today have been rated for using recycled water. This means that they probably cannot handle the abrasion, they certainly cannot handle pH above and below neutral without damage to the pump. Hydro-Chem is quoting on multi-staged stainless steel pumps. The company that we use for our pumps have such confidence that they include out of the box a two year warranty on the pump and motor. I am unaware of any other pump manufacture that warranties their items for more one year. We feel that by utilizing this quality pump, if it is only used on cold water, the life expectancy is tremendously prolonged. Should a customer decide to move into recycle water, this pump will also be useful.
As long as we are speaking of pumps in the equipment room, in should be important to note Hydro-Chem uses only non-corrosive material in constructing it’s holding tanks and we utilize multiple electronic level sensors that the safety of the system can be insured by sensing such things as low water levels and turning off the system before any pumps can be damaged. Hydro-Chem also utilizes water softeners that are designed in such a way that the customer will never have hard water and yet they only regenerate when needed. Therefore, the highest efficiency in the use of salt.
Also, located in the equipment room on some of our systems is a hydraulic pump pack that has been custom designed to meet the exact needs of the Hydro-Chem Spinner Rinse Arch and/or brushes if desired. While hydraulic theory appears to be an off-the-shelf type of science, nothing could be farther from the truth. A great amount of engineering has been done to insure a system that is dependable and minimizes wear on the hydraulic system. We use a relatively low-pressure hydraulic system so that wear on hose and fittings are minimized.
In the control module, which is really the heart and brain of the wash system, Hydro-Chem confers with the licensed electrician for whatever geographical area where the unit will be installed to insure that the entire construction meets codes for geographical area. Everything is built, to our knowledge, to meet national electrical code standards. As a matter of practice, all components are oversize to prolong life and the programmable controller used is sized such that there are always expansion possibilities to meet future customer needs.
Hydro-Chem accomplishes all of it’s own programming so our programs can be specialized to meet each customer’s needs. Any systems that are installed at any distance from Hydro-Chem should be installed with a dedicated phone line or Ethernet and the unit will be supplied with a communications modem so that troubleshooting assistance, as well as, program changes can be accomplished from Hydro-Chem’s home location. In the long run, we know this will save the customer hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the life of the wash system.
One simply needs to look in our electrical boxes to realize how well we have protected all of the components in the master control panel, as well as, all the components that comprise the wash system. The front of the control panel is constructed to be user friendly, not only for the Hydro-Chem technicians, but for the customer’s personnel who need to monitor or quickly trouble shoot the system. The front panel has an easy to read message center and key pad access to all functions, wash counters, and cycle counters and hour meters for all major components so that the customer can not only monitor the wash system, but can also easily accomplish cost studies to establish their cost/wash. By comparing wash counters to hour meters, a customer can also study whether the drivers are utilizing the wash in the proper manner. Hydro-Chem certainly is not afraid to help the customer develop a true wash cost because we are proud that with our equipment and the proper use of our soaps, we can deliver quality washes at a lower price than any of our competitors have every been able to do. Should a customer’s wash cost be higher than expected, we feel that it is our responsibility to assist that customer to get that wash cost in line.
Our “Smart Driver” FM Driver Pace System is also integrated with our control panel to guide the driver threw the wash bay to obtain the optimum wash. This system senses the location of the vehicle in the wash bay, and tells the driver when to speed up or slow down. This is done with various sensors in the wash bay and transmitted with a short distance FM transmitter, this signal is then received by the drivers FM radio. When your system is equipped with our rear wrapping brushes we alert the driver when to slow down for the wrap and also alert them when the impact of the spinner rinse or our rear blaster arch is cleaning the rear of the vehicle for the best wash.
If you have a fleet without radios, no problem. HCS has a strobe light driver pace system which utilizes marine beacon lights spaced typically 10' from each other along the bay wall. The lights will guide the driver thru the bay at the optimum speed for the highest quality wash.
After leaving the equipment room, but before the reader takes a look at the wash bay, it is important to look at the wash bay from a driver’s perspective. We feel it is very important that the indicator lights and instruction signs be written to meet each individual fleet owner’s needs. Therefore, these signs are developed in consultation with the customer as the wash programs are developed so each customer is confident that the signs needed, will be there for the driver. Should there be any needs for indicator lights at other places on the facility grounds, Hydro-Chem can adapt to this situation with no problem.
As we move into the wash bay, again many of the features are not at first obvious. It would be impossible for us to know how many hours were put into the development of the vehicle detection system. Our desired detection method is the use of loop sensors. Loops are very reliable and they only detect the large metal object (vehicle) not persons walking in the bay and if photo eye's are used all the end user will see are little tiny eyes mounted to the wall. These eyes have been researched to be the strongest infrared eyes available on today’s market for wet atmosphere use. Hydro-Chem has developed a power module that allows these to be used at low voltage so that we can avoid all high voltage electrical wiring in the wash bay. This probably would be a good time to point out that because of the use of hydraulic to turn the spinner heads and the brushes, pneumatics to oscillate our manifolds, and low voltage controls in the eyes and the use of low voltage bulbs in our street light type indicator lights. Hydro-Chem has reduced your overall cost of installation by not requiring any high voltage wiring to be done by licensed electricians in the wash bay. While the price of our system may look higher at times, if one deducts several thousand dollars of wiring that probably will have to be done with most of our competitive units, it will bring our costs back in line.
As we look in the wash bay, you will find that all of the arches are constructed using aluminum, so there is no painting or upkeep. When these are dirty, a simple spray wash application will clean them right up. The spinner arch is enclosed with a non-corrosive covering. There, of course, will be a small amount of oxidation on the exterior of this aluminum from the truck wash soaps, but there should not be enough deterioration to hurt the life expectancy of these components. The only steel that may be found in the wash bay is the steel used to construct the brush wash. Because of the tremendous torque and vibration transferred through the skeleton of the brush wash, we still find it best to build that with steel. We have been utilizing powder-coat painting for durability.
As simple as soap arches might seem, there are several important differences and it is very important that the reader understand that the method in which soap is proportioned and applied to the vehicle is the single, biggest contributing factor to the cost-per-wash in a drive-thru system. Even though this is true and not arguable, many manufacturers quote and build for their prospects very inefficient chemical application methods resulting in extraordinary high cost-per-wash. In fact, when one studies the charts published by neutral third parties, the cost-per-wash in drive-thru systems, especially those utilizing 2 step, are always said to be very high. It would be impossible to argue that some suppliers of drive-thru truck washes do create systems that are very expensive. While discussing soap application, the complications created by use of 2 step soaps will be mentioned because this may influence the reader in making their decision. To understand what a soap arch must accomplish, one simply needs to realize that if we are counting on the soap to clean the vehicle, every part of that truck, including the hard-to-reach places, must be properly wetted with the soap. The proper spray pattern that will wet the vehicle has two basic parameters, pressure and volume. It happens to be true that a very high pressure and low volume type of system would probably wet the entire vehicle. By high pressure we could be talking anywhere from 1000 to 2000 PSI, and volume from 10-40 GPM. It is also true that a high volume system, such as 40-60 GPM at very low pressures, for instance 50 PSI, would also afford enough wetting effect to saturate the vehicle. It is very expensive to use pumps that produce pressures at the high end of the range, as the horsepower requirements rise and the cost of the pumps rise. However, should the pressure be too low, as in the 30-70 PSI range, then a low volume, in addition to the low pressure, will not afford a proper spray pattern to wet the vehicle. It should be obvious to the reader, that it is in the best interest of the fleet owner to reduce the volume of soap mixture to its minimal level. It should be understood that soaps work properly when mixed at exactly the correct ratio that will break down the dirt. Such soaps, even of the highest quality, will not work if they are over-diluted. Based on this fact, it is obvious, that a fleet owner must reduce the volume of soap mix to its minimal level to reduce their wash costs to their minimal level. When shopping wash systems, the other end of the spectrum will be found. One in which the soap is being applied at more like 30-40 GPM at 30-70 PSI. This pressure volume relationship does allow for the entire vehicle to be wetted properly, but assuming that the correct soap dilution is used, this would result in 100-140% extra soap consumption. It is very important that the fleet owner specifies and requires that minimal soap volumes be used while still maintaining a high level of clean. We have spent a great deal of time and effort in testing various pressure volume configurations, and have ascertained that we can use as little as 8-12 GPM as long as we maintain a moderate pressure. HCS has 3 basic type of soap arches that we build to deliver efficient detergent application. Our best option is our oscillating soap arch, where we use an air cylinder to pivot (oscillate) the detergent manifold with a single row of nozzles back and forth the allow application of the detergent in front and behind areas on the vehicle that would not have been covered by a fixed manifold arch. Now some of our competitors may use a fixed manifold with a double row of nozzles to get in front and behind areas but when you think about it, they now apply twice as much detergent because you need enough detergent to fill up 2 rows of nozzles. While our oscillating arch may cost more up front it will pay for itself time and time again with lower detergent cost for the entire life of the system. The second type of arch is our foaming soap arch. While the foaming soap arch uses about the same amount of detergent as the oscillating soap arch the show is much greater. Commercial systems like the foaming soap option because it gives them more show (suds) than our standard arches while achieving about the same clean. Lastly we do make the standard one row fixed soap arches. While they have their disadvantages of not getting in front and behind certain areas they a are a lower cost and effective on boxy type vehicles such as cube vans, mass transit and school busses.
Now that the detergent is applied a well designed, high impact rinse arch can clean a vehicle as well as a hand-held pressure washer. This type of arch is designed and utilized to actually accomplish the cleaning of a vehicle, when used in conjunction with the proper detergents that insure the dirt is prepared for release. To insure this efficiency, the unit must be supplied with at least 60-75 HP, which will be delivering 180-250 GPM at 300-400 PSI. The water used should not be soft, but should not be extremely hard either. As advised by most automatic dishwasher companies, a hardness of 5-6 grains is recommended. A pump which can deliver this kind of pressure and volume is totally useless if the construction of the fluid delivery system is not adequate. There have been a variety of methods utilized, such as oscillating manifolds, in both the vertical and horizontal position, or rotating heads. We believe it is safe to say that the most widely accepted method are zero degree nozzles, mounted on rotating heads (spinners), evenly spaced around the vehicle. Even within this type of delivery system, there are several variations available. One of the first to be developed, was one in which the spinning heads are self-propelled, utilizing the actual inertia created by the angle at which the nozzles are mounted into the head. The resulting forces will make the head spin. It is very important to realize that the speed of the rotating heads is critical if one desires the most efficient, highest quality wash. If the head is spinning too fast, the water particles being directed toward the surface are directed in the form of an arch. They do not strike the vehicles at a perpendicular angle and, therefore, most of the energy is lost in a ricochet instead of loosening the dirt. If the heads are turning too slow and the angle is proper for cleaning, then the vehicle might move through at a fast enough rate that clean stripes will develop on the truck because it is being cleaned so well where the nozzle hits, but if they are turning too slow the vehicle inches forward and some areas are missed. The biggest problem with this system was that the speed was uncontrollable. To counter this, it was attempted to simply move one or more nozzles to a different angle and in some cases, have one nozzle reversed so that it could act as a breaking force and help control the spinning head. The problem with this was that the most effective cleaning is not accomplished with the heads pointed at angles that are determined solely to control speed. It would result that various heads would be turning at various speeds with almost no critical adjustment methods for the technician. At any time that any nozzle would get bumped or change angles, the speed would then get changed. A second type of spinning manifold was created to help control the speed with which they turned. It was still necessary to have the nozzles mounted at an angle that was greater than the preferred angle for proper washing, but with the greater angle the head would turn. In order to control the speed, a hydraulic pump was integrated into the head. The water being pumped was forced through a series of veins and rotors and then to the nozzles themselves. As the head would spin it would turn the gears of the hydraulic pump creating pressure on the hydraulic system. In order to slow the head, one simply would close a restriction in the internal bypass of this hydraulic pump creating more back-pressure on the system and slowing the head. It should be obvious that this system is extremely inefficient because, first of all, nozzle angles were adjusted for proper rotation, not necessarily for proper cleaning and many horse power from the rinse pump are consumed in creating the spinning effect rather than transferred through the water particles to impact on the surface to remove dirt. After this, many users developed an electric motor with a gear reduction box that would be mounted on each side manifold and then be connected to all the spinning heads on that manifold by a series of cog belts. Since this type of design utilized only two spinners on the top manifold, they would usually have two gear motors; each hooked directly to a spinning manifold. The result of this, as you can see, is that there are four electric motors in the wash bay atmosphere. It is extremely difficult and very expensive to find any motors that have a reasonable life expectancy in this type of wash bay atmosphere. It is also a fact that when doing this, the speed can be determined very precisely by design. However the speed cannot be changed once the gear motors are installed. It should also be realized that installation becomes very expensive, as all high voltage wiring in the wash bay must be done by licensed electricians and meet all applicable codes. This almost always necessitates the use of a safety shutdown device to be located within sight of these motors in the wet atmosphere of the wash bay.
Having not only seen and studied these types of spinners and actually installed these various types of spinners, it became apparent to Hydro-Chem Systems that there must be a better way. Hydro-Chem has developed a fourth type of motivation for the spinner heads, namely by using a hydraulic pump in the equipment room and mounting one hydraulic motor on each manifold. These hydraulic motors are then connected by using a stainless steel chain designed for the wash bay environment to all of the spinners on the manifold. In addition, this allowed us the flexibility to vary the number of spinner heads on each manifold as we see fit. It became very apparent to us, in the early stages, that the middle of the front and back doors were not being adequately cleaned by the systems that had two spinning manifolds on the top. We, therefore, have added a third in the middle and also changed the size of the nozzles. Where most manufacturers put identical size nozzles in all spinning heads, we put large nozzles on the top spinners so that the extra volume of water gives us a longer reach with a high impact. This gives us much better cleaning on the front and backs of vehicles. By utilizing simple hydraulics to motivate these heads, we have eliminated the use of any high voltage electricity in the wash bay atmosphere. Furthermore, we are able to adjust the speed of the rotating heads within infinite dimensions to achieve optimum “CLEAN” for each fleet. One of the benefits of utilizing rotating manifolds with zero degree high impact nozzles instead of nozzle holders that are mounted vertically or horizontally and oscillate back and forth, is that the angle that the cone shaped pattern generates with three or four nozzles emanating from a single axis, creates an angular component to the cleaning that helps to reach inside wheels, frames, fender wells, fronts of trailers, backs of cabs, and other hard-to-reach areas, that, NO, absolutely NO, brush washer can touch, but also are areas that even a man must take a lot of time to wash adequately. As good as this was, as we studied the units that we and and other manufacturers had installed, and realized that at most times half of this cone shaped pattern was being sprayed off in a direction that did not positively affect the cleaning of the vehicle. Hydro-Chem, therefore, developed a method of articulating the manifolds on which the spinner heads are mounted so that they point towards the front of the vehicle as the vehicle approaches, they oscillate back and forth as the vehicle passes through and they point toward the rear of the vehicle after the vehicle passes. This allows for a much higher percentage of the high impact cone to be removing the dirt that has been loosened by the properly applied soaps. The top manifold washes the top and front surfaces of the tractor and the wind dodger and whenever the triggering methods are available, the manifold all oscillate in-between the tractor and trailer in order to impart some cleaning to the back of the wind dodger, the back of the tractor, and the space between the tractor and trailer. At that point, the top manifold points toward the rear as the trailer passes underneath. This not only rinses all soap and dirt off the top of the trailer, but acts like a water broom, pushing all the dirt to the rear so that as the trailer passes, there is a minimal amount of water left on the top of the trailer. After the trailer has passed under the top manifold, it then oscillates, pointing to the rear door to optimize “CLEAN”. The method of construction and performance of the spinner rinse arch is one of the primary factors in the efficiency and ability of Hydro-Chem to achieve “CLEAN”. The methods utilized in the construction of Hydro-Chem’s spinner rinse arch are unique to only Hydro-Chem.
When cost is a factor and we still have a desire to achieve CLEAN, HCS developed an oscillating blaster arch. Because we already have the technology of oscillating our detergent arches and our spinner arch, we simply took a fixed high pressure/high impact arch and oscillated it as you would a pressure washer wand when cleaning your car. While this arch is not as effective in cleaning some areas of the vehicles, it has achieved the need of a lower cost solution with great results.
Most of our systems also incorporate our intensified rear blast arch. This arch is a major contributer in the CLEAN of the rear on the rear of the vehicle. After the vehicle has passed the spinner rinse or oscillating blaster arch we divert all the water (180-250 GPM) from the 60-75 HP rinse pump directly to the rear of the vehicle to effectively blast the dirt off one of the hardest area to clean.
As you look at all the plumbing, you will find either stainless steel or Sch. 80 PVC wherever any soaps are being handled. In the rinse arches there is galvanized pipe supplying the spinner heads or nozzles. The galvanized pipe, however, is exposed to nothing but the water from the rinse arch.
In closing, we would like to say that we realize we could go on page after page explaining how and why Hydro-Chem has built what we think is truly the BEST drive-thru vehicle wash system available today. We decided to take this step to design and build our own units because we have never been 100% satisfied with the units manufactured by other companies. Probably, more than the quality of the equipment, CLEAN is the reason we believe a fleet owner should buy from HYDRO-CHEM!!!
HYDRO-CHEM SELLS CLEAN!
What this statement means to you as a fleet owner is that you just don’t need a good piece of equipment and you don’t need just some good soap, and you don’t need somebody to service it, what you need is the WHOLE package tied to ONE supplier. Contrary to most manufacturing companies, Hydro-Chem does not live and die based on the number of units it sells in any given time. Hydro-Chem lives and dies on the longevity of the relationship with it’s customers and the fact that those customers continue to buy product from us for many, many years, because of the super service we provide them. It only makes sense that if Hydro-Chem does not satisfy the customer, Hydro-Chem has no income tomorrow. Most manufacturers put a lot of effort into initial sales, but then when your trucks are still dirty, you have to contend with who’s responsible: you and your driver, the manufacturer of the equipment, the supplier of the soap, or is it the fact that it has not been maintained properly and operating up to specifications. When you deal with Hydro-Chem these problems are our problems, not YOURS!. We can accurately describe what kind of “CLEAN” our various kinds of equipment can provide and that is what we sell to you, the end user. Not simply a bunch of products that may or may not “CLEAN” your vehicles.
To sum up what most fleet owners want are turn-key suppliers, somebody that can help with the original design, the construction and installation, the start up, the proper detergents, maintenance of a unit, and then, proper knowledge of water treatment, water pretreatment, water recycling for the future. This is ALL offered by Hydro-Chem and this is why YOU should buy from HYDRO-CHEM.