WASHING MACHINE FUNDAMENTALS:
The water saving potential of a “front-loading” washing machine is best demonstrated by the following example: Consider a cup full of water and you have an example of a “top-loader” (vertical axis washing-machine). Consider a cup that is one-half full, visualize it on its side with a lid on it and you have an example of a “front-loader” (horizontal axis washing-machine).
“Front-loaders” offer two advantages over “top-loaders”: as per the preceding cup analogy, they use less water (especially hot-water) and they offer washing action that is superior to the “agitation” of “top-loaders”. In a properly loaded “front-loader” laundry is carried to the top of the basket, from which it falls and thuds to the bottom of the basket. The greater the basket diameter, the further the fall, the harder the thud, the better the washing action.
The traditional advantage of “top-loaders” over “front loaders” is that “top loaders” spin more water from the clothes. This, as it requires considerably less effort to spin a load on the vertical axis than on the horizontal. The average “top-loader” will get up to 600 RPM on spin-out. As “top-loaders” generally develop ten to twenty percent more spinout speed than “front-loaders”*, they develop more centrifugal force, thus forcing more water from the clothes. *A new technology permitting electronic manipulation of drive motor speeds has recently placed this differentiation in flux. I greet this issue in my “Vital Info Pack”.
As all of the front-loader basket weight (including the water and the laundry) is supported solely by bearings at the rear of the tub, “front-loaders” are three or more times more expensive than top-loaders. You should note that larger front loaders have an increased susceptibility to degradation due to “under-loading”. Under-loading? Yes – due to the fact that fabrics trap air, laundry weighs less than the water it displaces (despite the higher specific gravity of most fabrics); or the other way around: water weighs more than any laundry displacing it. “Under-loading” of laundry increases the weight ratio of water to laundry in the basket, and therefore, the weight of the entire load. Increased weight means increased stress upon the bearings.
Due to the cost of fuel, drying is the less profitable side of a coin-laundry operation. Depending on variables such as the types of washing machines, as discussed above, and the presence of extractors, as discussed below, revenue from dryers will normally total about 30% to 40% of coin revenue.
Laundry-mat dryers are configured to utilize one of three different heat sources: steam, electric, or gas (natural gas or propane). Gas is by far the most common configuration.
As to gas dryers, there are two basically different configurations. The distinction is based upon the flow of hot air to the laundry (vertical vs. horizontal). In a vertical airflow dryer, the stove (where the flame burns) is located above the tumbler. Hot air is then forced down over the laundry (absorbing moisture from the laundry) and is expelled.
In a horizontal or “axial” airflow configuration (frequently associated with “stack” or one on top of the other dryers) the stove is located below the tumbler and the hot air is forced across the axis of the tumbler (usually back to front). Compared to an equivalent capacity vertical unit, “axial” airflow dryers are more energy efficient*. However, as the rate of airflow to the clothes is usually reduced by some 20% (when compared to an equivalent capacity vertical unit), the “axial” units take longer to dry.
*This because two sources of inefficiency associated with vertical configuration dryers are reduced in the “axial” configuration: Firstly, although vertical units are designed to labor against heated airs’ natural tendency to rise, the above the tumbler placement of the stove does permit some heat to escape through the top of the unit. Secondly, due to cross-flow against the tumbler (rather than with it – as in “axial” units), some heated air blows-by the tumbler, rather than passing through it (and the laundry).
Stay away from dryers that re-circulate warm air. They save fuel, but dry slowly and will be a source of dissatisfaction to your coin-laundry customers.
A coin-laundry extractor is a free-standing centrifuge that can squeeze water from laundry by spinning it at great speeds. Some models can attain speeds of over 1500 RPM. If heavy items such as towels or dungarees are squeezed in an extractor before being placed into a dryer, drying time can be cut by one-half. As reduced drying time translates to a need for fewer dryers, extractors are a common sight in laundromats located in New York City, where real estate (and therefore rental space for dryers) is very expensive. Here follow some points on extractors:
They must be loaded properly (otherwise, items can spin out of the basket). Accordingly, their introduction requires a commitment to doing customer orientation and training in their use.
There are two basic types of extractor: direct-drive and indirect-drive. Indirect drive units have a transmission and friction resistance braking system; they are considerably more maintenance intensive than direct-drive models, which have a three-phase electric motor directly driving the basket – and by reversing electrical polarity, direct-drive models brake using electrical energy rather than friction resistance.
Extractors are inherently dangerous (a heavy steel basket spinning at tremendous speeds). Although recent models incorporate several safety features (directed mostly at insuring that the lid properly closes and remains closed during operation), extractors have, at least in the past, been a source of serious injury and considerable litigation.