CHICAGO — In the past, choosing a boiler for a laundry operation wasn’t very complicated.
“In the old days when capital purchase money or operational cost was not that much of an issue, typical commercial or industrial laundries would just purchase a 200-, 300-, 500-horsepower firetube boiler, normally just one,” says Michael Leeming, national sales manager for manufacturer Parker Boiler Co.
“All your eggs were in one basket—no standby, not much turndown, way oversized. If the boiler went down, you sent everyone home.”
Much has changed when it comes to laundry operations, and that has changed what boiler systems are used.
“In the last 10 years, the objective is generating a lower operational cost, or not running two or three shifts,” Leeming shares. “The newer tunnel washers use much less water, and have much more throughput, and newer ironers have helped achieve the objective of one shift per day.
“This saves owners a bunch of money on labor, utilities, etc.”
It’s important for operators to fully understand their plants and take into account key factors, from proper sizing to long-term reliability, to select the right boiler setup.
BOILER RESPONSE TIME
In a commercial laundry, production can vary to extremes. For this reason, James Adgey, thermal sales, Clayton Industries, an industrial steam boiler manufacturer, says operators want a boiler to able to quickly respond to changing steam demands, switching from low to high steam output in as little time as possible as the need arises.
“Time spent waiting for your boiler to produce the needed steam is time that could be better spent somewhere else,” he says. “Additionally, if your boiler is struggling to match these changes in steam production, the result is often carryover.”
Carryover refers to a situation in which steam is carrying contaminants from within the boiler, such as dissolved solids or the chemicals used to treat water. The ideal amount of carryover is zero, and in a commercial laundry setting, this can be especially devastating, as carryover can cause stains and damage to products, Adgey shares.
“The best way to prevent carryover is to ensure that your boiler is able to meet production demands, and has a quality steam separator, to ensure that no damaging contaminants are contained within your steam,” he adds.
With some traditional boiler designs, it can take hours for a boiler to “warm up” and begin production of steam, shares Adgey. To circumvent this problem, facilities typically have an employee come in early each day to start the boiler or leave it idling overnight.
“Neither of these solutions is optimal, and much like your efficiency ratings, strongly impact your fuel bills,” he says. “The easier solution is a boiler able to start and stop and demand, coming online quickly when you need it.”
“Different boiler manufacturers have varying start-up times from less than five minutes to two hours, which can save your operators valuable time and fuel costs,” adds Andrew Elkind, marketing manager for Miura America, an industrial boiler manufacturer.
For Adgey, boiler efficiency is the main factor when it comes to determining a boiler’s annual cost. Even a small difference in percentage is enough to equal thousands of dollars in fuel costs at the end of the year, so the higher the boiler’s operational efficiency, the better.
“The best possible way to ensure the highest number possible is to simply ask your supplier to provide efficiency numbers based on your facility,” he says.
“Since most listed efficiency ratings are based upon ideal operation conditions, getting your supplier to provide a number based on your plant’s conditions (hours of operation, water quality, etc.) will help you to make the best possible selection, and save help cut down your annual fuel bill substantially.”
“Your operators are the ones in charge of your boiler’s daily efficiency,” Elkind says. “Finding safe equipment that features advanced alerts and is simple to operate will give your workforce greater productivity.”
“In many cases, we have installed economizers on the exhaust of the steam boilers which flow water through stainless steel coils capturing the waste heat and providing this hot water for essentially free,” says Leeming.
He says this can improve the overall efficiency of the laundry by up to 10%, adding that there are many rebates available from the utility company, which almost pays for the additional cost of this additional capital—which has a less-than-three-year return on investment without rebates.
“As a rule of thumb, for every 100 horsepower, there is $4 per hour in fuel recovered for free,” Leeming shares.
SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE
The last thing any high-volume laundry facility wants is a mandatory shutdown due to lengthy maintenance. So, Elkind shares, it is important to consider the ease of maintenance on a steam boiler so that production is not slowed and workers stay safe while operating and maintaining the equipment.
“With modular steam boilers, there is an added benefit of transferring steam output to other units while one is receiving maintenance,” he adds.
Steam solution sustainability is imperative for both meeting the compliance standards of local government and meeting customer expectations, according to Elkind.
“Especially for organizations that value low environmental impact, finding a low NOx emissions boiler solution will help lower fuel costs and positively impact the company mission,” he says.
“It’s important to research potential boiler solutions to be sure you find the reliable one that fits your needs,” Elkind says. “Look at case studies and talk to industry peers to see what others have to say about a solution’s reliability and the overall support the manufacturer provides after installation.”
While many solutions claim reliability, he says that laundry operators need to be sure the steam solution chosen is a wise investment in the facility’s future.
“A solution that’s flexible to meet a laundry facility’s changing business needs, fluctuating loads, and continuously updates technology will give you steam that lasts the test of time,” Elkind concludes.
Miss Part 1 on sizing and steam quality? Click HERE to read it.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].