Adding a good lighting setup to your automatic carwash bays can really take your business to the next level, and is honestly not something I honestly don’t see every day. The average in-bay cost of a carwash to a consumer is somewhere around $6, with tunnel washes averaging around $15 per wash, according to JBS Industries. In the area I live, 8 bucks is about the minimum price I pay, with most carwashes in pretty rough shape to be honest.
Adding good lighting can not only draw the attention of potential customers but is also a way to set your carwash apart from the competition and give customers an experience they will come back for. In this blog, I’ll highlight 4 different lighting options you can implement.
What to Know About Carwash Lighting Types
Before you decide on what lighting kit you want to go with, it’s important to make sure the lights you pick out are waterproof and energy efficient to save you the most money. Most lights ideal for carwashes nowadays are LED lights, but you can still pick up the less expensive waterproof fluorescent lights, and even HID (high-intensity discharge) lights used in many aftermarket car headlamps. The downside to either type is that they burn out easier and usually require more maintenance.
According to Phillips, you can save up to 60 percent by opting to go with basic LED lights that last 70,000 hours (or around 8 years). Most other traditional light types like florescent require more maintenance and usually need to be replaced every 3 to 4 years.
Cost of Lighting
A big factor you will want to ask your installer is what the total lifetime cost of installing LED lights vs traditional metal halide and fluorescent lights (from install cost, to product cost, to operating cost.) Cost per lumen will be part of this equation as well, and depending on how many bays you need to add lighting for may dictate what type of lighting will be most appropriate.
In general, LED’s are a bit more expensive up front, but costs will likely continue to decrease as they become more widespread. The cost savings can easily pay for the added expense rather quickly, especially if you are outfitting multiple bays or your entire facility with LEDs.
Adding Sensors or Timers
I highly recommend making sure you add timers or sensors if you don’t already have them in place. Many conventional lights you may already have installed likely already include sensors (which may still be compatible), but you’ll probably want to opt for LED sensors instead.
Most of these come with stem mounts, which turn the lights on and off depending on the time of day and are more efficient than standard timers. You may want to check out this blog post from 1000Bulbs.com on what to keep in mind.
Option 1: LED Tube Lighting
One of the most practical lighting enhancements you can make for your car wash is probably interior LED tube lights. Especially for self-service bays, these tubular lights are a great option to increase business at night and provide really even coverage when compared to wall packs.
One particular model made by Kleen-rite is the G&G Series. These are waterproof light stripes that you mount and are super energy efficient, only using about 1,400 watts of light in a 120 ft. long tunnel, according to some.
I also found a pretty affordable option made by Hyperikon here on Amazon that are weatherproof and suited for any carwash application. These come in packs of 4, but can also be purchased individually if you need to link (daisy chain) them together. You can also save quite a bit of money on installation costs by not having to wire each light individually. Below are a couple of close-ups:
Option 2: “Lava Arch’ Lights for Colorful and Illuminated Soap!
I’m not sure the last time I saw lights this colorful at a car wash, but it’s definitely an attention-getter, especially at night. Kleen-right offers this type of lighting option for automatic washes to illuminate suds as they are dispensed. These are pretty much plug and play, and usually come in a variety of colors like red, green, and blue. These are unique because they basically reflect off the foam to create a blanket of light. Take a look at this video to see it in action. Also called a ‘lava arch’:
Another option is to purchase multicolored arch lights to really achieve the full effect of a light show. At some of the higher-end conveyer washes I’ve recently been to, these are quite common and really make for a pretty neat experience (for a carwash). Martin Geller, President at Vehicle Wash Systems Inc. had this to say:
I personally see the LED light shows with LED 144-watt multicolor lights along the arches in the tunnel to give the customer a ‘light show’ as they ride through” becoming increasingly popular in the immediate future
Below is an example of multicolored LEDs and how they vary from a single color lava arch. Kleen-right sells a 6ft color-changing light strip you can check out here that should be what you need to get started.
Option 3: LED Canopy Lights for Safety
Canopy lights I see a lot around the exterior of most carwashes at night, and are really designed to make areas look safer. Cree is a reputable manufacturer or these lights and makes an industry leading product called the CPY Series that apparently outperforms LED or Metal halide (MH) lighting according to their website.
Most of these sets have a daylight color of around 5000K, with higher wattage lights that can cost more. These are a great investment for industrial use since most have at least a 10-year warranty, and are super efficient. Stay away from traditional canopy lights for home use (in garages, etc.) because many times these are not rated for outdoor use and are not weatherproof.
I found some weatherproof canopy lights on Amazon starting at around $100. Click here to check the current price. Cree is one of the better manufacturers in the industrial space in my opinion (local company bias!) but they definitely have a great warranty.
Option 4: LED Wall Packs
As an alternative to purchasing overhead tube lights, you may want to install LED wall packs in your bays. These are great for automatic bays where overhead lighting may be blocked by equipment. For most tunnels, you may need only around 4 of these, and are a good first option for adding lighting to your carwash.
I have seen these in both laserwash tunnels and self serve washes, and are probably the most common type of lighting I see.
Installing or Upgrading Lights at Your Car Wash
If you are just starting a carwash from the ground up and purchasing additional equipment, you may want to check with your installation team to see if they can handle the request of adding lighting, or what their rates are.
For example, where I live there is a company called Carolina Pride CarWash Systems and Service that handle installation and monthly maintenance for carwashes in the Carolinas. I would probably check with your car wash system installer on what their services include.
Another option that may be more affordable when upgrading lighting is to contact a professional lighting installer after ordering the equipment you need. The entire process should only take about a day from what I have read, and is an easy option if you aren’t a DIY-er or have experience with installs.