For some time now, higher-education institutions have been implementing sustainability programs that are not only healthy for the Earth, but also healthy for the schools’ finances.

Beside replacing and updating the usual–boilers, windows and roofs–schools should also look at upgrading their student laundry facilities. Student laundry facilities use an enormous amount of water, gas and electricity. When these facilities are upgraded with energy-efficient machines and advanced controls, schools can save thousands of dollars in utility costs while also generating increased revenue.

With the right machine and control mix, schools can achieve their sustainability goals and great savings, while continuing to provide students with a top-notch amenity.

Choosing a sustainable laundry service provider

Before a school can make the necessary upgrades to its laundry room, it needs to contract with the right laundry service provider. When looking through the request for proposals, look for a provider that offers multi-housing laundry equipment that is built on a commercial platform. Some laundry manufacturers sell their residential machines with a vended option. However, commercial machines are built to withstand more cycles than residential machines and will last considerably longer. This is critical, because it means optimization of usage and a continuous stream of revenue without downward spikes due to machine breakdown.

Your laundry service provider also should offer an alternative pay option to coin, such as using a campus card system. Some controls can be networked with the campus’ card system, enabling students to use their campus card to pay for laundry services. This is a big convenience for students because they won’t need to get change in order to complete laundry tasks.

Another high-tech option that students will appreciate is an online service that provides information on which laundry facilities have available washers and dryers. Wash alerts also send text messages and emails to students that alert them when their laundry is completed, so they can manage other tasks in between cycles.

Equipment mix is key

After an institution has chosen a laundry service provider, finding the right equipment mix is essential. Many schools are still using top-load washers. These machines typically use about 31.5 gallons of water per cycle. By switching to front loaders, water usage will be reduced greatly. Newer front load washing machines with ENERGY STAR ratings use only about 10.9 gallons of water per cycle, a 20.6 gallon decrease. The reduction in water alone will save the school tens of thousands of dollars a year in water utility costs.

Another option is to introduce large equipment into the mix. For example, bringing in a couple 22 pound washers and 25 pound drying tumblers offers students the opportunity to clean larger loads of clothing and also bedding, helping to increase throughput. This helps schools generate more revenue by moving students in and out of laundry rooms quicker.

Gaining complete control

Advanced controls are giving schools more control over managing their laundry.

With new cutting-edge microprocessor controls, facility managers now are given unparalleled ability to reduce water and energy costs through advanced programmability. And with management capabilities, automated secured audit reports can be generated on machines to gain valuable insight on collections and usage, helping to better manage the laundry aspect of the university’s business.

Schools also can curb gas usage with cycle modifier options. With advanced controls, facility managers can set higher prices for hot water usage. Therefore, if students choose to use hot water, the gas to heat the water is at least paid for by the user, not the university. Cycle modifiers also enable schools to set premium prices for medium and heavy soiled clothing that needs to be washed longer, offering a way to pay for the increased energy needed to run a longer cycle.

These new controls can also be networked to a central computer system, enabling facility managers to access data on machine use.

Managers can monitor, audit and diagnose machines from their computers. This feature also can reduce programming time. These reports provide decisionmakers with the information they need to make choices on whether to raise prices, lower water levels and much more.

Great example

When the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh redesigned Taylor Hall with a more modern look, the university's support manager, Paula Zemke, took the same approach to the residence hall's community laundry room. Highly efficient, front-load washers and dryers were installed, offering energy savings, user-friendly controls and large load capacity. Students also gained greater convenience by being able to utilize their Titan campus card to pay for wash and dry cycles, as well as campuswide services and door entry through a card payment system.

MELTON is North American Sales Manager at Speed Queen, a provider of premium laundry equipment and technologies for multi-housing use. He can be reached at chuck.melton@allianceLS.com.