Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What Size Boiler Do I Need?

Last month we discussed the different fuel source options for commercial boilers, showing the cost savings and other benefits of choosing natural gas or propane over other options.  Obviously based on last month’s post, Tri-State Laundry Equipment prefers natural gas boilers, and we want to continue the boiler conversation focusing on what size natural gas boiler best fits your business.  To determine this, we’re going to talk in terms of BHP (boiler horsepower), which is a boiler’s capacity to produce steam.  One BHP is the amount of energy required to produce 34.5 pounds of steam per hour at pressure and temperature of 0 psig and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

When I try to determine boiler need, I use two sources: first, a spec sheet from Unipress that provides finishing equipment technical specifications (all pieces of dry cleaning and laundry equipment have a BHP number), and second, years of experience.  For instance, I know that a dry cleaning utility press is rated at 1 BHP as is a dry cleaning legger or any other dry cleaning press that uses steam to heat and steam emitted for finishing.  Pants toppers with a form and emit steam to condition are rated at ¾ BHP, where form finishers which are any bag form that finishes dresses and tops and blows air and steam are rated at 2 BHP.  I tend to rate puff irons at ¼ BHP regardless of whether they are single or triples because they don’t emit steam all the time, and they consume a very small amount when at rest.

We all have our own unique set of talents, and mine is knowing all these numbers off the top of my head.  But for the remainder of the population, pressing equipment manufacturers provide a BHP number for all their laundry, shirt laundry, and dry cleaning pressing equipment as well as for dry cleaning machines and washers and dryers.  Sometimes a little digging might be required, but this is an important number to know when outfitting a new plant or when purchasing a single piece of equipment simply for an upgrade.  Once you have all your BHP numbers, figure in about 5% for header heat loss but be careful not to oversize unless the customer demands it.  And when it’s time to replace your boiler, don’t simply replace it with your current size.  Instead, run through this exercise to see if a larger size is necessary.

Determining your required boiler size can feel a bit complicated and overwhelming, but an experienced boiler system sales and design person can come up with a really close calculation.  And of course, Tri-State Laundry Equipment is always here to help whether is it’s dry cleaning or laundry boilers or dry cleaning or laundry equipment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Choosing the Right Boiler Based on Fuel Type

While there are a number of fuel options for boilers, with some of them being quite unusual or messy (think biomass or coal), we’re going to focus on three for several practical reasons.  First, the last thing you want is an employee shoveling pulverized coal into your boiler and then heading over to press white shirts.  Second, it can be difficult to round up burnable plant material and debris from wood construction.  You get the idea.  For our purposes, let’s talk about the following three:
  • Gas Fired – Gas fired boilers burn Natural Gas.  Natural Gas is chiefly Methane, but when it is removed from the ground, it may also contain Butane, Ethane, Pentane, and Propane.  These other products are stripped out before the Natural Gas is sent down the pipeline.  Natural Gas is one of the most efficient fuels to use for boiler operations because it is relatively inexpensive, energy efficient, dependable, and environmentally friendly.  While Propane is used in similar ways, it is quite different from Methane.  For instance, a smaller amount of Propane is required to produce the same amount of heat.  The good news is that it is easy to compare costs because both are done based on BTU ratings.  To learn more on how to compare costs, click here.  There is a down side to installing gas – the initial investment can be rather costly depending on your current set up.  We suggest bringing in a qualified technician to provide an accurate estimate of what is involved so that you can take the initial cost into consideration. 
  • Oil Fired – Oil fired boilers are particularly popular for homes and businesses that are not connected to gas mains.  There are several downsides to going with oil.  For instance, the cost of oil can vary greatly.  You need to have an oil tank onsite or nearby and have oil delivered.  Finally, oil fired boilers require more maintenance and attention because of dirt and soot buildup.
  • Electric – Compared to gas or oil boilers, electric boilers are more efficient because there’s no need for an exhaust flue for waste; therefore, no heat escapes from the system.  They also tend to take up less room than other boilers and can be more cost effective to install.   Plus on top of all of that, they are quiet.  On the downside, electricity is more expensive in most parts of the United States. 
Let’s do some cost comparing.  Our benchmark is Natural Gas which will give us 1,075,000 BTU’s per 1,000 cubic feet at a cost of approximately $3.87.  Propane will give us 91,000 BTU’s per gallon at approximately $.86 per gallon, which calculates to 11.8 gallons of Propane for a cost of $10.14.  Oil is our next fuel choice at 138,500 BTU’s per gallon priced currently at $1.59 per gallon, which translates to 7.8 gallons of fuel oil at a cost of $12.40.  Our last option of electricity requires 1-KW to produce 3,413 BTU’s at an average cost of $.1031 per KW and that translates to $37.80.

Summary:

To create the same quantity of steam, it costs

Natural Gas    $3.87

Propane    $10.14

Oil        $12.40

Electricity    $37.80

When you take a look at all the factors, not only is there a big difference when it comes to costs, keep in mind that Natural Gas is clean burning, and oil requires burner adjustments and maintenance to keep it in proper tune.  While there are some positives to electricity, the high cost makes it impractical.  Even though everyone doesn’t have access to Natural Gas, it would be beneficial to find a location that has it or petition your local gas company to expand into your area. 

If you need help choosing a boiler, feel free to contact Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company.  We are always glad to help.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Solving Compressed Air Leaks

When running a dry cleaning plant, we seem to come up with all kinds of work-arounds to temporarily resolve machine issues just so we can get through production.  Compressed air issues are no exception – we simply solve this problem by increasing the regulator pressure, but doing this should not be a long-term fix.  If you are having compressed air issues, here’s what Tri-State Laundry Equipment recommends:

  1. Check each machine’s air connection, which is typically into a coalescent filter and an air pressure regulator.  Ninety percent of the time, the filters we see are leaking air from the drain.  This is easily solved by either disassembling and cleaning or by a kit from the maker for a rebuild.  These kits contain the needed seals which have gone bad; the same applies to the regulator.
  2. Examine each machine by closing off the air supply to the machines then opening only the air to the machine you are checking for leaks.  This will make it easier to pinpoint the location of the leak.  If the machine has vacuum or blower motor, you’ll need to either turn them off or disconnect the power to the motor so the machine can function, and you can hear and find the leaks more easily.  Specifically check fittings and cylinders as they are the most common locations for leaks.  Once they’ve been located, you’ll need fittings, air tubing, and cylinder repair kits to make the repairs.  Repeat the process on every machine until they’ve all been thoroughly examined, identified as leak-free, or all repairs have been made.
We realize this is quite a process.  I’ve been guilty of letting this kind of issue go in order to complete production, but I promise that the effort is worth it.  In the long run, having a properly operating machine with constant air pressure at the right pressure will reduce wear and tear on your air compressor, help reduce your utility costs, increase the quality of your product, and improve overall productivity.

If your business is struggling with air pressure issues, contact Tri-State Laundry Equipment at 1.866.885.5218.  We are glad to help.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Caring for Your Air Compressor

Good quality dry cleaning is part science and part art.  Over the years, dry cleaners have become more and more reliant on compressors, in part for the role they play in the proper function of a plant’s equipment but also for precise amounts of air on demand for things like specialized, detailed work.  So if your goal is to provide customers with bright, clean, crisply finished garments, but you are using dirty air, then you are fighting an uphill battle.  Luckily, it’s not difficult to use clean compressed air to run your equipment and to clean customer’s clothes. 

Below are some simple steps to keep your air compressor operating at peak efficiency:
  • Intake Vents: If your intake vent is dirty or clogged, it will force your air compressor to work harder.  Regularly check and clean your vents, especially if you’re in a dusty environment. 
  • Belts: Inspect them for excessive wear and damage, replacing them as needed.  Also be sure to check the tension, ensuring the belt can travel freely.
  • Air filters: Exceptionally dirty or blocked air filters allow dirt from outside in, requiring your compressor to work harder to intake air.  Check your filters often and change them if they have a buildup of dust and dirt.  
  • Oil: Consult the manufacturer’s guide to make sure you are using the proper oil.  Some manufacturers recommend non-detergent oil or synthetic oil.  Check the oil level on a daily basis to make sure it isn’t running low.  Finally, change out the oil every 500-1,000 hours to keep your compressor functioning properly.
  • Separator:  If you allow water to accumulate, it will eventually get pulled back into the system.  Check and empty your separator regularly, and replace the element every 2,000 hours of operation.
  • Heat Exchangers: Dirty heat exchangers won’t function at their max potential.  Cleaning them regularly will make it easier for them to keep temps down. 
Being proactive and properly maintaining your air compressor translates to money saved in the end because you reduce your chance of down time, will produce a quality product consistently, and your equipment will last longer.  But maintenance isn’t the only air compressor related topic we need to discuss.  It’s also important, especially important, to detect and solve air compressor leaks immediately.  Next month we’ll tackle that issue.  In the meantime, if you have an air compressor issue and need help, just contact Tri-State at 1.866.885.5218

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Coin-Operated Laundry Equipment

I’ve never really liked doing laundry, but I particularly disliked doing laundry while I was in college.  It was so incredibly inconvenient to lug a week’s worth of laundry to the laundromat, along with a pile of quarters, and then spend the next several hours babysitting my laundry while trying to study too.  I think my biggest frustration, though, was how long it took for my clothes to dry.  Many times, I had to put a second round of quarters in, so between the time and the expense, I really began to dread laundry day.

It’s funny that I have such vivid memories of college laundry.  I could describe the place in great detail, though I couldn’t tell you what brand the washers and dryers were.  Of course, I had no idea I would be writing about coin-operated washers and dryers twenty-five years later.  But as you think about your coin-operated laundry facility, what do you want your customers to remember?  Do you want them to dread laundry day, or would you rather they have memories of how quickly and efficiently they were able to get that weekly chore completed so they could move on to other things?

When it comes to coin-operated laundry equipment, Tri-State Laundry Equipment looks for brands that will provide customers with easy, convenient, quick, and reliable service, and that’s why Tri-State features American Dryer Corporation and Wascomat coin-operated equipment.  Dryers come in heavy duty double-stack or single-stack options, and washers come in a single-stack front-loading style.  Both washers and dryers have a coin pay or card pay option.

While your customers will appreciate the easy pay, easy use, and quick washing and drying results, you’ll appreciate the energy efficiency, low maintenance, and access to interchangeable parts.  If you are in the market for either new or used coin-operated washers or dryers, contact Tri-State Laundry Equipment at 866.885.5218.  We’ll be glad to answer any questions and help you determine which products will work best for you and your customers.  

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.