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- 12/16/2016

Optimising energy and water consumption

H&PC Today

With the professional textile care industry under even greater pressure to reduce water and energy use, adopting resource-saving technology is a vital step towards a business that is sustainable both from a business and an environmental point of view. Tony Vince reports on developments

Since a landmark global climate deal was reached at the COP21 summit in December 2015, UK businesses have been under more pressure than ever before to do whatever they can to cut their carbon footprint.

According to a recent report by consultancy Cornwall Energy, uncertainty in the aftermath of the Brexit vote could add more than £350m to energy bills in the UK. So not only is there the environmental incentive for businesses to cut their water and energy use, there are stark financial reasons too.

In the UK, the Textile Services Association (TSA) secures a significant tax break for energy efficient laundries. The current Climate Change Agreement scheme started in April 2013 and will run until 31 March 2023.

Participating businesses commit to reducing their energy consumption by 20% before the year 2020. Those operators who hold a CCA will see the CCL will be reduced by 90% on electricity bills and 65% on other fuels.

Further to this, with the World Resources Institute forecasting that demand for water globally is projected to rise by 40% in the next 20 years, the need for businesses reduce their use of this precious resource is also building.

Sustainability and efficiency dominated the Texcare 2016 exhibition in Frankfurt, focusing heavily on the savings that can be made in the commercial laundry sector. Exhibitors shared valuable insights into the hospitality industry in particular, demonstrating how the industry can save time, labour, energy and water in providing a safe, clean and comfortable environment.

Running an efficient laundry operation is paramount but this efficiency can’t be at the expense of cleaning performance, service levels and the care needed to protect our environment. Laundry chemical manufacturer Christeyns suggests Zero-Steam is the way to go and has recently installed over £750,000 of equipment in the new Fishers laundry in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire in order to provide the firm with a laundry that is efficient and future-proofed.

According to Christeyns, in order to achieve improved efficiency there are three things that need to happen:

  • A reduction in energy consumption by introducing the most efficient laundry processes.
  • Minimising the use of energy sources by energy recovery and the use of renewable energy.
  • The use of highly efficient processes to generate the remaining energy demand.

Fishers “super laundry” facility in Coatbridge, which cost around £5million to set up, is capable of washing and drying 650,000 items of bed linen and towels a week for hotels and restaurants around Glasgow. It is the largest single laundry investment made to date in Scotland and is testament to Fishers’ confidence in the strength of the country’s growing hospitality industry and their continuing commitment to the sector.

At the Coatbridge site Christeyns has installed a skid mounted, gas-fired, high efficiency hot water system with a pressurised storage tank that holds water at 94C. This water is blended into the tunnel washers and washer-extractors with cooler water to achieve the required temperature.

The Heat-X Energo wastewater heat exchangers enable the incoming cold fresh water to be pre-heated efficiently with the energy from the wastewater while energy is also recovered from the ironers, via air to water heat exchangers that further heat the incoming fresh water up to 45-50C.

The system has led to a 40%-50% reduction in energy consumption compared to steam-heated laundries, according to Christeyns. This has been achieved by high efficiency gas burners, zero loss due to vapourised steam, very low radiation losses attributable to lower temperatures and no trap problems plus minimal energy losses in the flue.

One of the most impressive statistics is the Kwh of energy consumption measured against the Kgs of linen washed which has averaged at 0.736 since the Fishers Laundry was commissioned. This is significantly lower than the industry norms.

In addition, the system requires no boiler room, so no boiler inspections, chemicals, water consumption or leaking pipes. Washer-extractor process time is also improved because the heat source is readily available rather than waiting for the steam to be produced.

Michael Jones, Managing Director at Fishers, said: “Fishers’ Glasgow laundry is among the most energy efficient in Europe and features 40C wash technology. We have worked closely with Christeyns to ensure that, even at this lower temperature, the four tonnes of towels and linen we launder every hour are washed to the highest of standards. Christeyns’ partnership approach has helped us to achieve reduced levels of energy and enhanced our environmental efficiency with our leading Glasgow facility.”

Along with Zero-Steam, Christeyns also introduced Cool Chemistry, its total wash concept, into the Fishers laundry.

Cool Chemistry offers a gentle but highly effective treatment of linen, which impacts on nearly all laundry costs. Based on innovative chemicals, Cool Chemistry combines with an adapted and well-balanced wash process to offer the ability to wash at lower temperatures and still obtain excellent results. This combination of integrated energy-saving systems, designed and implemented by Christeyns, will deliver at least a 50% reduction on energy required for the washing process, with 65% of energy recovered from the washer waste water. Overall, Fishers will see a significant reduction in operational costs while achieving exemplary wash quality standards.

Reducing water use

According to Xeros, the developer of the polymer bead cleaning system, delivering top notch cleaning results for customers is obviously a key priority for hotels, spas and those providing professional laundry services.

This is particularly true for the hotel and hospitality sector, where a recent study by Xeros found that 94% of guests think towel quality, in particular cleanliness, is important for overall customer satisfaction. However, if the pressures to cut carbon emissions, reduce water use and the need to combat rising energy costs are factored in, there is little doubt that some companies feel under strain.

Xeros says that the advantages of investing in waterless and low-energy technologies such as its polymer bead cleaning system allows commercial launderers and hotels to take advantage of lower energy bills and higher linen recovery rates whilst also cutting their water use dramatically, thereby enhancing their brand image and drawing in more customers. 

Xeros claims its cleaning system does radically reduce the volume of water required in the wash process per pound or kilo processed, as used in conventional washer-extractors. It does not, however, replace the volume of water required totally, as each process undertaken by a Xeros system in the laundry performs with measurably different water-volume requirements. The Xeros Sbeadycare program also takes care of all the necessary “add-on” requirements. All customers receive an ongoing supply of all consumables including polymer beads and chemicals within the negotiated cost and terms of their maintenance contract as well as all engineering, maintenance and site support cost, including training, which are all covered in the monthly charge. 

Xeros points to its success to date in the USA, where six hotels and one commercial laundry have so far joined the Xeros Million Gallon Club, each saving more than one million gallons of water using Xeros’ laundry system. The six hotels – the Hyatt Regency Reston, Hilton LA Universal City, North Shore Hotel, Stanford Park Hotel, Clarion Inn Providence-Seekonk and the Hampton Inn-Seekonk – are joined by the Manhattan-based e-Laundry in being named by Xeros as the first members of the club, that recognises each as an environmentally-conscious business committed to conserving water. Joe Bazzinotti, GM and senior vice president, Xeros Global Commercial Laundry said: “We have many more hotels that will reach the one million gallon savings milestone and some that will hit the two million gallon milestone within the next six months.”

The Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, California, installed two Xeros machines, developing its first in-house laundry operating system in April 2016. This decision was made after severe drought in the state meant that there were severe water restrictions in place, which drove up the cost of this precious resource. Since installing the Xeros system, the hotel is saving £1,281 a month on its water bills and £352 per month on energy because there is less water being used that needs heating up. This means that over the year, the hotel is now making average annual savings of £19,599 on water and energy bills alone.

Another major headache for hotels and laundry operators is the issue of linen recovery. A review by UK-based independent laundry experts LTC Worldwide of Xeros’ polymer bead cleaning technology demonstrated that its linen recovery rate and the percentage of stained linen that could be put back in stock stood at 35.1%, compared with just 22.6% for the traditional aqueous process.

Tackling textile care costs

According to Miele Professional, wetcleaning is a more cost-efficient alternative to conventional drycleaning. The system works without solvents and detergency enhancers and there is no residue from distillation, or cooling and contact water, and therefore the system does not require sophisticated technical equipment such as tanks or special plinths – and does not require the services of specialist companies to dispose of distillation residues.

Every kilogramme of drycleaned laundry requires around 10litres of cooling water and energy for the distillation process. Costs and resources in wetcleaning, which takes place at a maximum temperature of 40C, are far lower by comparison.

Under this regime, only three to four litres of water are taken in with each water intake for each kilogramme of laundry washed (depending on the textiles). Consequently, cleaners using the WetCare system can advertise with the Blue Angel award in Germany. Germany’s oldest environmental marque highlights services using machines and processes, which reduce the wastewater burden and prevent emissions of air-borne toxins.

The WetCare wetcleaning system first presented by Miele and Kreussler in 1991 is now an integral part of textile care. Jürgen Schäfer, chief product manager – laundry technology with Miele Professional, and Dr Helmut Eigen, director of textile care at Kreussler, spoke about trends at Texcare.

Schäfer said that consumers are reacting with increasing sensitivity to environmental issues. In addition, more and more fabrics are being labelled washable, and the textile industry in general is increasingly having to comply with regulations in production processes. He said that Miele is convinced that laundering textiles using an aqueous system will continue to gain ground and that wetcleaning will become the standard within the next ten years. “It will be crucial to see whether textile service providers are able to clearly communicate the benefits of wetcleaning to their potential customers.

Eigen adds that as fabrics are increasingly washable at low temperatures, processing and the requirements regarding both processes and products will be subject to change. Miele Professional washing machines now use Kreussler’s latest Lanadol Dry process in combination with its Lanadol X-press. “Our customers achieve even better results despite much shorter program cycles – which also significantly improve productivity.”

Eigen adds that Kreussler have made continuous improvements to the process chemicals. Key progress was made for example with the introduction of more modern formulations, which combat fats and grease much better in the cold-wash temperature range. “Today we use enzymes to remove vegetable and animal fats. We have also made great progress in ensuring colour-fastness,” he adds.

Schäfer points out that the introduction of the patented Miele honeycomb drum to both washing machines and tumble dryers represents a milestone in process optimization. Its efficacy has been endorsed by a series of independent tests carried out by wfk – Cleaning Technology Institute in Krefeld. Of course, on the customer side, increasing demand for easy-to-clean and hence washable textiles is forcing garment manufacturers’ hands and much to our own benefit. Indeed, it makes our system even more attractive to commercial launderers.

While busy customers’ habits change in line with fast moving trends, cleaning businesses are also forced to comply with challenging sustainability regulations, according to Michael Williams, regional segment manager at Electrolux Professional in the UK.

The combination of these two scenarios creates a need for greener, quicker, and more reliable services; not to mention a hunger for innovation, he adds. There is a growing awareness among consumers of their impact on the environment, and this has led to the expectation of the same fast, effective cleaning results, but through more sustainable means. “As a result, many high street cleaning business are looking for a replacement to harsh, solvent-based cleaning systems, and manufacturers are responding with rapidly advancing water-based cleaning processes. The latest, and best, of these operate with the effectiveness and simplicity of traditional techniques, but in a way that is kinder, both to the environment and to garments.

He says that Electrolux’s lagoon Advanced Care system is designed to do just that. “We see it as the perfect combination of specifically designed equipment and smart, tailored programmes. The result is a cycle of short, simple processes that help to take garments from dry to dry within one hour. What’s more, garments are able to become touch dry in our dryers, meaning minimal finishing is required to achieve excellent results.”