As workloads and profit margins have been squeezed, the need to increase efficiency across a laundry business has become paramount.

Optimising resources, in particular water and energy, is becoming essential for both environmental and business reasons.

Hugh Jones, carbon management account manager at the Carbon Trust notes the significant energy price rises of recent years. He says that the sector is estimated to spend £300 million a year on energy, but adds that savings of up to 20% could be achieved in laundries where basic efficiency measures have yet to be undertaken.

Conserving water and energy can also bring valuable environmental benefits and consequently companies can also find there are public relations dividends.

“Consumer awareness of environmental issues leads good businesses to want to be seen as environmentally responsible,” says Murray Simpson, chief executive of the Textile Services Association (TSA).

Miele Professional product manager Malcolm Martin adds that legislation can enforce investment in more energy-efficient equipment to the benefit of both businesses and the environment.

Every customer’s laundry requirement is different and therefore every customer-responsive operation should recognise this. It is therefore beneficial for laundries to have machines with a high degree of programmability enabling wash and dry cycles to be tailored to specific and fluctuating demands.

Such programs can cater for dips in workload with settings that reduce water and energy consumption in line with the volume of laundry, rather than with default, full-capacity settings.

Temperature can also be adjusted as Armstrong director Tom Lowes explains: “Experimentation might show that a part of a cycle can be a degree or two cooler or use 10 or 20litres less water. These savings can mount up and have a significant positive effect on the carbon footprint and profitability of the business.”

Miele’s Martin says that advanced software and functionality allows most parameters to be altered to suit specific tasks. The company’s specialist wash programs can be added at the factory or retro-fitted. He adds: “Electronic sensing offers significant savings when compared with timer-controlled systems, eliminating costly run-ons resulting from operator guesswork.”

The German laundry equipment group Kannegiesser, which has its own UK company, offers RatioMetric – a control system that automatically adjusts water, steam and chemical consumption according to load weight.

There have been many advances in laundry wash systems over recent years. Lowes says that nearly all Armstrong washer-extractors from Primus, Lapauw, Schulthess and Alliance, are now inverter driven. He adds: “Soft-start motors save energy because the electronics help build gradually to the optimal speeds during tumble, reverse and high-extract cycles.”

Lowes says these motors not only lower energy costs but also reduce machine wear, resulting in lower maintenance costs and longer machine life.

Kannegiesser’s PowerTrans tunnel washers feature enlarged cylinder diameters for higher G-forces, better wash results and a reduction of energy, water and chemical consumption. Joachim Rauschmaier of Kannegiesser says: “Intensive water flushing and the penetration of the wash liquor through the fabric provides excellent wash results even at lower wash temperatures.”

Furthermore, insulation of parts of the cylinder reduces heat radiation. As work classifications can be washed at the appropriate G factor linen life is prolonged.

Chemicals specialists have diversified into the utility saving field with specific equipment designed to maximise the use of both energy and water in the wash and often work with laundries to devise the most efficient wash system.

Ecolab, offers an energy optimiser (heat exchanger) for tunnel washers, which is especially designed for the laundry environment. It maximises energy savings in the wash (up to 50% in a single tunnel) and also leads to savings further down the line. The company claims that laundries could expect a payback time of 1 – 2 years.

The company has also introduced a direct contact water heater to provide hot water without the use of steam.

The Christeyns group has worked in this way for a number of years. Its recent takeover of the JohnsonDiversey commercial laundry business in Europe increased its water recycling options.

But the company has expanded its portfolio and and now offers a second type of heat-exchanger as well as a steam recovery unit.

Managing director, central Europe Charles Betteridge says the company’s Heat-X Rotor is a self-cleaning, maintenance-free heat exchanger that is suitable for even the dirtiest waste water and is easily installed as part of an integrated process on tunnel washers. Using Heat-X to heat cold fresh water for the rinse produces savings of up to 50% on tunnel washer energy usage. As well as hot rinsing and the resulting benefits, the heat exchanger reduces waste water temperatures, which can aid compliance with legal requirements on maximum effluent temperatures. Heat-X can also be used with washer-extractors.

Betteridge adds: “Christeyns has also just launched the Steam-X, which can reduce the energy bill by recovering lost flash steam for the washing process.”

The system is viable in most laundries and requires very little floor space.

The first unit was installed at a laundry in Belgium, which already used a Heat-X heat exchanger and has already saved a further 10% on the production of saturated steam. It has doubled the capacity of the company’s old steam boiler and as well as maximising performance with the existing tunnel, will be sufficient for the planned installation of a second tunnel this year.

One UK laundry company that is putting resource saving technology into practice is White Knight. Its Eastbourne laundry uses a system of tunnel washers with capacity to process up to 1.5tonnes of washing per hour.

The energy used to heat the water has now been reduced by more than 30% thanks to a heat exchanging system. Placing the cold water pipes within the hot water pipe-work network provides a heating action that saves energy usually needed to raise the temperature of the cold water.

Robert Adams, director of franchising at White Knight says the company has a proactive energy-saving ethos and regularly re-evaluates its processes to see how efficiency and the end result for the customer can be improved.

The more water that can be removed from a load, the less the energy expenditure at the demanding drying and ironing stages. For this reason, Kannegiesser recommends performing a hot rinse to lower moisture retention (up to 7%). Kannegiesser’s extraction systems for tunnel washer lines include PowerPress, a high pressure press, and PowerSpin, a direct drive and braking system that allows high performance at short cycle times.

Lowes at Armstrong cites advances in the spin cycle in washer-extractors saying: “The latest generation of Schulthess machines, as well as those from Alliance and Primus, delivers substantial savings on the drying phase by spinning more water out of the load.”

Discharge waste water also has associated costs, but these too can be minimised through water recovery, as Miele’s Martin explains: “In many applications the rinse water is clean enough to be reused as the pre-rinse or main wash water for the next program. Additional plumbing and a storage tank is required with the diverter valve being controlled by the washing machine’s software.”

Another technology here is Ecolab’s Aquamiser particle filter for water recovery and lint removal on in tunnels, offering a potential water saving of 25-75% for mats and flat linen. The Aquacycler performs a similar task in washer-extractors.

Drying usually uses more energy than any other laundry process and dryer manufacturers recognise this. Kannegiesser’s PowerDry, transfer drying tumblers are an example. Minimal gap alignment between the drum and stationery tumbler elements helps to prevent uncontrolled airflow or air escaping and so reducing evaporation.

The company’s InfraTouch technology measures and monitors the temperature of the linen and adjusts the heat accordingly throughout the drying cycle. The hot air flow stops when the when the linen reaches the right degree of dryness, making the drying process so efficient as to reduce the number of dryers needed.

Lowes says that Loadstars up to 35lb and Twinstars use axial airflow and sealed cylinder rims so that all warm air goes through the drum and the work rather than around it, cutting energy use by up to 50%.

Miele’s Martin also believes that tumble dryer design can really influence running costs: “A machine fitted with a reverse action drum will use 15% less energy than a single direction drum.”

Manufacturers’ efforts to increase efficiency also extend to finishing. Kannegiesser offers a two-roll ironer using a flexible heating band that offers the same capacity the same as a conventional three-roll ironer. The smaller surface of the heating band and efficient insulation mean that heat radiation is reduced, yielding savings of 54,900kg of steam per year.

Its tunnel finishers operate with air-recirculation rates of approximately 90% and feature modular temperature settings for different stages.

When it comes to flatwork, Lowes says that if steam is available it should be the first choice of heating source, then gas, then electricity. But he adds that it is rare for there to be many options once a laundry has passed the planning stage, so manufacturers support their installations with advice on all aspects from sizing and energy consumption to programming.

Training – either from a manufacture or laundry supervisor – is essential to ensure staff know which programs to use rather than opting for a default setting.

Another useful source of information is the Carbon Trust (www.carbontrust.co.uk/energy), which is committed to helping businesses reduce energy use. Laundry businesses that have an annual energy bill of more than £50,000 per site can qualify for a free energy audit which identifies wastage hot spots while smaller businesses can apply for an interest-free loan for the purchase of energy-saving equipment.

The laundry industry is becoming increasingly energy and resource conscious and this move will develop. As the TSA stresses, industrial laundering is already more efficient than domestic, but expectations are rising and more action to reduce carbon emissions can only improve the industry’s image.

Yet assessing energy efficiency is not always straightforward. as Martin explains: “All domestic white goods are energy rated, and the government is currently considering introducing a similar scheme for commercial equipment. However, due to the diversity of capacities and configurations it will prove difficult to implement.”

The TSA continues to lobby for industry exemption from 80% of the climate change levy in return for meeting tough but achievable energy reductions over a 10-year period. A water and energy survey is underway to gather data to support an such an exemption.

TSA has also worked with the Carbon Trust to secure 100% capital allowances for certain water-efficient washing machines to encourage uptake. Individually laundries are working to increase efficiency.

Ecolab’s business development manager Christian Roth sums up the future: “Only laundries that know about their energy consumption and manage it will survive.”

HIGH-EXTRACTION: Smaller OPLs can increase efficiency with Miele’s Little Giants washers which have a 1400rpm extract which produces residual moisture of 50% reducing dryer time

Christeyns Heat-X
TUNNEL EFFICIENCY: Christeyns Heat-X rotor self-cleaning heat-exchanger can produce up to 50% savings when integrated with a tunnel washer

NO ESCAPE:: Kannegiesser’s PowerDry is designed to prevent hot air escaping ensuring drying is always at maximum efficiency

PROCESS CONTROL: (bottom right)The Primus FS16/STM at Nicola Killeen Textiles where the techniques used requires that the work is held at exactly the right temperature for the right time

Ecolab, Aquacycler and Aquamiser ( two pics – one caption
CLEAN AND REUSE: Ecolab’s Aquacycler and Aquamiser systems are filtration systems for cleaning water so that it can re-used. The Aquacycler ( top) is designed mainly for washer-extractors and can handle up to 10 cu m waste water per hour with a recovery rate up to 60%. The Aquamiser (above) is for use in tunnels