In this time of rising energy prices, energy efficiency is the first requirement for buying an ironer. This was evident at this year’s Texcare where the emphasis was on the energy savings that gas heated ironers could bring.

In flatwork ironing, self-contained gas-heated units have proved to be much more energy efficient and flexible to run than those heated by steam from a central boiler, says Steen Nielson, director of flatwork technology at Jensen.

Nielson says more new plants are being designed to run “steamless” which brings the added bonus that they do not have to worry about boiler space requirements, installation costs, water treatment or maintenance of the boiler, pipes and steam traps. By using oil as the heating medium instead of steam, a higher ironing temperature is achieved – up to 230C – giving a higher-speed, while the gas burner allows the temperature to be adjusted to requirements.

An ironer with a flexible chest and that uses oil as the heating medium achieves both optimum temperature and optimum contact angle, says Nielson. “This means you can replace a traditional steam-heated ironer with 3 x 800mm or 2 x1,200mm rolls with a new mono-roller Jenroll EXPG2000, which has no ironer tapes and thus leaves no ironer tape marks in the linen,” he adds.

The EXPG2000 mono-roll, introduced last year, is the latest in Jensen’s range of self-contained gas-heated ironers.

Michael Harre at Kannegiesser says that the combination of a thermal fluid ironer with the decentralised gas burner provides a self-contained unit that is independent from the traditional boiler house.

This can be a real advantage, he says. when the ironing process is independent from the washing process, the boiler house can be shut down when it is not needed. However the efficiency of the machine depends on the way the heat-exchanger is designed.

Harre says the best way to make the ironer more efficient is to reduce the heat radiation and optimise the transfer of heat from the chest to the linen.

Kannegiesser has developed a number of energy-saving machines that can be connected to an energy management system, enabling energy to be reclaimed from one process and the heat re-used for another process.

“Kannegiesser uses only highly efficient three-pass heating units to achieve the best possible efficiency,” says Harre. “The output of the two-roll 1,200mm HPM HighPower ironer is the same as the output of a conventional three-roll, 1,200mm ironer.

“The reduced footprint results in a much smaller heat radiation and the flexible thin heating bands are more easily temperature controlled to avoid any over-drying and thereby reduce energy waste.”

The first gas-heated ironer from Lapauw was developed 15 years ago and although demand has been steadily increasing since then, there has been a sharp rise in demand for gas-heated units over the last year.

The company’s latest innovations are the Smart modulating burner and 1,600mm gas-heated ironers. The 4000XXL 1,600mm, single-roll ironer has the same capacity as a two-roll 1,200mm ironer combining production capacity with the quality advantages of one-roll ironers. Wim Demeyer says some 4000XXL ironers have reached 21 – 23metres a minute on 100% cotton items.

The Smart modular burner, a standard feature on all of Lapauw’s 1,600mm gas-heated ironers and optional on other models, is controlled by a microprocessor that allows a constant temperature to be achieved and enables dedicated ironing programs to be created for specific materials.

Stahl introduced its Master 2010 this year. It is a high-power flatwork ironer with a roll diameter of 2,010mm and a roll length of 3,000mm.

The Master is also available with a diameter of 1,610mm in both gas and steam. All Stahl high-power flatwork ironers are fully insulated.

Uwe Stahl, one of the company’s chairmen and responsible for export markets, says there are pros and cons to both heating systems. He says that while modular gas burners allow gas consumption to be reduced, maintenance costs – for the circulation pump or gas burner for example – can be higher. There can also be additional costs for installation, which need to be taken into account.

“As we produce both systems, we leave the decision to our customers,” Stahl says. “We recommend they compare all costs to see if gas heating is the best solution for their laundry or if a steam-heated machine would be the better solution.”

Antonella Favaro from Electrolux agrees that flexibility is essential – there must be products for every need and every budget, she says.

“Electrolux endeavours to find solutions that enhance user-friendliness and productivity without totally replacing human control over quality,” she explains.

The company unveiled its FFS ironer at Texcare. Favaro says the machine, which will come out onto the market in January, will save on labour costs because it needs just one operator to perform all operations – feeding, drying, ironing, folding and stacking. It is also equipped with an automatic standby function in order to help save energy.

The Dubixium double-layer, self-contained thermal oil cylinder is offered as a standard with the machine, enabling it to achieve an 80% performance rating.

At Girbau, technical director Ramon Sans says its new flatwork ironer has an in-built system with a performance rating of 90% – higher than most other machines, many of which offer only a 70% rating.

To meet the demand for high-speed machines the company is about to launch an ironer with a 1,200mm roll, onto the market. It will have the same mechanical features and performance of Girbau’s 800mm ironer.

However, Sans questions the move towards high-speed ironers that have cylinders with increasingly larger diameters. Although the number of staff needed to operate the machines may be reduced, the machines produce a lower quality finish and are less reliable.

He thinks there will be a return to simpler, more reliable flatwork ironers operating at more acceptable speeds.

“The 40 or 50metres required for ironing will end up being reduced to 30metres, also reducing the problems associated with sophisticated modern equipment by 90%,” he says. “Even though it’s hard to believe, all of this will represent a substantial saving to laundries.”

Savings cannot be achieved by using gas alone, says Vera Simon from GMP. “Energy should be controlled and used in combination with the most accurate temperature-control systems, the proper insulation, strict control of the exhaust and a modern burner which provides perfect combustion and the best heat distribution across the ironing surface,” she says.

GMP has combined all of these characteristics into its G-line of ironers, including a high-efficiency burner made from a special alloy of titanium steel, which provides temperature control of ±1ºC over a 2.6metre roller width.

The G-line has been developed for industrial and small hotel laundries that process up to 400kg a day. It comes in three diameters – 270mm, 325mm and 500mm – and 1.2metre to 3.2metre roller lengths.

For those who prefer electricity, the heating element battery installed in the G-line uses infrared which enables ironer performance to be increased without needing to increase the electricity used to obtain constant productivity.

Bernard Jomard of Danube International says the thicker the cylinder, the better the conductivity and, therefore, the greater the energy saving.

The most popular of its ironers is the Flatwork D I – gas-heated in most parts of Europe and North America but in countries where nuclear energy is dominant, such as France, electrically-heated ironers are more popular.

The ironer’s Smart system measures the residual moisture of the linen and automatically adjusts the speed. It also features a robust thick cabinet and its thick polished cylinder offers efficient heat conductivity.

The Ipso range of ironers comes in two roll diameters – 325mm and 510mm – and in 1,600mm, 2,000mm, 2,080mm, 2,650 and 3,200mm widths.

Ipso CI gas burners use metal grids over the burner which, when heated, absorb the heat and continue to provide a source of heat even after the burner has stopped. This results in less temperature fluctuation and reduced gas consumption.

“Previous burners were not equipped with this metal gauze and heated the cylinder directly through the large burner holes, causing the temperature to drop more radically when the burner stopped and requiring more energy to reach the same level again,” says John Balman.

For its 40th anniversary, Imesa launched its FI series of flatwork ironers. According to Monica Sironi, the line features a system of chest control that allows the same chest pressure across the whole length of the roller.

The patented safety system includes a no-panic bar located under the collecting tray and the full length of the roller. The bar can be pressed with the knee from any position, immediately releasing the chest away from the roller, preventing linen – or limbs – from getting caught in the ironer. The ironing temperature, speed and chest pressure can be modified using a keypad and programs can be stored for future use.

“In a laundry the ironing phase is very important, and we wanted to put an ironer on the market that could give higher quality results,” Sironi says. “We are sure that we are now marketing a new generation of flatwork ironers.”