Friday, July 8, 2011

Solar Powered Carwash - Is It Really Feasible?

Running water pumps, lighting, cash registers, vacuum systems, and robotic tunnel carwash equipment takes a lot of amperage and electrical power, even with all of the hydraulic assist in even the most state-of-the-art carwashing systems. Thus, solar powered carwashes just have not fully taken hold - yet. Okay so, this is an interesting topic and perhaps, we can hash out a few of the details here for you.

There was an interesting article in the Newark Post recently telling of a carwash in DE that is partially powered by solar. The article was titled; "New 'Solar Powered" Wash Opening in DE" and published on November 28, 2011, which stated; "the system can produce 23,695 kilo-watts per year."

Okay so, let's discuss this shall we? First, I have to admit, this is great for PR, and perhaps tax-credits too, still one has to ask if it's a worthwhile financial decision. I have mixed emotions on this really, let me explain. You see, a fully automatic robotic tunnel system uses a ton of electrical power, and there is no way a solar panel system could keep up with all of that heavy demand and 220-Volt draw on the power supply. Even if the carwash had lots of batteries to store the juice you have to remember that during the daylight hours is exactly when the carwash needs that power.

At night "the Sun notoriously, doesn't shine" and you may think that is funny, but I actually heard that statement from a Nobel Lariat at our local University while giving a speech. From an energy cost standpoint, it just doesn't make sense. However, due to subsidized solar power, and tax credits it might pencil out as a zero-cost outlay. I thinj the main benefit here would actually be for the public relations, as carwash customers will want to do business with a carwash which is environmentally and politically correct.

It makes sense that with such an investment in solar that the carwash would wish to position itself as working to reduce its carbon footprint and grab hold of the eco-craze to harness new clientele in the area. Also lots of solar panels on top of the carwash will continue to make that statement even after the goodwill marketing is over its peak. Hopefully you see that point too.

Now then, it's not that I don't believe that in the future that solar panels will become more efficient, I know they will, and thus, at that future time it will make more sense for all carwashes to "go solar or go home," it's just that such technology is not here yet, it's going to be another 10-years before it is available in abundance in the free-market. Getting an early start on solar now might make sense for reasons other than energy conservation - that's all I am saying here. So, please consider all this and think on it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

7 Things You Need To Know Before Restoring Your Antique Tractor

Whether it is your first or tenth tractor restoration project, you are undoubtedly excited, enthusiastic and ready to jump into the deep end. Spend a few minutes taking "before" photos of your project from different viewpoints. Documenting the "as is" condition of your tractor before restoration work begins is something you'll appreciate when the transformation is complete.

Now take a deep breath and resist the temptation to reach for your wrenches. First, it's important to gather all of the information necessary to prepare for a streamlined, efficient restoration process.

Make, Model and Serial Number

The critical pieces of information at the beginning of any restoration process are fairly easy to gather: the tractor's make, model and serial number. Also, some tractors have an engine serial number in addition to a tractor serial number, both should be documented. Retailers of original and reproduction parts will need this information to determine if they have parts for your specific tractor.

Make, model and serial number details are usually on the paperwork that accompanies the majority of antique tractor sales. If this is not the case, you can locate the information with a quick inspection of your tractor. The location of your serial number will vary depending on the make and model. You can consult an online resource for tractor enthusiasts or the Steiner Tractor Parts catalog shows the location for many common models.

Fuel Type

The fuel type will have a huge impact on the restoration process. You will need to establish whether your tractor runs on gas, diesel or liquefied petroleum (LP). The purchase papers may include this information, or the tractor may have markings near the fuel tank. Also, diesel engines do not have carburetors normally (there are a few rare exceptions). Diesel engines also will not have spark plugs.

Carburetor Manufacturer Number

It's also very useful to get specific details about the carburetor. You will need to know the manufacturer (Zenith, Holley, Marvel Schebler and others) as well as a specific model number to the carburetor. Typically, this information is contained on a tag on the carburetor or a casting. Examine this critical part carefully and you should be able to come away with manufacturer's name and a model number. Armed with this information, you'll be able to purchase a rebuild kit, a remanufactured carb or a totally new unit.


The largest component of most tractor restoration projects is the engine. In some cases, you will have already gained some information about the engine from the tractor's previous owner. But it's risky to believe everything you hear about the tractor from the seller. If you are a knowledgeable about engines and general operation, you can inspect the engine yourself.

If you do not possess the knowledge to inspect the engine, hire a certified mechanic who specializes in tractors to inspect the engine for you. A basic engine evaluation will include a compression test, a careful visual inspection to detect cracks and oil leaks, and a check for modified and non-original parts. Whether you're doing this inspection work yourself or relying on an experienced mechanic, the process begins with a thorough cleaning.

Availability Of Parts And Cost

When you have all of the information listed above, you can take the next step in the restoration process. This step is deciding whether or not to complete the restoration or to sell your tractor to someone who is better prepared for the project. Evaluate your finances and the condition of the tractor. Consult with vendors of tractor parts to determine the availability of the parts needed to complete the restoration. Obtain a general estimate of the cost involved. Take all of this information into consideration and determine if you have the necessary budget and desire to complete the project.

Once you have all of the information and parts necessary for your restoration, go for it. Record the restoration process and any information you learned during the build. Have fun and don't forget to share your restoration knowledge and photos with fellow enthusiasts!