CHICAGO — The specter of ever-rising utility costs should be enough to spur the average laundry owner to track this expense and explore ways to minimize it.
In response to a series of questions from American Coin-Op, Gary Dixon, national sales manager for Huebsch, and Kent Walters, national sales manager for Maytag® Commercial Laundry, discuss the role that tracking energy usage and maximizing its effectiveness plays in a successful self-service laundry, and offered some important tips for corralling costs.
Often, the battle against rising utility costs starts with your equipment.
Q: What is the average life expectancy of today’s washers and dryers?
Dixon: Life expectancy will vary depending on machine usage, installation, preventive maintenance and other factors. However, it is not uncommon for laundry owners to get 12-15 years of life out of their machines.
Walters: The average life expectancy of today’s single- and multi-load washers is seven to 10 years. As a result of fewer moving parts, single- and multi-load dryers typically have a slightly longer life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. If washers or dryers are used more or less frequently, life expectancy fluctuates.
Q: How much impact can following a regular equipment maintenance schedule make in a store’s efficiency?
Walters: Store owners who want to maximize equipment performance must regularly perform proactive and preventive maintenance tasks. In washers, cleaning equipment and surrounding areas, tightening bolts that hold machines in place, and looking for leaks, checking belts, bearings, and seals for standard wear and tear, etc., are important. By performing regularly scheduled maintenance, store owners are less likely to incur a major breakdown, costing them additional money for parts and downtime. When maintaining dryers, it is critical to keep vents clean and make sure the dryers have enough make-up air.
Dixon: By following a recommended maintenance schedule, the laundry owner is ensuring that their equipment is operating at optimum efficiency. This translates to lower utility costs and keeps down time to a minimum. The result is happier customers and more profit.
Q: If a store’s energy efficiency begins to decline, where should the owner first look to make changes?
Dixon: The first place to look is in the washer-extractor control software. Are the water levels set where you wanted them? Is the water temperature different than where it was? Is the software notifying you of potential leaks?
Walters: If energy efficiency begins to decline, the first place a store owner should investigate is the dryers. Specifically, an owner needs to ensure all ventilation is free of lint, which can cut down on the amount of air getting to the dryer, as well as make-up air.
Q: Does water usage impact energy efficiency, and vice versa?
Walters: Yes, water is a big expense for store owners and using newer, low-water-use washers can save a lot of money in both water and sewage savings. High-spin-speed washer-extractors are necessary to maximize cleaning performance by spinning out additional water from laundry so dryers don’t have to work as hard to dry the load.
Dixon: It most certainly does. The amount of water in each bath and the number of baths in a cycle has a direct impact on water and sewer costs. Equipment designs that minimize wasted water below the wash cylinder will also have a favorable impact on water usage. Water-level adjustability is critical for optimizing water settings at a minimum level that is still acceptable to your customers.
Q: How can a store owner “train” their customers and attendants so their laundry’s energy efficiency is optimal?
Dixon: In any business, the culture and message that is communicated comes from the top down. If you are adamant with your employees about maximizing efficiency and provide a mission statement and guidance to them for realizing your goals, you will create the culture. This will, in turn, be communicated to your customers.
Walters: Having a trained attendant who can show the customers the proper way to use the equipment is always the best. Signage is another great way to train customers and attendants on use of machines, proper amount of detergent, operating instructions, etc. Signage should include simple-to-follow instructions located in easy-to-read places.
Q: Besides laundry equipment choice and usage, where are some other opportunities to shore up energy efficiency?
Walters: Store owners should obtain an energy analysis of the store through their local laundry equipment supplier to help determine areas that need improvement. In addition to equipment, owners should consider incorporating energy-efficient options, such as high-efficiency water heaters, T-8s, electronic ballasts, light sensors and task lighting.
Dixon: There are many variables that impact energy efficiency. Some things to consider: alternative sources for energy needs, type of water heaters, choice of lighting and fixtures, window tinting, the thermostat setting, and even landscaping are just a few things to look at.
Q: To whom may a store owner turn for assistance in improving their store’s energy efficiency?
Walters: Whether shopping for new equipment, looking to upgrade existing equipment, or needing some assistance related to a store’s laundry operations, it is important to connect with a reliable, established distributor for guidance. The best laundry distributors are those that have a long history in the business and have received positive reviews for the customer service they provide.
Dixon: The relationship a laundry owner has with their local distributor can pay dividends into the future. The local distributor is well versed in what is available from the equipment manufacturer. They also have an intimate knowledge of the area they serve.
Q: Do you have any other comments to add regarding energy efficiency in the self-service laundry?
Dixon: Over the past several years, many laundry owners have postponed upgrading their equipment to products that are more energy-efficient; this is certainly understandable. However, when the time comes and it makes good business sense to do so, it is important to not just look at the price of the products. It is also important to look at the cost of ownership of the equipment and energy efficiency is a major factor in this cost.