Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Preventing Commercial Dryer Fires

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, clothes dryers account for roughly 15,600 fires annually, and the number one contributing factor to dryer fires is failing to clean built up lint.  But homeowners aren’t the only folks forgetting to properly clean the lint from their dryers, those of us in the commercial laundry and dry cleaning business are guilty too.  Given that October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week, we thought this might be a good time to remind you why this simple little task is so important.

Below are some photos of the inside of a dryer from a nearby hotel that hadn’t been properly maintained.

The accumulation of this much lint could have blocked the airflow and caused heat to buildup, ultimately resulting in a fire.  Not only are dryers a common cause for home fires, commercial dryers are also a leading cause of fires in the commercial laundry and dry cleaning industry.  Thankfully, the owners of the above dryer made a service call, so Tri-State pulled it apart, cleaned it thoroughly, and now it’s running properly.  To help avoid a commercial dryer fire and to keep your commercial dryer running efficiently, Tri-State recommends the following:
  1. Clean the lint compartment after every load.  When cleaning the filter, check for items that might have gotten trapped, such as dryer sheets, which can hamper proper air flow.
  2. Monthly, check the duct for lint and other items that might have made it past the filter.  Also, vacuum the exhaust duct monthly to ensure proper airflow.
  3. Biannually or annually, have the entire dryer, including the lint filter system, thoroughly cleaned and maintained by a professional.
These three simple steps will not only help reduce the chance of fire in your facility, but they will also help clothes dry more efficiently, and they will help keep your utility costs down.  If you need help with commercial dryer maintenance, feel free to send us a message or give us a call at 1.866.885.5218.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Configuring a Dry Cleaning Plant

A customer of ours recently experienced a fire in their central plant, so Tri-State was asked to help relocate and install equipment in a temporary facility more than half the size of the original plant.  It’s interesting -- I’ve been in a lot of dry cleaning production facilities and have seen what I thought to be smart and efficient layouts as well as poorly designed layouts.  Plus, I’ve been in this industry for over 33 years and always felt I had a good grasp on how to properly layout commercial dry cleaning and laundry equipment for maximum productivity, that is until we underwent this exercise.  If I am being completely honest, we all, including me, learned a lot about how much production space is really required to achieve maximum productivity.  Here are three things I learned and would like to share with you thanks to my recent experience:
  1. Have a plan with a final goal in mind.  In our case, the customer had a catastrophe and had to set up a new facility, but many times the need for reconfiguring or moving is to accommodate an increase in volume.  Making these sorts of changes can be really expensive and may not all fit into the budget at one time.  Don’t cut corners; instead consider implementing a plan in phases until you reach your ultimate goal.
  2. Just because you are great at operating a dry cleaning plant doesn’t mean you will also be great at designing one.  If you’ve been in the business as long as I have, then you’ve experienced a reduction in piece count over the years.  Because volumes aren’t what they used to be, it can pay to take a closer look at each station to see if there is an opportunity to reduce steps or to see if one person can handle multiple pieces of equipment.  If you are concerned about productivity and layout, consider hiring a professional dry cleaning designer.
  3. Bigger isn’t always better.  It’s so tempting, since you’re already in the middle of the project, to get the biggest, best, fastest, coolest, most state-of-the-art piece of dry cleaning or laundry equipment out there, but do this with every single piece and suddenly you’ve gone way over your budget.  Be realistic with your choices. 
If you find yourself needing to reconfigure or move your business, don’t hesitate to give Tri-State a call at 1.866.885.5218.  We’ll be glad to help you figure out what you need so that you can maximize both your productivity and resources.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Meet Chris Lawson

It is safe to say that Chris Lawson grew up in this business.  His dad, Kevin Lawson, is the Vice President of Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company, so Chris started helping at age 16 with installs and preventative maintenance during summer breaks.  After graduating from high school, he started working full-time doing repair jobs and has slowly worked his way into Service/Parts/Sales Manager.  I would call him a ‘Jack of all Trades’, given his ability to do everything from solving a mechanical issue to tracking down hard to find parts to gutting and installing a dry cleaning or laundry facility.  His dad says he’s ‘better than me at telling customers what part is needed for repair and how it applies to the machine.’  Given what I know about his dad, I’d say that’s a pretty big compliment.

Chris is an interesting guy – fantastic family man and incredible sharp-shooter, but I’m guessing that you’d like to know how he can help your business.  Here are five things that will show you what an asset he could be to your business:
  1. His knowledge of dry cleaning and laundry parts is unreal.  He’s configured a system to where we stock the most commonly needed and the most critical laundry, dry cleaning and coin operated machine parts to reduce customer down time.  Tri-State mostly stocks Wascomat, Electrolux, Unimac, ADC, Speed Queen, Parker Boiler, Forenta, Unipress, and Ajax, but Chris can quickly and easily track down any part when given the right information.  More importantly, with his years of experience, relationships with our techs, and connections with dealers around the country, he can also track down parts even if information is lacking.
  2. In his time in this industry, he’s noticed significant improvements in the way the equipment works.  For dry cleaning, all of the new presses are operated by computer boards, and for laundry, extract speeds of washing machines have increased greatly along with programming via Bluetooth.  While these advances help with trouble shooting, the down side is that advances in technology usually come with an increase in pricing.
  3. He likes helping customers improve their quality, productivity, and overall laundry processes.  To be successful in this area, Chris believes he needs to know a little bit on just about everything.  That’s why he goes to every available manufacturer’s training and tours their headquarters when given the opportunity.  
  4. He enjoys going above and beyond for his customers.  For instance, he once got into his truck at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and drove to Virginia to meet a customer and give him a boiler part so that the customer wouldn’t be down come Monday morning.  And there was the time that he once helped our install crew completely gut and rebuild a dry cleaners in Lumberton, North Carolina over the fourth of July holiday, taking 97 hours and being completed in five days.
  5. Just as he gets great satisfaction about going above and beyond, he is equally as frustrated when he spends hours looking for a part that no one has or can get.  One of the things he dislikes the most is not being able to come through for a customer.
In closing, Chris wanted to share the following piece of advice: “Always keep your eye on quality.  Something may be enticing because it’s cheaper, but quality always wins in the end.”  Sound advice from a super-qualified guy.  If you are having issues with getting the dry cleaning and laundry parts you need, consider giving Chris a call at 866.885.5218.  He’ll move heaven and earth to try and help you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Boiler Room Due Diligence

I often wonder if other people’s brains work like mine.  I think about a topic, which leads to another topic, then another, and before I know it, I’ve created this whole big-budget movie-like scenario in my head that warrants an Emmy.  In last month’s blog post, we discussed common causes for low-water levels in boilers, and writing that post led to a number of thoughts, which climaxed with a not-so-pleasant explosion-like ending.  I realize that is taking it a bit far, but boilers, if not properly maintained, can fail, leading to a potentially dangerous situation.  And one thing I can say for certain is that most folks do not properly care for their commercial boilers.

Here are 5 easy things you can do to both keep your boiler in good working order and to avoid a potential boiler room disaster:
  1. Safety first – Always wear the appropriate clothing, shoes, and safety gear when working on your boiler.
  2. Follow procedures – Create a set of guidelines to follow for proper startup and shutdown, and make sure that whoever is responsible for following the guidelines understands and follows them carefully and consistently. 
  3. Preventative maintenance – Set up a routine preventative maintenance program according to the manufacturers’ specifications, and be sure to document each one along with any unusual findings.
  4. Inspections – Perform regular inspections and address any issues found during the inspections immediately.
  5. Boiler room – The boiler’s burner needs the appropriate amount of air circulation to work properly.  If there isn’t proper circulation, the boiler could produce carbon monoxide, so avoid storing unnecessary items in the boiler room.
If your new or used boiler is in need of attention and you don’t know where to start, call Tri-State Laundry Equipment Co. at 866-885-5218.  We are glad to offer assistance with advice, service, parts, or equipment replacement.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Top 6 Causes for Low-Water Levels in Boilers

Boilers have been around for over two hundred years.  I believe it’s one of, if not the, most important pieces of equipment in any business, and yet, it is also the most neglected.  You can find a work-around if a press isn’t functioning properly, but if your boiler goes down…..then your entire business is down.  There are a number of reasons why a boiler might go down, but the one I want to focus on today is low-water levels.  Maintaining the proper water level is vital when it comes to proper and safe boiler operation, because if the internal water level drops too low, the safety triggers are activated and the boiler shuts down.

I’ve worked on lots of boilers in my 30 years in this industry, so based on my experiences, I’ve come up with a list of the top six culprits, along with solutions, to low-water level issues.

  1. The return tank fill valve is stuck, preventing water from filling the return tank.  Before doing any other trouble shooting, check the sight glass for proper level.
  2. Corroded or scaled low-water safety probes will keep your boiler from sensing the proper water level.  To remedy this problem, simply remove the probes, clean them with sandpaper, place them back in their proper place, and check all wiring to the probes for proper continuity.
  3. A faulty check valve, whether leaking or stuck, will not allow water in to the boiler.  For this, replace or rebuild the check valves between the feed water pump and the boiler. The most common combination is a swing check near the pump and a spring check before the boiler.  Make sure the checks you use are working steam pressure rated.
  4. Corroded piping between the makeup tank and the boiler will not allow the pump to be supplied with water. First, check the y-strainer between the makeup tank and the pump check to ensure the screen isn’t clogged.  Next, check the piping all the way to the boiler for corrosion build up.
  5. If the return water is too hot, the pump could cavitate when it runs.  The optimal water temperature for a boiler is 180 degrees, and if the temperature gets too high, the pump will not fill a pressurized boiler. A good way to temporarily solve the issue is to run water from a hose over the pump head to cool it so it can pump until the cause is determined and repaired.
  6. The return system feed pump is too weak to provide the proper water feed.  Check this by slowly closing down the valve in the feed line between the pump and the boiler while listening for a binding noise in the pump.  If you know that your checks and piping are in good shape then you can either rebuild the pump or purchase a new one.  To make rebuilding simpler, there are kits available depending on your mechanical abilities, but if you have never attempted this before, I would suggest a new pump so that you don’t risk being down because you couldn’t complete the rebuild.
As you can see, there are a number of causes for low-water level issues, and good trouble shooting is vital when trying to determine the cause of the problem.  This is when, if you don’t have the mechanical knowledge yourself, a relationship with a good service technician comes in.  If you are having boiler issues and don’t know where to start, Tri-State Laundry Equipment will gladly help.  Simply call us at 866.885.5218, and we will be happy to offer assistance.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


There are so many wonderful things about summer, except for the heat.  While temperatures outside will be in the 90’s, temperatures inside a dry cleaning plant can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.  Such heat can lead to employee dehydration and fatigue.  To help combat that, Tri-State has come up with a few ideas to hopefully help you and your staff beat the summer heat. 

Adjusting hours – Adjusting production times to start and end earlier in the day is by far the cheapest alternative, provided customer needs can be met. 
Cooling Systems – There are both installed and portable cooling systems.  While both are effective at cooling, they tend to be expensive to install, run, and maintain.  When it comes to installed systems, Tri-State uses MagicAire Air Handlers that have water-cooled coils in conjunction with Kleen Rite Water Chillers to cool the coils.  MagicAire Air Handlers come in a variety of sizes, and you can purchase the appropriately sized chiller accordingly.  When shopping for your plant, Tri-State recommends staying at or below 2 drops sized at 8” per ton of chiller for spot cooling.  When piping, pipe just above the work station so that the air comes out above the employee’s head.  Portable cooling systems work well; in essence, they are air conditioning units with a 6” hose to point at employees.  There is, however, a flaw with this particular solution.  The air intake gets clogged with lint because many operators fail to properly clean its filter; it is an issue that can ultimately cause damage to the unit. 
Area Fans – Area fans are an economical solution to help make the inside of a dry cleaning plant more bearable during hot summer months.  Tri-State has found that the best area fans for use in dry cleaning plants come from Global Industrial.  They can be moved around in work areas as well as directly mounted to the wall.  While they obviously don’t cool the air, when properly placed, they do a great job at keeping the air moving.
Swamp Coolers – If you are in an area with relatively low humidity, a swamp cooler works well at cooling, and it can be fairly inexpensive to install and maintain.  Here’s how they work – swamp coolers are open systems that blow air into the building drawing it through filter pads soaked in water from an on-board tank and pump system. Unlike air conditioners, where air passes over a set of coils filled with a refrigerant, swamp coolers cool the air down by evaporation, and they use a lot less energy than air conditioning units. 
Ceiling Exhaust Fans – We believe this, in conjunction with small fans blowing on workers, is the most economical option for cooling dry cleaning plants, provided the exhaust fans are properly positioned.  Here’s a great example -- the shirt laundry finishing area produces the most heat because of the required operating steam pressure needed for proper finishing and production time.  Placing exhaust ceiling fans above the shirt finishing area (because they are the greatest source of heat in the building), allows the heat to be drawn out, so it naturally cools the space.  But be sure to use caution when choosing the fan size and designing the space because you can put too much negative pressure on the building.     

If you have questions about combating the heat in your business, please give us a call at 866.885.5218.  We are happy to help.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tips for Purchasing a Good Quality Used Boiler

Over the last several years, we’ve shared with you why we like purchasing good quality used dry cleaning and laundry equipment over brand new.  Replacing your old, worn out boiler with a good quality used boiler is also an effective and efficient way to spend your resources.  There are typically two types of boilers that dry cleaners use – Vertical Tubeless Boilers and Watertube Boilers.  Before you start shopping for a used boiler, we’ve come up with a list of tips to help you with your due diligence.

Check the following on Vertical Tubeless Boilers:

1.    Was it chemically treated, and if so, do you have the routine water analysis reports?  If not, a trusted boiler technician can do an internal inspection and determine the current condition.
2.    What was its inspection, maintenance routine, and daily blow down regiment?  Proper boiler maintenance ensures it runs efficiently, keeps utility costs down, and most importantly – increases the life of the boiler.  Signs of improper chemical treatment and consistent blow down include pitting of the water jacket and scale build up. 
3.    Are there any leaks?  Leaks allow steam to eat away at the metal.  Specifically check for leaks between the boiler sections, hand-hole gaskets, and piping.
4.    Have the flues been properly maintained?  This is an area that is rarely checked or properly maintained but is still important as it significantly impacts the boilers performance and its ability to expel flue gas and build steam pressure efficiently.
5.    Are the controls in working order?  While the condition of the controls is important, it’s not critical as they are easily replaced.

Check the following on Watertube Boilers:

Determining whether a used Watertube Boiler meets the necessary criteria is a bit easier than for Vertical Tubeless Boilers.  First, start with investigating its chemical treatment, the water analysis reports, inspections, maintenance, and blow down regiment.  Next, do an internal tube and steam drum inspection to see if there is any pitting or scale buildup within the tubes and steam drum. 

On a side note, Tri-State Laundry Equipment likes Watertube Boilers for dry cleaning operations because of their fast start up time and ability to start and stop each day.  You also won’t have the flues to contend with if it’s an atmospheric tube type like with Parker Boiler’s Watertube Boiler.   If that is the case, then inspection, cleaning of each cast iron burner, and cleaning its gas orifice makes the burner system like new again.   But keep in mind that all other brands of Watertube Boilers that are not atmospheric will require the same attention as the Tubeless Boiler in respect to the flue system.

If you are in the market for a used boiler and have questions, please feel free to call our office at 866-885-5218.  We are happy to help.