A car wash for a clean environment
July 8, 2011
The Travel Clean Car Wash located at 6515 North State Road 224 in Kimball Junction is committed to providing Park City with a sustainable car wash option.
Mike Higman, CEO and owner, opened the car wash in Park City in 2004. The business originally opened in Kansas City in 1971 and was operated by Higman’s father.
According to Higman, he bought the property in 2000 and it took four years to get the proper permits from the county.
After starting construction, Higman found tanks still containing gas embedded in the ground from a 1920’s service station.
The site has come a long way since then from being an environmental hazard to housing an environmentally-conscious car wash that recycles 90 percent of its water.
In April, Travel Clean was one of four businesses to receive a grant through Rocky Mountain Power for solar panels to be installed on its roof.
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Higman said they’ve always wanted to incorporate solar energy, but we’re waiting for costs to align.
The solar panels will create approximately 18.3 kilowatts of energy, which Higman said is enough to power five homes. They hope to have the panels installed by the first week of August.
"It’s not a real quick return, but the grant brought it all in line," Higman said.
The solar panels complement the existing conservation efforts.
According to Nate Simmons, General Manager, Travel Clean’s model is called exterior express, which means that customers will be through the car wash in three minutes without leaving the vehicle.
Travel Clean has a computer program which allows the car wash to use only the energy it needs, rather than the building running on full-power.
"We actually measure the car and where the parts are so we can precisely turn on and off the water when we need to," Simmons said.
Travel Clean uses Veriable Frequency Drive (VFD) pumps, which Higman said makes the car wash more efficient.
"We’re really trying to conserve energy. Solar power is great, but you get the most by conserving," Higman said.
Simmons explained that people forget that an at-home car wash puts chemicals into storm drains and uses more than 50 gallons of fresh water.
"The thing that people don’t realize is that it’s a huge pollution issue going into our drains," Simmons said.
According to Simmons, commercial car washes capture all the chemicals and transfer the waste into a tank that is picked up and disposed of correctly.
Higman also developed a brand of chemicals that is synergistic and colorless.
"The chemicals all work together and are as effective as possible. It’s hard to get dye out of water," Higman said.
Simmons explained that a regular car wash uses up to 70 gallons of fresh water per car, while Travel Clean only uses between 15 to 17 gallons of fresh water per car with the remainder 186 gallons recycled water.
Simmons said the water is recycled through seven tanks before it gets to the reclaim system in the car wash.
"Every gallon of water that comes in we use over and over. The reclaim system is basically a treatment plant on site," Simmons said.
Higman said the next step is to use solar thermal energy, which can act as a high-efficiency water heater.
"Warm water works better when applying chemicals to a car," Higman said.
According to Paula Higman, Travel Clean has raised more than $400,000 in the past few years for Park City nonprofits and donated more than $42,000 to Parley’s Park Elementary School in the last three years.
"We want to give back to the community that gives to us," she said.