Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Should You Consider Purchasing Used Laundry Equipment?

In my first blog post, I shared how my obsession with mechanics began. That life-long passion has translated into this philosophy for me -- If is it mechanical and parts are available, it can be repaired. That translates into good news for you. There is an opportunity in our industry to buy both good used commercial laundry equipment and used dry cleaning equipment, but you need to know what you’re getting.

Here's a huge tip to help you make a wise purchase on good used dry cleaning equipment - get the serial number and do some research. Here's why - on some used commercial dry cleaning equipment, such as a used Unipress laundry legger, parts are no longer available. If it's a machine where the parts are no longer available, I would recommend stopping the process right then. It doesn't matter how good the deal or how good of an electronics whiz you are, it's not worth it.

If the parts are still available, the seller has knowledge of the operation of the machine, and you believe the machine to be in good condition, then the next step is to determine if the price is fair. Once you settle on a price, then ask for a 30 day parts warranty. If they refuse to do that and it's not but a few years old, take a pass. There's a red flag there.

Used commercial washers are a little different. You'll still need to get the serial number to check for parts availability. Most parts increase in price with the age of the washer because they cost more to stock and are difficult to obtain due to low sales volume. Here are two huge tips on used commercial washers. First, you also need to consider removal and reinstallation costs. Second, be sure to check out the bearings and seals. If they aren't good, you'll have no platform to work from. At best it will turn into a big, expensive job from a labor and parts standpoint. To check for bearing wear, lift up on the drum at the door. If there is any play, then take a pass. Again, ask for a 30 day parts warranty if you decide to purchase the machine.

The bottom line is this - I would not hesitate to purchase a used piece of equipment as long as parts are still available, the operator shares first-hand experience and pictures, and there is no sign of excessive wear. Now go out, do your homework, and get a great deal!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Keep The Air Flowing

Lots of people say I keep the hot air flowing but enough about me.....

Air flow during the dry cleaning dry cycle and cool down is incredibly important. Why? There are two reasons. First, when the air flow is restricted by clogged filters and coils it extends the dry cycle. Second, you can get incomplete drying resulting in poor solvent mileage. How does it get restricted? Lint just builds up over time.

In a perfect setup here’s how it should work: The air during the dry cycle flows freely from the blower through the steam coil into the wheel then through the condenser housing (refrigeration coil) and button trap. The cycle repeats until the sensor moves to the next step.

Within this cycle are several filters. What I find when I visit plants is filters that are in poor condition and badly clogged from inadequate cleaning. All the filters should be vacuumed thoroughly and kept clean without embedded lint for proper air flow. Filters should also be replaced if they aren’t in good condition. If your filters have holes, all those little lint bunnies will pass through the holes to land in your condenser coil. This also slows air flow, reduces heat transfer, and prolongs the dry cycle.

The solution is simple. Clean all filters after each load. Keep an eye on the condition of your filters and replace those that are worn out. Once a year pull out your condenser coil and spray with coil cleaner then rinse.

The bottom line is this. If you keep your coil and filters clean, you’ll enjoy faster more complete drying times; produce more loads per hour; and save in labor, utility, and solvent costs.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reducing Utility Costs

When I make statements like the one following, I show how long I’ve been in the business or perhaps worse – my age. Back when I ran a plant, your boiler came on at 6:00 a.m. and went off hopefully by 6:00 p.m. IF you were lucky enough to be done with production. Back then, utilities ran just 3 – 4% of volume, and there was no need to have to control them.

Today utilities can run 7 – 9% of volume and are a critical management item for any operation. Because I am in and out of plants daily, I regularly see steam puffing out of return tank vents. I also hear water running out of the overflow when I step into boiler rooms. That’s money up in smoke or down the drain. Here are a few tips to help you control utility costs:

1. Check traps regularly for blow by.
•The easiest way is to buy an Infrared Temperature Gun.
•Take a reading on both the inlet and outlet of the trap.
•It should have a 40 plus degree differential.
•This indicates the trap is working properly.
•If it’s not working properly, repair or replace.

2. Insulate all steam lines – supply and return.
•This prevents steam loss and keeps the plant more comfortable in the summer.
•It’s also a safety requirement for pipes up to 7’ high.

3. Put a thermometer in one of the threaded couplings in the return tank for the boiler.
•Monitor the temperature in the tank with the ideal being around 180 degrees F.
•A higher temperature indicates trap blow by.
•Check for valves leaking between the boiler and return tank.
•A good way to determine if the check valves are working is to test the temperature of the feed water line from the pump to the boiler. It should also be 180 or less.

4. Be sure you have adequate make up air for combustion for maximum boiler efficiency
•A good rule of thumb is ½” of open incoming outside air for every 1,000 BTU’s of the boiler
•Weather is also a factor – both temperature and humidity. Keep in mind, you can control a lot but unfortunately not the weather.

5. Check your return tank float level.
•Make sure it seals off when your desired level is made.
•Be sure that level is BELOW the over flow of the return tank.

Running a dry cleaning operation isn’t like it was when I ran one – you just took care of customers and the rest fell into place. With reduced volume and smaller profit margins, we have to be cost conscious. We sure don’t want our profit going up in smoke or down the drain. I hope these tips help you increase your bottom line. Look for more cost saving tips in future blog posts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My name is Kevin Lawson, and I am obsessed with dry cleaning and laundry equipment

When I was five, I often visited King Auto Parts in King, North Carolina with my Grandfather. King Auto Parts, my Grandfather’s favorite hangout, was where he bought me my first ever SK ½ Drive Socket and Ratchet Set. I’ll never forget how excited I was as I carried that set in the green metal case home. I still have it today. In all seriousness, that ratchet set changed my life. As soon as I got home, I began taking apart and reassembling everything within reach. Figuring out how things work became my passion.

After high school I held a few jobs before joining A Cleaner World in 1983 as a dry cleaning plant manager. This position not only allowed me to continue dabbling with mechanical stuff but it also allowed me to fulfill another passion. I like to talk, and I like people. As the years went by, my role expanded to include managing multiple locations, scouting for new locations, and dealing with franchisees. In 2000, I was asked to head up the maintenance division of A Cleaner World which at that time included over 40 locations. It was a dream come true.

Since then, Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company has gone from being the maintenance division of A Cleaner World to a business that also designs, installs, services, and sells all kinds of dry cleaning and laundry equipment including Parker Boiler, Electrolux, Wascomat, Unipress, Kleen-Rite, and more. Plus over the years I’ve hired guys just like me – guys with a passion for solving mechanical problems. In fact, I’ve seen them perform some pretty amazing feats in rather unique circumstances. I look forward to sharing some of those stories with you.

It is my sincere hope that this blog will be able to provide answers to common questions and problems associated with dry cleaning and laundry equipment while having a little fun along the way. And when I say I really like to talk and I really like people – I really do. I hope to hear from you.