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Lowering Your Water Bill Drip by Drip

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Lowering Your Water Bill Drip by Drip (Part 1)

Pointers from Paulie B: Locate sources of your laundromat’s leaks

GLENDALE, Ariz. — You may cringe when you open your water bill. After all, laundromats are such big consumers. That said, there are a few ways that I think you could lessen your costs.

Washer manufacturers have been working for years to produce washers that use less water (and electricity) to keep those rising costs down. New equipment does use less water than older machines, especially the top loaders.

If you have old, timer-based washers, you don’t have many options. Cutting a rinse on these machines is a very hard task, if not impossible for most. Cut a pre-wash and customers leave. Lower the water levels and customers leave.

So, consider retooling your mat with new equipment. When chosen and programmed carefully, new equipment pleases existing customers and attracts new ones. Also, new washers require less maintenance, offer free parts for a limited time, provide a tax break, boost the value of your mat, and save water and electricity.

The older your washers are, the more you can save with new ones. First, by incorporating water-saving tricks, such as smaller sumps at the tub bottoms, or even no sumps at all. Most front-load tub sumps from years ago could hold around 2 quarts of water, if not more. If a washer fills only two baths, the sump can waste a gallon with each cycle. More fills means even more waste.

Most manufacturers will ship their machines with cycles pre-set to impress you with their water use. Problem is, if the savings are too aggressive, your customers may not like what they see. Customers want to see the water in the tubs.

Good news is, the new washers give you, the mat owner, much more flexibility in programming options. You can set them in a sweet spot where you can get significant water savings yet keep the customer happy with the results.

Yes, there are some tricks that can help save water. So what can be done?

Sell Your Old Machines — If you decide to install new, try selling your old washers. They may have some value if they aren’t too old, and are in good shape. You can email local laundromats about them.

If you can advertise your old machines while they can still be seen operating in your mat, you’ll get better responses. Try the classified section in industry trade magazines like this one.

A great thing about putting in new equipment is if you do it right, your customers will be pleased (provided you program them as I described) and your competitors will get caught flatfooted. Some distributors will be able to get you going in two to three days if it’s a simple one to install and, more importantly, the washers are in stock.

Putting in bigger washers can potentially save more but the job may take longer to install if you have to change the base, plumbing or electrical service.

Cut the Number of Rinses — Cutting a rinse on a computer-controlled washer is a piece of cake, but it’s nearly impossible on a timer-based machine. If your washer has four to five baths, consider eliminating a rinse if your washer allows it. Customers always look for the first and last rinses, so your least toxic choice would be to eliminate the second rinse.

For me, the New York City Water Dept. obviously noticed the drop in volume because they came by and changed our meter! It was a nice savings.

By the way, if you don’t need to change a water meter, don’t. Water meters tend to have “slippage” as they grow older, allowing some water to slip through undetected.

Raise Your Prices — If variable costs such as your water bill keep rising, and you don’t raise your prices, your mat will eventually fail. The more turns you get, the more out of pocket you spend. Therefore, at some point you must raise your prices or you’ll be left with a busy mat that makes no profit.

If fixed costs are high, at least they remain static so you can offer deals, sales, etc. without hurting your bottom line, as long as your variable costs allow you to make a clear profit on each vend.

If you raise your prices, you accomplish two things:

  1. You make more profit on each vend, which is a must if your variable rates are rising.
  2. You will probably lose some volume, which lowers your variable costs even more. If you made your increases correctly, any volume that you lose should be more than made up with higher profits per vend.

Fix Your Leaks — This is, by far, the easiest, most cost-effective way to cut your water bills right away! I dare say that many mats have many leaks: washers, toilets, sinks, boiler (internally), etc.

Start with your water meter. Right before you close your mat at night, have someone take a photo of the meter readings. First thing the next morning, before anyone turns anything on, take another. The readings should match, but most mats will see disparities.

Now you know that you have leaks. You want to find them and stop them, but how?

You have to start narrowing them down, so you’ll be taking more open/closed photos with various washer banks shut off overnight, or you can try to eyeball them.

Since each washer bank should have its own shutoffs, start by first shutting off all your banks except one the second night. If the meter jumps again overnight, you know that there’s a leak or leaks in that bank.

Repeat each night until you’re happy that you found all your leaks.

One drop of water per second can add up to 5 gallons per day. Multiply this by, say, 20 drips and you’ll lose 100 gallons a day! Don’t forget that a single front-load washer can have at least four or five water valves.

During your inspections, always be looking for leaks, and have your crew report any unusually high water levels. Any water that is not inside a washer should be checked out. It’s not just pressurized leaks from plumbing, you could have leaks underneath machines from loose connections.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].