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The Road to Efficiency (Part 2 of 2)

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Road to Efficiency.
Road to Efficiency. (Credit: Alissa Ausmann)

Paul Partyka |

CHICAGO — Are you one of those operators who likes to track every nickel? Or are you one of those operators who doesn’t obsess over expenses as long as business remains steady? Regardless of which camp you’re in, it never hurts to review some of the factors that can make your operation more energy- and cost-efficient. There are many paths that lead to becoming a more energy-efficient store.Dick Ruel, national sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry, offers a host of ways to bring down your energy costs.COVERING ALL YOUR BASESParing your utility costs doesn’t end with adding new washers and dryers. Ruel gives his take on a variety of other cost-cutting measures:

  • Lighting — “Lighting is important, and there is still a lot of old lighting being used.” Going from T-12 lighting to T-8 and electronic ballast, light sensors and task lighting lowers costs. Motion-activated lighting is triggered when a person enters a certain area. In addition, good lighting makes your store look good, and clothes look cleaner.If you need help with lighting, seek assistance from your energy company. The payback for new lighting is only about eight months. 
  • Windows — A big part of the appeal of self-service laundries is the windows. People want to look into the store. Owners want plenty of light in the store. Windows help ease security concerns. However, are your windows working for you in terms of efficiency?To increase efficiency, window film can be used, shades are available, and double- or triple-paned glass is a consideration. The positioning of an awning also makes a difference in terms of keeping the store from overheating. A double set of doors might be a worthy addition. 
  • Automatic doors — We all understand the convenience aspect of automatic doors. But could your store be losing heat in the winter or coolness in the summer because your standard doors stay open too long? If you do go the automatic-door route, be sure to maintain them in order to get the best possible results. 
  • Water heaters — Inefficient water heaters are huge energy “eaters.” If your water heater is more than 10 years old, you should think about replacing it. On-demand and tankless water heaters are just two of the many features designed to reduce cost. 
  • Makeup air — Makeup air is critical. Your equipment has to breathe. If you cover up the makeup-air area because you believe the store is too cool, you are hurting the store. Simply, equipment will break down without proper makeup air. 
  • Alternative strategies — Solar energy is the No. 1 energy alternative to look at, more so if it becomes less expensive. Pricing incentives and government rebates may get some operators to take a closer look at solar equipment.Solar energy has a seven- to eight-year payback. It can usually handle up to about 50 percent of the water-heater load, and reduce expenses by up to 50 percent.Some owners are recycling water, but this equipment has not been perfected, Ruel says. It has worked in some OPLs (on-premise laundries) for sheets, towels, etc., but people aren’t wearing these items. The chemicals used during washing might also affect recycling equipment, but this process still merits a look in future years.

USE IT THE RIGHT WAYOperators are reminded to provide customer training when new equipment makes its way into the laundry. Yet, what responsibilities do the operators bear?Operating equipment according to manufacturer’s specifications is crucial, Ruel says. The proper ventilation must be maintained, the gas pressure has to be correct, and vent filters must be cleaned, just to name a few things.Don’t be shy when it comes to learning about your new purchases. Put your distributor to work. “Distributors are responsible for making operators aware of things, but sometimes operators don’t want to change the ventilation or don’t want enough makeup air.”Keep in mind that some older installations might have problems fully utilizing some new equipment.WINNING THE BATTLEThe quest for an energy-efficient store seems to be never-ending. Something can always be tweaked. Can you reduce your costs by several percentage points?As more sophisticated owners, watching every nickel and dime, enter the industry, Ruel sees the industry becoming more energy efficient.“High-end investors building large stores want to make sure they take full advantage of energy-saving equipment. There are more multiple-store owners today; these are sophisticated business people.”If you have any questions or comments, e-mail ppartyka@crain.com.Click here to read Part 1 of this story.

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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