Managing Energy Costs in Dry Cleaners and Laundry Facilities

Dry Cleaners

Due to rising energy prices, utility bills make up a considerable share of total operating expenses for commercial laundry and dry-cleaning facilities. In many of these facilities, large quantities of natural gas are used to run boilers to heat water or produce steam. A significant portion of the electric load can also be attributed to space heating and cooling, lighting, dry-cleaning machines, electric clothes dryers, electric motors for tumblers and agitators, and reciprocating equipment like air compressors. Water heating, space heating, and gas clothes dryers are the major end uses for natural gas in these types of facilities.

Average energy use data

Table 1: Utility usage, by cleaning technique
Using a 2004 study prepared for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and a 2009 study prepared for Southern California Edison, it’s possible to compare the levels of electricity, natural gas, and water used in five different cleaning techniques. Although natural gas consumption remained relatively constant across all equipment, electricity and water consumption varied considerably.
Top technology uses

To better manage a building’s energy costs, it helps to understand how utilities charge businesses for energy. Most utilities charge commercial buildings for natural gas based on the amount of energy delivered. Electricity, on the other hand, can be charged based on two measures: demand and consumption. The consumption component of the bill is based on the amount of electricity, in kilowatt-hours (kWh), that the building uses each month. The demand component is measured in kilowatts—many electric utilities structure billing rates based on the average demand of a facility during a billing period, in 15-minute increments. Demand charges can range from a few dollars to more than $20 per kilowatt per month.

Energy costs are among the few expenses that can be decreased without negatively affecting product quality or productivity. By implementing energy-efficient operations and maintenance (O&M) strategies and adding features to increase the efficiency of existing equipment, you can achieve substantial energy savings, not to mention numerous non-energy benefits like water savings and improved work conditions within the facility. Cutting energy costs offers a competitive edge, especially for midrange dry cleaners (those that are neither discount nor high-end and that do not compete on price or exclusivity). Adopting an energy-saving agenda also attracts eco-conscious consumers, who are often willing to pay more for products and services that they perceive as environmentally sound.

An on-site energy audit shows how much energy your facility consumes and reveals problems that, when corrected, could save you significant amounts of money. An audit is highly recommended as the first step toward implementing an efficiency program, and many utilities offer the service free or at a discount. Audits generally consist of a walk-through inspection of a facility’s physical characteristics. Auditors commonly check the temperatures of air-conditioning systems, refrigerators, and water heaters; inspect weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows; check thermostat calibration; and inspect air filters and duct systems. In some cases, diagnostic equipment is used to further investigate potential savings opportunities in a facility’s building shell, boiler, and reciprocating equipment. Once the audit is complete, the auditor will make specific recommendations for improving the efficiency of your facility, prioritized by how cost-effective the improvements would be.

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