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Wiser Washing: Conservation in the Laundry (Part 1)

Tips to help manage a store’s utilities demand

CHICAGO — Conducting business in a service industry that collectively uses an untold number of gallons of water a year, plus the electricity and gas needed to power and operate its machinery, the concept of conservation is something every self-service laundry owner should keep in mind.

You want to supply enough water and energy to satisfy your customers’ laundry needs — Kevin Hietpas, director of sales for equipment manufacturer Dexter Laundry, once described vended laundries as a “utility reseller” — but exceeding that level of resources would be wasteful and costly.

Dealing with the high cost of utilities is often a store owner’s biggest challenge, according to American Coin-Op’s 2018-19 State of the Industry Survey report released earlier this year. Given the chance to pick from eight suggested choices plus the option to write in “other” choices, nearly 65% of respondents counted dealing with high utilities among their biggest challenges; it received the largest share of votes among the challenges identified.

That specter of ever-rising utility costs should be enough to send any self-service laundry owner in search of strategies to help them better manage their store’s water, natural gas and electricity usage.

EQUIPPED FOR EFFICIENCY

Manufacturers design their commercial clothes washers to deliver superior washing results while consuming the minimum volume of water. If you attended the Clean Show in New Orleans in June, you saw the latest in cutting-edge washing and drying technology.

If it’s been several years since you’ve upgraded your laundry equipment, it may be time to seriously take a look at it. Utilizing the right mix of new laundry equipment minimizes water and utility usage plus offers new profit-generating opportunities. This would certainly involve making a sizable investment, but it may make sense for your operation once you determine how much water and electricity your older, less efficient machines are going through.

Without focusing on any one brand’s offerings, here are some of the features available in washers and/or dryers on the market:

  • Automatic weighing within a washer determines the actual weight of a soiled load and adds precisely the right amount of water, thus lowering water consumption and energy costs.
  • High-speed extraction removes more water from clothes, shortening dryer time and lowering gas consumption.
  • Sump-less washer design reduces the amount of water used with each fill.
  • Customizable wash programs that include water level, temperature and drum action.
  • Stronger machine frames and leak detection reduce preventive maintenance and repairs as well as lower utility expenses.
  • A dryer sensor determines when laundry is dry and lowers the operating temperature or stops the drum altogether.

Aside from lowering costs thanks to energy savings, you may be able to take advantage of incentives offered by local utilities or other organizations.

For example, EnergyTrust of Oregon offers monetary incentives when business customers in that state purchase ENERGY STAR™ front-load washers with a Modified Energy Factor (MEF, an equation that takes into account the amount of dryer energy used to remove the remaining moisture content in washed items) greater than or equal to 2.2, and whose water heating and electricity are from a participating utility. Incentives for installing qualified water heaters and boilers are also available.

Coming up in Thursday’s conclusion: Looking on the bright side, and getting back to basics