Twenty years ago Mike Henn started his auto repair shop in Waxhaw, NC. He has established a long list of loyal customers and he has adapted along with the auto industry. We wanted to learn how Mike looks at his business and how he manages energy. We also got into a little bit of car talk, too, as you’ll see in the photos.
Q: How did you get into the auto repair business?
A: As a young person you might say that I blew up or crashed whatever I had. I learned how to fix things; had a mechanical ability and enjoyed it. My dad is a mechanical engineer and he also did a lot of auto work, too, so I learned right beside him.
Q: How have you managed the energy use in your shop?
A: A lot. First, we swapped all lights for LEDs. I had big high-hat lights that took a lot of electricity. Changing those lights made a big difference. We got a credit back from our power supplier (a co-op). Second, I changed our heating source. We had $800 a month in heating bills. I have a waste-oil-to-heat system now, which makes sense for a business like this. That took the bill way down. We made a roughly 25% difference in our electric bill.
Q: Any surprise items that changed your electric bill?
A: Yes. We went from a single phase 220 to a 3-phase compressor. A compressor is a big item and the new compressor has to run less to power our equipment. I even noticed that the car lift works better, too. (Here’s an explanation about single phase versus three phase power from a company in Murphy, NC)
Q: What advice about electric usage would you give someone starting a small business?
A: Meet with your power company rep first. Understand what may be available with incentives to be more energy efficient. It can make a difference. One source I want to use is solar, but I can’t do that now; our provider does not buy power back from solar units.
Q: In the electric industry, electric vehicles are gaining ground versus gasoline vehicles. How do you look at EVs?
A: I do not see them as a part of my business very soon because I am in a rural area, not a city. I serve some of the 60% of people who do not live in a city and I think that EVs will take much longer to develop here. Servicing gasoline vehicles is our focus now.
Q: Have you adopted other technologies to save electricity at home?
A: Yes. Smart thermostats, LED lights, and we even use wood in the winter now.
Q: Aside from energy usage and back to cars. You restore old vehicles?
A: Yes, we perform full-frame restorations all the way to issues such as engines that run hot while sitting in traffic. Big block muscle cars are my favorite and I am guilty of having an “affliction with Chevys.” I currently own eight different Chevy model trucks.
Q: Has any one restoration issue gotten the best of you?
A: Toughest was a 68 Lincoln and trying to fix the electric windows. That took a long time. You know, after a while it gets personal, I have to get it fixed.
Finally a bonus shot, a 1934 fire truck under restoration.