CHICAGO — Many operators had lower gas bills this winter. Larger equipment is paying off. Top loaders are still hanging on. These are just some of the observations of self-service laundry owners who took the latest Wire survey dealing with the “pulse” of the industry.TOP LOADERSFifty-seven percent of respondents say top loaders still play an important role (13% say they played a “key role,” while 44% say a “smaller, yet still-important role”) in the industry. One-quarter of the respondents say top loaders have little or no impact on the industry, while 16% say top loaders “are finished.” Two percent aren’t sure about the status of top loaders.LARGE EQUIPMENTThirty-nine percent of respondents say they have a least one “large” piece of equipment (75-pound or bigger washer, or a dryer of similar size). Forty-eight percent of this group say the revenue generated by this equipment is “great,” and 20% say the revenue is “above average” in terms of revenue expectations. Nineteen percent are “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” with the revenue. Nine percent are “somewhat disappointed” with large-equipment revenue, and 4% are “greatly disappointed” with the revenue.WINTER WOES?Were media claims of lower gas bills this past winter justified? Forty-nine percent say their gas bills were somewhat lower than last winter, while 10% say the bills were much lower. Twenty-three percent say their gas bills were about the same. Twelve percent saw somewhat higher bills, and 6% say their bills were much higher.DROP-OFF DILEMMAHas the recession affected your drop-off service? About two-thirds of respondents (67%) have seen drop-off service revenue decline — 36% say it declined more than their regular business income, and 31% say it declined, but no more than their regular business income. Twenty-five percent say drop-off service revenue is the same as before the recession, and 8% say drop-off service revenue has picked up since the recession.LET’S MAKE A DEALSome say the current economic conditions have resulted in better real estate deals. Forty percent of respondents agree, and have seen better deals in their area. Twenty-nine percent disagree, and 31% haven’t noticed real-estate values in their area.CHANGING TIMESWhen you ask what the biggest industry change has been in the last five years, you’re bound to get myriad answers. We did. While several answers vied for top honors, the No. 1 response was the emergence of more-efficient equipment. A number of respondents also commented on the growing role of larger-capacity washers and dryers, and how they’re playing a more prominent role in the industry.While the American Coin-Op Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.Subscribers to American Coin-Op’s Wire e-mails — distributed weekly — are invited to participate in an industry survey each month. The survey is conducted online via a partner website. Each survey is developed so it can be completed in 10 minutes or less. Readers are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.Click here and follow the menu instructions to sign up for the free e-mail service.