CHICAGO — The specter of ever-rising utility costs should be enough to send any vended laundry owner in search of strategies to help them better manage their water, natural gas and electricity usage.
But before you can decide what strategies to undertake at your store(s), first you must get a sense of what your energy expenses are and what’s contributing to them.
Your local equipment distributor may be able to help you with this. Plus, there are companies that specialize in performing assessments of the energy needs and efficiencies of a building, otherwise known as an energy audit.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has compiled a sizable list of local, state and regional programs that help small businesses like yours become more energy-efficient. There are programs that offer financial assistance in the form of grants and loans for making energy efficiency upgrades.
These same programs also offer free or low-cost technical assistance to help small-business owners conduct energy audits and implement energy-efficiency technology.
To learn more, visit the SBA website.
Now, with a summary of your utility bills in hand and perhaps the results of an energy audit, you’re ready to take action and start corralling those costs.
DO YOU DO WINDOWS?
Large plate glass windows are a standard feature in many vended laundries today. When the sun penetrates a store’s windows, temperatures rise and so do utility bills. Thus, there is an opportunity to cut those costs by making the windows more energy-efficient.
One option is installing windows with low-emissivity, or low-E, glass. Emissivity describes how a window radiates the heat it absorbs. Low-E glass can filter 40-70% of the heat that is normally transmitted through standard window glass, reflecting heat back to its source, says Tom Herron, director of marketing and communications for the National Fenestration Rating Council, which provides information to measure and compare energy performance of windows, doors and skylights.
Glazed with a metallic coating thinner than a human hair, low-E glass filters out infrared light while allowing the full amount of visible light to pass through. This reduction in solar heat decreases the need for air conditioning, as well as dependence on artificial lighting.
While windows with low-E glass generally cost 10-15% more than windows with standard glass, according to Herron, they can increase energy efficiency by 30-50%.
Another option is to install window film. According to information shared by many utilities, solar control window films applied to existing glass in windows and doors are an effective method to reduce peak demand during hot months and conserve energy.
“As the sun heats up during the day, so do temperatures inside buildings,” says Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA). “A/C systems often must work overtime during the costliest period of the day, when peak electric rates are charged.”
Whether placed on the outside or inside of glass, window film may cut cooling costs by 30%, repel about 80% of solar heat gain, and some offer similar energy savings as low-E glass. Return on investment is often less than three years, and some utilities offer rebates for window film. The IWFA estimates installing window film may cost up to 91.5% less than installing new windows.
HERE AND THERE
Finally, there are some basic things you can attend to around your store to prevent unnecessarily spending more on energy than you must.
Distributor BDS Laundry Systems reminds that clogged vents cause HVAC units to work harder than necessary, so make sure your maintenance routine includes clearing vent blockages. Also, keep your doors and windows air-tight by utilizing weather-stripping and caulk available at your local hardware store.
When conditioned air is used to heat and cool your Laundromat, the right amount of make-up air—that which replaces air lost through the dryer exhaust—is a must.
Also, utilize a programmable thermostat, and secure it so you’re the only one who can make adjustments.
These are but a few strategies for keeping your laundry’s utility costs in check. Take some time today to see how your store measures up energy-wise, then take action to manage your costs and bolster your bottom line.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.