Brown Bear Car Wash is seeing green. Washington’s largest commercial car wash has long been a leader in water efficiency, green cleaning chemicals, and storm water pollution reduction, and it’s now adding energy efficiency to its sustainable operating practices.
Bolstered by rebates and incentives from Community Power Works for Small Business, Brown Bear recently upgraded the lighting throughout its Interbay property, which includes the car wash and a Chevron station next door. The property is now entirely lit by LED lights, and Steve Palmer, Brown Bear’s Chief Financial Officer, says the rebates and incentives from Community Power Works and Seattle City Light played a significant role in moving the project forward. “It was nice being able to have something to offset the upfront costs. We probably would have gotten around to lighting upgrades eventually, but the rebates and incentives were huge when we discussed return-on-investment and the timing of the project.” Utility and program incentives covered nearly 65% of the total project cost of $38,200.
Palmer says working with Resound Energy Services, a Community Power Works for Small Business contractor, “was a great experience. They were very professional and maintained open lines of communication with us. It turned out to be a great project, and we couldn’t be happier!” While it was widely assumed that LEDs couldn’t operate in the wash tunnel due to moisture control issues, Resound “found a way to make it work.” The project is expected to save 52,500 KwH and $3,700 annually.
“We’ve always been focused on being good stewards,” says Palmer. “We’re a company that tries to do a good job of protecting and preserving our community and the environment where we operate. Water conservation particularly has been a focus for Brown Bear for a long time, and to broaden that to energy efficiency is an exciting opportunity. There are, of course, ancillary benefits of reducing operating costs with energy efficiency upgrades. Anytime you can find a solution that’s both economically and environmentally beneficial, that’s pretty hard to pass up.”
According to Brown Bear, washing your car at a commercial car wash is better for the environment than washing it in your driveway. According to Palmer, “Storm drains are not a part of the waste water system, so materials emptied into them do not go to waste water treatment facilities. Washing your car in a driveway introduces chemicals from soaps and detergents into the water system, loosens toxic particles – like lead, phosphates, motor oil, and antifreeze – that have accumulated on your car, and releases them directly into our streams and lakes.” Commercial car washes are also better for your car. Palmer says, “Professional studies have shown that the good old driveway car wash is one of the worst things that can happen to a car’s factory paint job.”