Throughout his 30 years as a shop owner, Gary Jeck says he’s always had a respect for being environmentally friendly in his shop. For over 20 years as an owner of Amtech Auto Care Center, Jeck has run two Lainair 250,000 BTU furnaces capable of burning waste oil, which he estimates saves him roughly $5,000 each year.
Depending on your situation, it might take some time to get a full return on your shop’s investment on a furnace like this. Jeck says the initial investment is around a minimum of $4,000 to purchase each of these furnaces, and $500 for the installation. Jeck installed his two furnaces in 1991 and 1995, respectively, and hasn’t needed to replace them.
The shop has to keep maintenance on these furnaces about twice per year, which involves taking the machine down, and cleaning the fire chambers, filters and other equipment. Since installing these furnaces, Jeck has maintained them himself.
Karen Shelton, an assistant service advisor at the Bellevue, Neb.–based shop, nominated Jeck in 2016 for a Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award, and says the foundation of Amtech has always been honesty and trust. Part of this is taking care of the shop’s surrounding environment and community, and being as green as possible. Along with running and maintaining the furnaces, these green efforts include properly disposing of oil filters and metal canisters, recycling all cardboard and plastic, and reusing and recycling scrap metal.
As Jeck can attest, going green isn’t just a feel-good story, it’s a way to boost your shop’s bottom line and improve its position in the marketplace.
After the investment, here are the three benefits Jeck saw from installing and maintaining his furnace.
1. Saving significant money on heating
The shop has two garages, one that’s 60 by 80 feet, and another that’s 60 by 40 feet, so it’s a sizeable amount of square footage to maintain and keep heated.
If Jeck didn’t use these furnaces, he says he would need to use natural gas or propane to heat his shop to its normal temperature of 68 degrees all year long. He estimates he would burn around 500 gallons of propane each month, which would cost him around $1,000 during each cold winter month.
“We do have a backup propane furnace, and it’s pretty expensive when that fires up, so these furnaces have been a great costcutter,” Jeck says.
2. Recycling and reusing shop oil
In the early 2000s, Jeck pushed Amtech Auto Care back into doing and promoting oil changes in the shop, and making them a full service opportunity. The furnace allows the shop to properly dispose of this oil, and its now frequent oil changes allows the shop to have a frequent supply on hand.
Aside from reusing waste oil, Jeck is able to reuse the shop’s solvents when possible. Normally, Jeck says, the shop can dilute its solvents with waste oil and burn them to recycle.
3. Opportunities to involve customers and the community
Many of the shop’s customers use Amtech for repairs, but do their own oil changes, and Jeck encourages them to bring their waste oil to the shop. Occasionally these customers come in with a five-gallon bucket of petroleum fluid or oil, and drop it off to be recycled, so even when they aren’t getting oil changes, they’re still interacting with the shop.
As oil changes have gotten more complicated, he sees customers coming in less often with their own, but every now and then, customers will bring in barrels to recycle. Jeck and his employees can store that oil in the shop and pump it through a filter system to be used later.