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More Than Just Hot Air

GRANBURY, Texas — Dryer manufacturers are often touting the benefits of the newer, more energy-efficient machines that they offer. After hearing these claims, have you ever wondered what kind of results to expect?Kevin Roberts, owner of Suds Your Duds Laundromat in Granbury, Texas, was starting to get fed up with his older dryer models, and with the installation of newer, more energy-efficient models in 2005, he discovered that they made a big difference not only in the cost of utilities, but customer satisfaction as well.AN ACCIDENTAL BEGINNINGSuds Your Duds is located in a growing neighborhood, and is situated in a convenient location between two major highways that draw plenty of traffic. When he bought the store though, Roberts didn’t have any experience in the coin laundry industry at all.“I got started by accident, actually,” he says. He was initially in the car wash business. “There was a self-serve car wash on the other side of town that I wanted to put a Laser Wash in, and I approached the owner of the property and said, ‘I’d like to buy it,’ and she said, ‘Well, you can buy that if you buy the Laundromat too.’“I didn’t know anything about the Laundromat business in ’97, but my wife said, ‘Oh, I think that would be great,’ so I bought the Laundromat and the car wash together.”Roberts managed to get the hang of things pretty quickly, but he did have some issues with the older-model propane dryers he was using.“They were ’99 models. They had some maintenance issues with them, and we often had to replace the belts,” he explains. “We would get five months out of the belts and I’d be back in there replacing them again. The tensioners on the belts on those were also a little bit of a maintenance problem.”While he was spending so much time and money on the upkeep of the old dryers, he knew he was also losing money thanks to their inefficient design. Eventually he bit the bullet and had 15 new, stainless steel, 30-pound stack propane dryers installed. With the more efficient use of propane, he noticed a marked improvement nearly right away.“Where I was running 120,000 Btu before, I’m running 80,000 Btu now and getting the same quality of dry on a less-Btu unit,” he explains.After keeping tabs on utility costs for a period of six months from August to January and figuring out the average usage, he was able to determine just how much he was saving.“Before, we were spending about $55.68 per day on the dryers,” Roberts says. “After I got the dryers, we were spending $34.07, so it’s a pretty significant decrease in the amount of utility costs that I had. That was just the propane costs.”MORE THAN EXPECTEDThe gas savings weren’t the only benefits he ended up getting from the machines, however. The customers liked the new machines so much that sales increased.“We saved 28 percent a month while at the same time, if I recall correctly, our gross sales went up 13 percent.”He credits a lot of the success to the stainless steel look of the machines, and he and his staff polish them every day to bring out the best in them.“Those get done every day, because when you come in you go, ‘Oh, this place looks clean,’ and the smell of that stainless steel polish is nice,” he says. “All my double loaders and triple loaders are stainless steel also, so it’s eye-appealing while at the same time there’s a good, pleasant aroma when you come in the Laundromat. It just gives you that sense of clean when you walk in and the customers are really liking it.”The new controls on the dryers also make it a little easier to run the store. With the old dryers he had pricing set for six minutes for 25 cents, but occasionally customers would just put in a quarter or two and wonder why their clothes weren’t dry.“I’m charging the same price, but I changed the start price from the older dryers,” he explains. “We just put a 50-cent start for 12 minutes and then a quarter for each six minutes thereafter. It cut down the complaints some.”He says he did work with his attendants on customer education a bit thanks to the availability of new cycle options though.“A delicate cycle doesn’t require near the heat that a white cycle does, and a little education on that [was needed] just to be sure,” he says. “It wasn’t a big learning curve at all for my customers.”DON'T FORGET THE REST OF THE STOREWith the addition of new dryers, of course new washers are on the way. Suds Your Duds currently has eight large-capacity triple loaders, 18 double loaders, and 17 top loaders. Rather than try to replace them all at once, Roberts has instead opted to upgrade a few top loaders here and there and do more when he can.“Two of the triple loaders are 10 years old, plus there’s never any maintenance done to them. The same thing with my double loaders,” he says. “What I’m gradually doing is replacing the top loaders with new machines.”To top things off, he also recently installed a new on-demand water heater.“That added to the savings in our propane consumption,” he says. His old water heater used a holding tank and an open-air burner. “These are closed-air, three separate units, where even if one goes down you still have capacity to generate out of the other two. It has helped a lot also.”His electrical costs per day, before the installation of the dryers and water heater, were $31.38. Now he’s down to just $28.31 per day. 

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