DEEP: P2 Case Study: Water-Based Paints

Water-Based Paints
A Pollution Prevention Case Study

Overview
Background
Screening Alternatives
Evaluating Performance
Evaluating Costs
Environmental Results
Additional Information


Overview

Executive Auto Body in Wallingford, Connecticut, started using water-based paints in 1995 to get ahead of upcoming environmental regulations and their competitors. The number of jobs sprayed using water-based paints has steadily increased since they started using them in the winter of 1995. They are currently spraying about 15-20% of their work using water-based paints. According to company officials, these paints are safer to use, increase productivity, cost about the same for the finished job, and slightly reduce generation of hazardous waste.

Background

Executive Auto Body supports multiple dealerships (Honda, Saturn, Dodge, Mitsubishi and Hyundai). They have been in business for about 20 years, with the last 5 years in a new building. The building was designed specifically for the auto body business, and eliminates some of the problems found in many older shops. The shop has about 5,000 square feet of shop space, split almost evenly into a collision repair side and a paint prep and spraying side. They repair and/or paint about 130 cars per month.

The prep/spraying side has two draped prep stations for applying primers and edging. There are two heated paint spray booths, one semi-down draft, and one full-down draft.

The business owner has a strong commitment to an effective environmental health and safety program. This helped the body shop manager to make changes and try new methods that benefit the business, even if they did not have a clear profit advantage at the outset. The company requires and provides some environmental training, such as Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know.

The shop manager asked the paint suppliers to see what they could offer to help with problems of obtaining matches on certain colors and obtaining acceptable results on plastic parts. He also wanted to find a paint system that could increase productivity and, therefore, profitability.

Screening Alternatives

The only alternative to the standard solvent based paint system that was identified and investigated was the ICI Autocolor system. This is the first water-based paint system brought to the U.S. market. It was introduced in Germany in 1992 and the USA in 1993. The majority of use in the United States is in New Jersey at the present time.

Evaluating Performance

Executive Auto Body uses ICI brand paint exclusively. When they decided to add the water-based paints, the paint supplier came into the shop and worked with their painters to teach them the specifics of this system. There have not been any notable technical problems with the new system. In fact, the technicians found the new system easier to work with, giving better blends into existing finishes. Unlike the solvent based single or two stage system, the water-based color coat must always be followed by a clear coat. There are no water-based formulations for any single stage metallics or colors (non- clearcoat) as yet.

Acceptance and use by the technicians varies according to their experience. The more experienced painters tend to stick to the system they have used for a long time, while the less experienced painters tend to be more accepting of the newer system.

Evaluating Costs

Use of the water-based paints system requires a semi- or full-down draft spray booth. It also requires the addition of a set of Venturi nozzles to speed the paint drying process. These nozzles cost about $1,600 to purchase and install. Either conventional or High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) spray guns may be used in Connecticut. The cost per gallon of paint is higher for the water-based as compared to the traditional solvent based paints, while the cost per "sprayable quart" is about the same. However, the water-based paints cover better, usually requiring 2-3 coats versus 3-4 coats with traditional paints.

Better and easier blends and matches were achieved with the water-based paints. Therefore, the cost per job is slightly less for the water-based paints. The storage, mixing, and spraying are reported as easier and safer than with traditional paints. The shop has experienced faster throughput on jobs using the water-based paints.

Environmental Results

The VOC content of the color coat is reduced from an average of 5.5 Lbs./gallon (as sprayed) to an average of 0.8 Lbs./gallon (as sprayed) by using the water-based system. Since both systems use the same primer and clear coat, the overall reduction in VOC is much smaller. Cleanup is the same with either system. According to records for 1994, the average waste sludge (combined paints, thinners, etc.) generation is 0.26 gallons per vehicle serviced. There appears to be a slight reduction in hazardous waste generation in 1995 with water-based as compared with traditional paints.

Additional Information

Disclaimer: The product information in this case study is provided solely as a service to Connecticut businesses. This information may not include all available services and suppliers, and does not represent an endorsement by the DEP. Use of this information does not in any way lessen one's responsibilities for compliance with applicable state and federal laws.

For more information contact the Office of Pollution Prevention at (860) 424-3297, e-mail Pollution Prevention Coordinator, or write to:

Department of Environmental Protection
Planning and Program Development
Office of Pollution Prevention
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127

Content Last Updated on December 8, 2006