LEXINGTON, KY. — How does ozone work in a laundry? Ozone carries an electrical/chemical charge in the washing solution, which actually starts to dissolve soil on contact. This process activates the chemicals in cold water instead of using hot water at 140 to 160 degrees. An average 35- to 40-washer store could save as much as $1,200 per month on utility bills, according to Articlean, manufacturer of ozone laundry systems.Ozone has been used in nursing home and hospital laundries for its sanitizing agents.We recently spoke with Jim Konides, president of PolarWash LLC, about ozone and its tie to coin laundries. Polar Wash is a dealer for ArtiClean Ozone laundry systems manufactured in Lexington, Ky. Their customers include hotels, nursing homes, prisons and coin laundries.Q: What is ozone?Konides: Ozone is a gas composed of three molecules of oxygen that we sometimes describe as “oxygen on steroids.” Ozone has wider and wider applications with each passing year. It is used extensively in water treatment (bottled water as well as municipal drinking plants), air deodorization and food processing.Ozone has been used in a variety of laundry applications such as nursing homes and hospitals for its sanitizing agents as well as energy-saving features. The hospitality industry uses ozone in the laundry not only for energy savings but to get a softer linen.Q: How can such a system be used in the coin laundry industry?Konides: There are two basic approaches to applying ozone in a laundry: directly injecting ozone gas into the washer and pre-dissolving the ozone in the water prior to injection into the washers.The benefits of pre-dissolving it in the water are that it allows for control over the amount of ozone applied and allows it to be monitored for long-term operation. The risks of direct bubble injection include more gas phase ozone, which can create excessive ozone off-gas in the wash area leading to premature damage of washer seals, etc.The other advantage for pre-dissolving in the water supply is that one system can handle multiple washers. Pre-dissolving is the only way to be cost-effective in a coin laundry. In fact, one system properly designed can handle even a mega-sized coin laundry.Q: What are the owner benefits of an ozone system?Konides: Being able to use a lower hot-water temperature and reduce drying time (15 to 25 percent reduction) are the primary owner benefits. While ending up with softer linen is readily noticeable in side-by-side comparisons, the current operators using ozone have done minimal marketing from a quality standpoint. Some of the ozone operators are using ozone to help offset some of the costs of free drying. It can also help free up the drying bottleneck.Q: What are the customer benefits of an ozone system?Konides: Clothes washed in ozone last longer and are softer and fresher smelling. We refer to this as a “clothesline-dried” freshness.Q: What is the cost for a system?Konides: Ozone systems for coin laundries cost in the range of $21,000 to $25,000, plus installation and taxes. I believe that a medium to large coin laundry can recoup that investment in less than two years.Q: Are there special design considerations with laundries?Konides: Within the ozone laundry systems we use, there are two basic designs, a fixed flow (similar to an instant hot-water heating system) and a reservoir system (similar to a traditional hot-water tank system with a tank and heating element). Due to the high variations in use in laundries (we design anything from a single washer to all washers running at the same time), we have to use the reservoir approach.Our systems inject ozone gas until a set point is reached in lieu of heating the water to a preset temperature. The main difference is the recovery time with ozone is much quicker (one or two minutes), so a 100-gallon reservoir is usually adequate.We have found space to be at a premium when retrofitting a laundry. There are two laundry ozone systems in the process of being installed in North Carolina where we will use pipe installed in a radiator fashion and mount it on the wall in order to minimize the footprint. The only part that will be on the floor is the pump, which takes less than a square foot. The normal footprint for a frame-mounted system is four feet deep by 10 feet wide by eight feet tall.Q: Is there a preferred coin laundry profile for an ozone system?Konides: I look for a coin laundry that is staffed and/or has a secure area for the ozone laundry system. The system has several safety features designed into it, but it shouldn’t be located where it can easily be tampered with or vandalized by people.Typically, the larger the laundry, the better the payback. A rough gas-savings estimate is 4 percent of total gross receipts. With normal gas rates, a coin laundry with more than 50 washers (not counting top loaders) is likely to have a payback of less than two years.Q: What’s the future of ozone?Konides: I ran across a great quote recently that sums up the downside and future potential of ozone being used in coin laundries: “Progress is a great word, but change is its motivator, and change has its enemies.”Ozone is a far better way to do laundry. When the cumulative benefits as recognized by consumers at large exceed resistance to change, there are those of us who foresee ozone being used across the board.