Auto Repair Shop Gone Green
How can the automotive repair industry and Professional Fleet Services go green?
Professional Fleet Services in Lansing is in the process of becoming the most green earth friendly repair shop in the country.
So you might ask how is it possible a dirty, oily, greasy industry can become so earth friendly?
Believe it or not the auto repair industry probably has more green opportunities available to them than most industries.
To start most fluids removed from a vehicle that are oil based can now be burned for heat in the winter months to keep the shop warm. These oil waste burning heaters are so efficient that you can’t even smell, see fumes or smoke that comes from the chimney after the burn process producing a “clean burn” effect. The oil can either be stored above ground in a containment system or below ground in a large tank. This will save you thousands of dollars a year in heating bills alone in addition to removing thousands of gallons of oil from landfills or water ways.
Coolant that comes from the vehicle can be recycled and reused resulting in savings for the shop, customer and environment. The coolant is stored in 55 gallon barrels. We then run it through a filter system, mix in the correct amount of water, condition it with additives that will protect the cooling system better than new coolant will out of a jug and then add green dye to make it appear bright and clean. The reason for this is perception is everything. Coolant that has been recycled does not appear to be as clean as new coolant from a jug. The fact is recycled coolant is as clean, better conditioned and safer for the vehicle and environment.
Rain water is starting to become more and more of a problem in the recent years. Many cities now charge a rain tax or disposal fee of some sort to move rain water away from your property and carry it into a local river, lake, stream or water treatment plant. All of this cost the city money and can lead to pollution contaminated water systems natural or human created.
Currently the best way to collect rain water is too have a large plastic tank installed under ground with a pump that can pump the water into the building for use at a later date. The water can be used for washing, cleaning or watering. The water cannot be used for drinking unless it is correctly treated and permits are pulled from the city. In most cases this may be very difficult to do.
Rain gardens can also be installed if enough property is available to do so.
There are many choices of lighting fixtures and bulbs that are designed to create a lot of light but lower energy use. Start by replacing all your old bulbs with the new style energy efficient CF bulbs or LED’s. Experiment with the fluorescent color, natural daylight and white light bulbs. They each have a distinct brightness and color tone.
Shop lighting fixtures can be changed over to the new smaller thinner tubed lights that are much brighter than the regular fluorescents we are used to seeing in offices and commercial buildings. We have found one 4 or 6 bulb fixture can replace two or three 2 or 4 row old style fluorescent fixtures that are typically used in most shops today. I would recommend checking with your local lighting center or electrician to find out what is available for parking lot lighting or more high powered shop lighting fixtures. We were able to remove the very expensive HPS fixtures from our building which are being outlawed anyway and replace them with the new thin tubed T8 HO fixtures I believed they are called .
If you can find them use the new LED bulbs, very expensive but last 25 years and use less of energy than a CF bulb uses and they burn cool to the touch!
Update on LED bulbs… I just did some research and found out CF bulbs are more energy efficient than LED bulbs. The difference is the money savings in the length of time they last. CF bulbs only last about 3-5 years whereas LED bulbs last 25 years and are supposed to be a brighter light. The LED’s do however cost more to run you just don’t have the upfront cost as often which yields a higher savings over the long term. The electricians I have spoke with say LED’s will be the future. Also bulbs will no longer be measured in watts but instead will be measured in lumens, the higher the lumen the brighter the bulb.
Due to current advancements in wind and solar power and the race for better batteries this is fast becoming the second most cost saving advantage to the repair industry.
3 phase electrical systems draw the least amount of energy to use but I have found it difficult to locate motors that will run on 3 phase electrical supply most are 2 phase. You can purchase a converter that converts 2 phase electrical motors to 3 phase use.
Installing a wind turbine can reduce electricity requirements or dependency by 50% or more. The power can either be stored in batteries on site for later use or returned to the grid. If returned to the grid contact your local electricity provider and set up a contract agreement with them. You will be paid for what ever you are returning back to the grid. Currently our electrical systems already do this on a smaller scale but we do not get paid for the extra electrical power returned back to the grid. Instead it is resold to us again and again.
The price for wind turbine systems has been greatly reduced in recent years. Systems can be installed for 5-10 thousand dollars and start a return on investment within 1-2 years. Even if you never recoup your investment you are still conserving energy and becoming less dependent upon the system and lowering your electrical bill.
Solar technology is also advancing and becoming cheaper every year. The Chinese have made a commitment to producing 50% of their energy from solar power. Replacing existing windows, walls or sections of the roof can be a good place to start. Because solar is still in its infancy thoroughly investigate all your options concerning cost, use and return on investment. Solar panels can be used for heating or electricity. If you live in a state where 50% of the days every year are sunny then this could be a good option for you.
Install timers on lighting and heating systems. Set timers to turn lights on only when in use and to be turned off when not in use.
Use automatic programmed thermostats to control heating and cooling temperatures to operate only when needed.
Choosing the correct materials to insulate a building is critical. I would highly recommend consulting with an energy professional to discuss your options when insulating floors, walls, windows, doors, ceilings, pipes and roofs. Insulation can be very costly. Over insulating or under insulating can have dramatic financial and energy saving consequences.
We installed a rubberized floor that is guaranteed to last 20 years. The flooring is made out of recycled tires and rubber material. The version we chose is a large interlocking floor squares. If one becomes worn, torn or burned we can just remove it and replace with a new square. This is much cheaper than replacing all the flooring if a small section wears out. There are many new green flooring options on the market and many of them are less expensive and more durable than fabrics or materials we are more aware of.
Some miscellaneous energy saving options to think about.
Heated floors, parking lots and sidewalks. Many cities and business’s in colder climates are installing in floor heating systems. These systems are cheaper to operate, heat more consistently, eliminate salting and shoveling and increase public safety.
Heated floors can be installed right over top of the existing concrete by placing a 2" concrete cap on top of it and placing the coil of tubing between the two. For an even greener more energy efficient heating of the in floor coils you can use the existing oil waste burning heater to heat a coil placed in front of the furnace that heats the water which in turn heats the floors. Now that is efficient.
When replacing appliances, water heaters, furnaces, washers, dryers, sinks, toilets or A/C units check into energy saving options. There has been advancements in technology in all these areas providing opportunities to conserve energy and save money.