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Panel of Experts: Waste Not, Want Not (Part 1 of 4)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“What would you say are the most common errors in laundry processing that lead to higher-than-necessary energy, fuel or water costs?”

Consulting Services: David Chadsey, Laundry-Consulting.com, Winter Haven, Fla.

There is a wonderful buffet restaurant in our town called Fred’s. It offers Southern-style cooking with ribs, ham, chicken and fish plus all the greens and vegetables known to Dixie. Fred has a policy—probably borrowed from his grandmother—that he calls “Waste Not, Want Not.” If upon ordering, you agree to eat everything that you take from the buffet, the restaurant gives you $2 off the price of the meal.

david chadseyFred has figured out that if he uses all of his resources to meet the needs of his clients, his business can operate at lower costs and make him more money at the end of the day. Waste in the laundry industry is not a half plate of fired okra gone to scrap, but Btu out the stacks and water down the drain.

Are you utilizing all the water and energy consumed in your plant? Following are a couple of the most common offenders. In addition to checking these sources of potential waste, tracking and benchmarking your total therms and gallons used per pound of linen processed with other similar operations is time well spent.

Steam Boiler

Many plants utilize steam for multiple energy requirements. Heating wash water, the ironer and the garment finisher are the most common needs. Once the boiler comes up to pressure, the more you are able to maximize the throughput of those ma-chines, the more efficient the plant will be.

I have seen laundries running multiple shifts be down as long as two hours between production periods. All that time, energy is wasted as the boilers continue to run and maintain temperature in the equipment served.

Poorly managed production efficiency of flatwork systems is also a source of boiler waste. Running two lanes of pillowcases on a 136-inch finishing line nearly doubles the energy cost of the task. The goal should be to maximize coverage of the rolls during every process. Covering the rolls width-wise and minimizing gaps between goods provides the most efficient use of the ironer.

Boiler stack economizer systems are another component of boiler efficiency. These economizers capture the Btu that would otherwise be discharged from the boiler exhaust stack. The systems enable most operators to recoup their investment in less than two years.

Water Temperatures and Wash Formulas

I was trained in the old school of hot-water wash aisles and rinse till it clears. Times have changed. Most major chemical suppliers offer a variety of products that work well in temperature ranges of 130-140 F. If you are still washing in 160-plus F water and are not bound by regulation to do so, you may want to have a discussion with your chemical supplier.

If 160 F water is a requirement for you, simple heat-transfer technology can recover a significant amount of energy before the water is discharged to your municipality. In our age of “green initiatives,” there are a host of options available to recover Btu from wastewater.

How many rinses do you really need in a conventional washer-extractor for light- and medium-soil goods? What are the most efficient water level settings for your specific equipment? Elimi-nating one 12-inch rinse in a 450-pound open pocket will save about 130 gallons of water per cycle. At 10 loads per day, with a rate of $10 per 1,000 gallons for water and sewer, eliminating one rinse reduces water costs nearly $5,000 per year in that one machine alone.

Use it if you need it, but don’t just leave it on your plate.

Equipment/Supplies Distribution: Russ Arbuckle, Wholesale Commercial Laundry Equipment SE, Southside, Ala.

With the ever-higher costs of energy, water, and wastewater disposal, laundry managers need to examine ways to reduce these costs. Operational practices that are wasteful can be a significant piece of the puzzle that managers need to investigate.

russ arbuckleOne of the most common ways that laundries may be wasting energy is over-drying.

Older drying tumblers typically do not have auto-dry or moisture-sensing features, and the operators most likely use the same temperature and time settings regardless of laundry type.

Obviously, terry towels will need longer dry times than sheets, pillowcases, etc.

If the drying tumblers do not have these auto features, managers should be examining the dry times currently used by their laundry workers.

Spending some time studying the dry times being used for different wash loads and then running some test loads with reduced times may allow for shorter dry cycles and result in overall energy savings.

Another way to reduce energy costs is to be sure that lint screens are cleaned regularly. Check these screens for the gummy material that clogs the openings in the screens. By using a scrub brush and hot water, you can remove most of this gummy material and allow for greater airflow and thus shorter dry times. If cleaning the screens does not remove the clogs, consider replacing them.

The finishing of flat goods on flatwork ironers can be another area where energy costs can be reduced. Checking the conditioning times being used and experimenting with shorter times may result not only in reduced energy costs but increased production as well.

Adjusting wash-water temperatures and water levels may provide for cost savings. Work with your chemical representatives to try processing using reduced wash water temperatures as well as different water levels without impacting overall wash quality. Here, you can reduce overall cost, increase production, and improve the bottom line.

Tomorrow: Answers from the textile/uniform rental and uniforms sectors.

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