Q. Why choose an infra-red tube heater for my wash bay?
A. Infrared tube heaters direct a footprint of radiant heat energy toward a target area. In cold climates, ice can build up in the bay entrance and exit and on critical wash equipment components, resulting in costly equipment failure, slippery surfaces and safety concerns. When wash bay doors are closed, the thermostatically controlled tube heater can maintain an air temperature to prevent overnight freezing. During the day, a properly sized wash bay heater or heaters can help elminate freeze concerns during even the busiest hours. Preventing ice build-up is critical and gas infrared tube heaters are the best solution.
Q. What should I look for when searching for a tube heater brand for my wash bay?
A. Wash Bays are inherently wet environments. Therefore, make sure the brand you choose has a sealed, watertight control box. This means that the blower fan, gas valve, circuit board and all other components are isolated and protected from the wet enviroment.
Q. Some brands have fans located at the vent end of the heater. Other brands have the blower on the burner end of the heater. Which one is best inside a car wash bay?
A. There are two types of unitary tube heaters - Push and pull. Push tube heaters have a fan blower located inside the burner control box, which pushes the hot gases downstream through the emitter tubing toward the vent end. By contrast, Pull tube heaters have an exhauster or pump on the vent end to pull or suck hot gases downstream.
We recommend the push tube heater. Why? With a push tube heater, the blower fan can be located inside a watertight control box, keeping it out of the corrosive wet atmosphere, thereby prolonging blower life. Pull tube heaters (where an exhauster is always located on the vent end of the heater) is constantly exposed to the wet corrosive wet enviroment of the wash bay, reducing blower life. In our experience, pull through tube heaters have very low blower life (as little as 1 year). Blowers are not cheap ($200 to $300). We feel that all control parts, including the blower, should be protected inside a sealed control box.
Q. Do I need a stainless steel tube heater?
A. Some car wash owners ask for an all stainless steel control box, emitter tubes and reflectors and we are able to meet that request. No doubt, stainless steel components will last a long time. But is stainless necessary? In our experience, the answer is no. A tube heater with heat-treated aluminized steel tube emitters and aluminum reflectors will perform well for many, many years and actually outperform a stainless steel system in terms of heat output per BTU input. Why? The properties of stainless steel are not as efficient (and effective) as heat-treated aluminzed steel tubing. Consider also that stainless steel costs twice as much. Whatever you do, just don't select a tube heater with hot-rolled steel. It will rust out in a few short months. Note: Garbage truck wash facilities and some other processes may use extremely corrosive chemicals to clean their vehicles. In some of those cases, we recommend stainless everything (burner housing, tubing, reflectors, etc.).
Q. Who should I buy a tube heater from?
A. First, purchase a tube heater from a manufacturer with a strong presence in the North American market. Second, make sure you buy from a representative who has the expertise, time, experience and general know-how to help you through the heater selection process. Third, purchase from a company that stocks everything, including replacement tube heater parts. As with all heating appliances, control parts are guaranteed to fail at some point (5 years, 10 years, 20 years down the road?). Those controls may include a blower fan (or exhauster), circuit board, safety air switch, ignitor, flame probe and a transformer. Make sure you have those parts easily available and that you have someone you can depend on to help diagnose any problem.
Q. Should I keep spare parts on hand?
A. Yes! During the heating season, there is no guarantee that a heating contractor will be able to answer the emergency call right away. And once he does respond, it may take 24 to 48 hours oe longer before he can order and install a new repair part to get the heater running again. We urge all car wash owners to be well educated on how the appliance works and to keep spare parts on hand to remedy any problem to keep things running. This can go a long way to avoiding potential costly freeze-ups and equipment down-time.
Q. What kind of warranty should I expect?
A. Some manufacturers carry only a 1 year warranty on control parts and 5 years on emitter tubing. Better brands carry a 3 year warranty on parts and 10 years on the tubing. Superior Radiant tube heaters have the latter. Some may choose not to provide a warranty at all if the heater is in a wash bay. Make sure the vendor will stand by it's manufacturer's warranty.
Q. How do I size a tube heater for my wash bay?
A. That's a great question. You'll want to call an infrared heating specialist with experience in the wash bay heating indsutry. Make sure you can speak with an expert to walk you through the process of selecting just the right heater or heaters for your situation. While you can learn a lot online and even buy a tube heater online, we recommend that you talk to a "live voice" - someone who knows what to do. It's better to do it right the first time and you'll sleep better knowing you did your homework.