By PlanetLaundry staff | Apr 25, 2012
We recently posed the following question to some of the laundry industry’s leading manufacturers: “What advice would you give store owners, regarding keeping their equipment – and their facilities – as energy efficient as possible?” And here’s what they told us:
National Sales Manager, Vended Laundries
Milnor Laundry Systems
On a very simple level, our industry is in the business of reselling utilities. The best vended laundries are efficiently consuming utilities through their equipment and physical plant operations, and profitably marking up those consumed resources. Many of them reward customers for choosing cold-water washes and for using frontload machinery instead of toploaders. Educating users of vended laundries about energy efficiency is an ongoing – and vital – process.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing
First and foremost, we advise owners to learn as much as possible about the equipment they are buying before they purchase. Owners should fully understand the level of performance, energy efficiency and reliability various products offer, and the level of maintenance that those products require. Often, better performing, more efficient and more reliable products will cost a little more upfront, but they will be significantly less costly to own and operate over the longer term. Over the years, I’ve spoken with many laundry owners who bought strictly on lowest initial cost for their first store, only to learn very quickly that there is much more to consider if they are going to be successful in the long run.
Beyond that, owners need to stay abreast of what products are available – washers, dryers, water heaters, lighting, etc. A great way to do this is to have a great relationship with their local distributor. Distributors are working with customers all the time, and need to stay current on the latest innovations. Owners who talk with their distributor regularly will stay on top of the latest innovations and will have a better idea when it’s the right time to upgrade.
As manufacturers, we try hard to not just say, “Hey, the solution to all of your ills is equipment.” It’s not. It’s the whole building. Do you have the right insulation? Are you bringing in your makeup air the right way? Have you updated your lighting? What kind of floors do you have? Are you using skylights? Are you using passive lighting?
What existing owners need to consider is what they would do if they were building their stores from the ground up – what new things they would incorporate. Then, they can work backward, asking themselves what’s preventing them from incorporating at least some of those things into their existing store. Changing equipment is any easy one, because it’s an automatic change. However, sometimes the other things involve a bit more construction.
Vice President of Sales and Customer Services
Invest in flexible, high-performance equipment now rather than taking things away from customers – such as bath exchanges and dryer time – with older equipment. Remember to follow a strict maintenance schedule for equipment upkeep. Preventive maintenance will have a direct impact on efficiency and bottom-line profit for store owners.
The problem is utilities-to-gross is our industry benchmark and how we judge the efficiency of a laundry, but one of those components in that equation is how much is being charged per load. So, it’s a little ambiguous. Maybe a laundry is efficient, or maybe the owner is getting premium vend prices, which also would make the utility-percent-to-gross-income lower.
Vice President, Distributor Sales
Alliance Laundry Systems
The drying process uses a balance of mechanical action, tumbling, heat and airflow. Mechanical action is fixed and heat is controlled by the temperature sensing system and burner. The owner should focus on airflow by making sure there is enough makeup air available, especially during their busiest times. They also should keep lint filters clean, so as not to restrict the airflow through the cylinder. Finally, inspect the exhaust ductwork and exit. If your ductwork has accumulated a buildup of lint over time, it will create an airflow restriction. Restrictions will upset the balance equation and could cost you money. Preventive maintenance is a great investment.
With a lot of laundry owners, if there is any flexibility with the amount of water used or the standard cycles that they offer, they should certainly take a look at that. For instance, there are a lot of machines out there that come standard with five baths – that always have a pre-wash. Of course, not every customer will need a pre-wash, so they may be using water unnecessarily.
The newer machines on the market have a great deal of flexibility, where you can take out parts of cycles that maybe aren’t needed for 80 percent of the wash loads.
We know utility costs will continue to go up in the future. With that in mind, the machines that offer the greatest flexibility usually have the most sophisticated microprocessor controls, and they’re a little more expensive. However, if it were my laundry and I were buying it as a long-term investment, I would certainly want to have as much flexibility as I could possibly have. I may not need it today, but if I’m 10 years down the road with the same machines, I’d want to be able to not only be reactive, but proactive. Some machines, for example, offer 30 different water-level settings. That can be huge. There is a lot of tweaking that can be done at the individual store level.
Replace old equipment that clearly wastes significant utilities and, therefore, increases store operating expenses with no compensating increase in revenues.
For years the industry standard has been that utilities represent about 25 percent of a store’s gross sales. Then again, we have stores with soft-mount, ultra-high-spin washers that are in the 9 percent to 11 percent range. And that’s big money. So, it’s definitely achievable.
Now, there are tradeoffs. The machinery that can produce that type of utility savings has a higher initial capital expense, but that’s not your biggest cost if you’re planning on owning a store for five-plus years.
If you look anywhere else in the world, outside of North America, close to 98 percent of the machines are high-spin, soft-mount machines, because the store owners are concerned with the economics – the cost of ownership, as opposed to the cost of acquisition. And we’ve seen our own sales of these types of machines to the coin laundry market explode.
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
American Dryer Corp.
Sometimes the simplest things can help keep equipment running efficiently. My recommendation is to always keep the dryers clean. Lint can easily build up on fans and in the exhaust work, meaning the dryers have to work harder – and then both the performance and efficiency drop off.
National Sales Manager
Maytag Commercial Laundry
Whether a new or existing store, it’s important for owners to invest in the most energy-efficient equipment possible. This sends a message to customers that the owner is interested in preserving the environment, and it allows customers to feel good about using the equipment. It also means they will be more profitable because they are reducing their utility expenses.
In addition, store owners should obtain an energy analysis of the store through their local laundry equipment supplier to help determine areas that need improvement. Store owners need to make their equipment as energy efficient as possible by reevaluating their dryer vent systems and makeup air; washer water and spin-out efficiency; water heating system; and energy-efficient lighting options, such as T-8s, electronic ballasts, light sensors and task lighting. The less energy and water used the better for the environment and more profit a laundry will produce.
[For more from our panel of experts, don’t miss the May issue of PlanetLaundry magazine.]