CONCORD, Calif. — When one thinks about the highlights of a hotel property, they’ll mention amenities, restaurants, and overall service. The on-premise laundry likely doesn’t figure into even the top 100 features.
But if your business is efficiency and turning a property into the pinnacle of green lodging, the laundry room certainly might warrant top billing.
That’s just the case here at the Hilton Concord. The 329-room Interstate Hotels & Resorts Worldwide property recently completed a $10 million dollar upgrade that focused heavily on sustainability. And the result is a hotel transformed into the standard for efficiency.
On the drying side of the laundry operation, an agreement was reached on five 83-pound-capacity Electrolux dryers to replace two 150-pound and two 110-pound units. Though drying capacity went down, the speed and efficiency of the new dryers combined with the high-extract G-force of the washers enable the laundry to process more loads per day: 9.78 loads versus 7.81.
“The overall result of the higher extraction rate allowed us to go with smaller dryers and really spread out the loads,” says lead consultant Charles Smith, CEO of Hotel Sustainability Solutions Inc. (HSSI). He adds that the additional capacity contributed to greater operating efficiency, making staff more productive.
Moisture-sensing technology, which enables the units to dry to a set moisture-retention level and then shut off the heat, further boosted efficiency.
With much of a laundry’s gas consumption coming on the drying side, this is where the Hilton Concord saw a huge reduction in utility usage and costs. Combined with the 90% reduction in hot water usage, the laundry is consuming almost half as many Btu as before.
“There is a dramatic drop...Btus are so much lower and there’s a huge amount of savings,” says Ahmet Ibrahim, owner of Roseville, Calif.-based A2Z Laundry Systems, adding that the laundry will see roughly $8,400 in gas savings annually.
He pointed out that the dryers derive their efficiency advantage from a unique horizontal airflow pattern as well as their reversing cylinder — a standard feature on 120-volt units, an industry exclusive.
Linens benefit from reduced drying times. The process degrades linens, causing them to wear out faster. With more water being spun out in the washer and ozone injection opening linen fibers, only short dry cycles (or conditioning cycles before linens are ironed) are used. Table linens even go directly from the washer to the ironer, with no drying necessary.
The laundry is using about one-third the electricity it did before the retooling. Savings such as these, however, are only part of the green story. Because of the involvement of water and utility entities, $135,360 in rebates and incentives have helped offset purchase and installation of new laundry equipment and other efficient products, systems and technologies.
ADAPTING THE PROCESS
While the new equipment takes much of the risk of operator error out of the equation, retraining staff is integral to maintain efficiency, Smith says. “The biggest challenge was re-educating people. We had to break some bad habits.”
Part of that retraining includes weighing loads to make sure employees always utilize the full capacity of machines. Underloaded washers and dryers waste utilities, cutting into operational efficiency. In addition, staff also was taught that the linen could be slightly moist; they don’t need to be bone-dry.
Manivone Khangsensing, the property’s executive housekeeper, says the staff has responded favorably to the retraining and to the ease of operating the new laundry equipment.
“People liked that we lightened their burden,” Khangsensing says of ridding the laundry of manual overrides and training employees to trust the advanced software technology. “It provides for ease of operations; there’s nothing complicated about it.”
Processing is much improved with the speed, efficiency and reliability of the Electrolux models, which eliminates worker stress. Plus, the work environment has been improved with LED lighting strategically installed where equipment is located.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
For hoteliers pondering similar projects to increase sustainability, Smith stresses taking time upfront to focus on planning. He recommends carefully analyzing the property to determine where the greatest efficiency may be gained. Then, it’s a matter of investigating the potential to offset upgrades through rebates and incentives.
“Sometimes you wouldn’t move forward without a rebate. It’s an integral part.”
When it comes to the laundry, equipment that reduces water/utility consumption is the key focus, but Smith also recommends not taking efficiency boasts at face value. Review and analyze numbers.
In today’s technological revolution, it’s important to select products and systems that can be upgraded within the expected life cycles of ownership. It was Electrolux’s commitment to those upgrades that garnered the hotel’s attention.
Lastly, Smith advises that a strong equipment warranty and continued backing from the equipment manufacturer and distributor are important in the pursuit of sustainability.
“The retrofitting of the laundry room was a much-needed and important part of our sustainability platform,” says Jack Hlavak, the Hilton Concord’s general manager. “Uptrending in the hospitality market necessitated a higher commitment to the guest experience...we are now delivering the pinnacle of linen quality and that is showing in our improved guest-satisfaction ratings.”