LaundryTODAY discusses what going steamless means for today’s laundry with Gerard O’Neill, President & CEO of American Laundry Systems.
Q : What has brought the concept of a steamless laundry to your attention?
A : We at American Laundry Systems have been going to Europe for a number of years now and looking at the advances they are making with their laundry processes. Europe has the reputation of producing cutting edge, state-of-the-art laundry technology - more advanced then the typical American laundry. For the most part, Europe is advanced on the production, finishing and washroom side with state-of-the-art systems. But at the back of the house, with boilers, water systems, water reuse and reclamation - we have the advantage.
However, the one thing that they did do is design the steamless concept. Their energy costs are much higher than ours and their operational costs are much higher than ours. So it was their way of jumping ahead. Where we recycle and reclaim in the US, they typically don’t. But they jumped that era of advancement and went to steamless.
Q: What exactly does it mean to go steamless?
A : The concept of steamless works like this—to eliminate using steam to heat water or to heat the equipment that is being used on the finishing side. What American Laundry Systems did is that we educated ourselves on the steamless process, and then realized that we can use that technology here in the United States but we can also use our technology of reusing water and heat reclamation combined with the steamless concept. Now, we’ve leapfrogged Europe on the steamless technology.
Q: What are the advantages of going steamless?
A : When a laundry goes steamless and plugs in the utility savings while considering the ROI, there is an advantage. But when you take the steamless technology from Europe and combine it with our technology of reusing and recycling water – there is a greater advantage for a facility when considering utility costs.
West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry was the first large scale healthcare steamless laundry in North American. Now, they are 100 percent steamless. However there are other facilities that have dabbled or experimented with going steamless but they are not near the 100 percent. Some facilities may have purchased thermal ironers but they still use steam to make hot water or use hot water in the tunnel washers.
Steamless is a catch phrase and at present out of the six new plants that we will be building in the next 18 months – 50 percent – or three of them, possibly a fourth, will be steamless. That is turning the industry on its head. I think that the steamless technology is here to stay and the wave of the future. I believe that if you’re building a new plant or retrofitting an old plant with new state-of-the-art equipment – steamless is definitely for you.
Q: Should everyone consider going steamless?
A : Absolutely not. It’s not for everyone. Industrial laundries would be a clear exception. They need steam because they do a lot of pressing and hand pressing, dry cleaning pressing, etc. It’s not for them.
Now, steamless works really well for general linen, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and medical plants. They don’t do a lot of pressing – if any. But you can still use the steamless concept with a customer who has minimum requirements for presses because you can always buy a small steam generator and use it for that department alone. Those types of laundries can be 95 percent steamless.
Q : Are there other exceptions?
A : Yes. Not everybody can afford or can get a budget together for financing all new equipment either when they are rebuilding a new plant or retrofitting a plant. Sometimes your budget will not allow you to buy all new thermal ironers and you may need to keep your steam ironers which do a good job. But if you are going to hold on to your ironers, then steamless doesn’t make a great case. If you have to have a boiler anyway to make steam for your ironers, then you might as well use it to make hot water for your washroom.
But for those who just need a little steam, they can purchase a small steam generator – a box the size of a large air conditioning unit. You’d buy that to do your presses and everything else in the plant would then be steamless. That pays for itself for sure. But if a laundry is going to keep 2, 3, 4, or more ironers, then you’ve got to buy a boiler to provide steam to those pieces of equipment.
My philosophy is that if you have to buy a large boiler, 200 or 300 horsepower – you might as well use it to heat the water for your washroom. And there are very efficient boilers out there – boiler technology has advanced in the last few years. They may not be as efficient and green as steamless, but they are very good.
Ultimately though, the steamless concept drastically reduces your carbon footprint. Not only is that good for the environment, it is also very attractive when you’re with new green eco-friendly clients.
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