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2023 – The Way Forward

Recent increases in gas, oil and electrical costs have sent shock waves throughout the Industry.

As one of the Industry’s leading specialists in water and energy systems, we have been asked to survey numerous laundries in the UK and around the globe, all with a common dilemma. In most cases the increase in gas costs alone are sufficient to wipe out the entire bottom line profit of the business. Laundries who are already super efficient may escape actual loss making, but they are a small minority.

Even non-commercial premises such as health service laundries are facing the prospect of costs rising well above budgeted income, with equally undesirable consequences.

Sure, we specialise in systems to reduce utility consumption, but that alone is not enough to offset the cost increases. A multiple approach is needed, hopefully with all of these implemented we will see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Here’s a short list of steps that can be taken – indeed MUST be taken – to turn the tide and get back to surplus rather than loss:

  • Top of the list – unpalatable though it may be – is price increases. With everyone in the same boat, there are signs that modest increases are being accepted, but not universally. There is always the risk of losing a customer, and this Industry is famous for the self inflicted damage that arises with price cutting as a way of winning business.
  • Weeding out unprofitable business. We know at first hand from our early venture into laundry software that there are wide variations in the actual financial contribution made by different customers. With variations in selling price, quantities, product mix, costs of delivery and so on it is easy to lose sight of where the best income is derived. Very often we found in the past that it was the biggest volume customers who cost the most to support. Indeed we have sometimes advocated pruning volume down from 2 shifts to one by shedding the poorest performing accounts, and reducing running costs as an additional benefit.
  • Apply the tried and tested methods used by Aquatherm to slash energy costs. By recovering 80% of the energy lost from the washing process, reducing drying and finishing costs from hot rinsing, and improving productivity from shortened cycle times it should be possible to offset as much as half of the increases.
  • Put processes under the microscope. Are they too long? Using too much water? Too many stages? So called ‘cool chemistry’ is MORE expensive to operate than using temperature once heat recovery methods are in use. Shop around for chemicals, something that many laundries we have spoken to have not done for years.
  • How efficiently is the steam boiler operating? Is flash steam being lost, or the reverse, is boiler feedwater temperature too low? For every 6 degrees Celsius that the feed water temperature is raised, there is a net 1% saving in gas or oil consumption BEFORE any steam is used by the plant.

We cannot advise on pricing or customer strategy, but when it comes to the technical operation of the plant we offer an expert resource without charge or commitment. A site survey with a detailed cost and output simulation is a good starting point for tackling the issues – contact us now! We wish you a healthy and successful year ahead.

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Aquatherm and its MICRO at the LADA’s

Aquatherm has been installing energy saving systems for 40 years, starting long before the current crisis which threatens the very survival of many of our laundries in the UK.

4 decades of research and development later it is now possible simply by recovering the energy lost to drain from the laundering process to reduce the reliance on ‘new energy’ by a third or more, regardless of the size of the plant.

The COVID lockdown – during which there was understandably very little activity in Aquatherm’s market sector – was taken as an opportunity to complete a ground up redesign of the entire range of products, based on the same physics and DNA of the existing range, but without the normal time pressures it was possible to address every single aspect of design and operation, and to introduce all new models to address the smaller plants (Micro) and the very largest of plants (Monster).

Meanwhile the mid range systems (Midi and Maxi) now incorporate all the features of the new units, and examples of all systems have now been sold to customers as far afield as China, Japan and Australia, whilst interest from UK laundries is understandably at record high levels.

The Micro is a global first, a system which can not only recover over 80% of otherwise lost energy, but includes all the necessary tanks, pumps and pipework that would otherwise be the province of a full engineering installation.

The entire unit is packaged such that it can be wheeled into a laundry on a pallet and can be running on the day of arrival. Incorporating a process water system, a steam diffuser to provide controlled hot water to the process (most of which has been heated by recovered waste water) and if required an inline water reuse system, this is a perfect solution for laundries using up to 7m³ per hour, and with hot rinsing as a by product of the ‘total hot water process’ increased productivity simply adds to the economic benefits.

It is this system which was selected by the LADA judges in presenting the ‘Most Innovative Company’ award to Aquatherm, we are very proud to be recipients and committed to continuing the challenge of reducing the consumption of water, energy, chemicals and process times by using our guiding principles of ‘Invention, Innovation and Imagination’.

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The Self Cleaning Waste Water System of the Aquatherm Micro

Water or energy? – “which one should we focus on?”

Aquatherm is asked this question often. The answer depends on the volumes used and the cost. Where mains water is inexpensive or a borehole is in use, it makes economic sense to focus on energy saving. However if energy is cheap and water is scarce - the focus should be on water reuse.

For the majority of laundries who are dealing with unprecedented increases in oil and gas costs closely followed by water and chemicals, a composite approach is called for.

Well known in the industry since 1980 for the development of laundry heat recovery systems, Aquatherm took the opportunity of COVID lockdown to address their entire product range. Whilst all of the new systems share the same DNA the all new Micro is a packaged process water system which incorporates heat and water reuse (typically 70% and 30% respectively) and a built in heating system to reduce process times.

Designed for plants using up to 7,000 litres of water per hour (other products in the Aquatherm range go up to 200,000 litres per hour) it’s easy to install and will soon repay the investment, and continue to do so for a generation.

It’s only a saving if you actually use it…

The best water reuse systems recover just the final rinse, which will be relatively clean and chemical free. A single rinse will account for about one third of the total water consumption so all of this can then be used for the prewash and main wash.

If water recovery is from the total mixed waste water, only one third of it will be reusable. The claim is often made that ‘by saving water you also save energy’. True, but only one third of what is saved can actually be used.

Compare that with recovering 30% water, 70% energy, AND faster process times, the Micro is a much needed breakthrough.

For larger plants with higher water consumption, separate modules are supplied with flexible interconnections which achieve the same result as a Micro, but scaled to the demand.

For more information click on the links below:

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Re-use your Waste Water to save money with the all new Aquatherm Micro

Aquatherm has been designing and building laundry energy and water systems since 1980, long before the pressures to reduce consumption and costs that we face today. Decades later, and after numerous evolutionary upgrades, the Aquatherm Micro is a system which extracts as much as 90% of the energy from dirty laundry wastewater, reusing all of that energy to heat incoming cold freshwater, reducing the demand for ‘new energy’ and cutting consumption significantly.

The Aquatherm Micro system is a new development designed to address the needs of smaller laundry operations, such as On-Premise Laundries (OPL’s) with water consumption rates from 1,000 to 7,000 litres per hour. The compact and efficient design coupled with the use of high-quality low-cost components sourced through our purchasing office in Shanghai has finally brought lower flow systems into the realm of affordability.

Mike Edwards, managing director of Aquatherm explained:

“In order to get the most from conventional heat recovery systems, there is a requirement for separate buffer tanks for hot wastewater, and preheated fresh water, together with interconnecting pipework, valves, flowmeters and so on. Integrating these systems into a working laundry can involve significant planning, installation cost and time. In the Micro, all of these elements are built into a single package, interconnected and linked to the central control system. All that is needed for installation is a fresh water supply, compressed air and electricity.”

The Micro is a purpose designed heat and water supply designed to recover the maximum amount of energy from the hot wastewater, and use it to preheat the fresh water used for the washing process. Instead of hooking up washing plant to mains water, the supply now comes from the Micro, already preheated using otherwise waste energy. If water re-use is required, whether in its own right or together with heat recovery, the Micro now has the capacity to incorporate this within its package.
Using heated water for the entire washing process is the most effective and efficient way to process laundry.

Re-use your Waste Water to save money with the all new Aquatherm Micro
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Vast and Worldly experiences through the Laundry Industry – did we mention Norway?

We doubt whether any careers teacher has ever recommended looking for a job in the laundry Industry, let alone in the equipment supply sector, but maybe they should, it ticks a lot of boxes. In the 5 decades that we have been involved in supplying automation and water and energy systems we’ve visited over 80 countries and worked in many of them.   We were reminded of the variety of these experiences by a short visit recently to a community workshop in the town of Nordnes, just outside the west Norwegian town of Bergen (Nordnes Verksteder AS)

Here people with disabilities of all varieties are cared for in a supportive environment, where they also have a meaningful occupation, producing a variety of hand crafted wooden and ceramic ornaments and souvenirs which are sold from the boutique on the premises or in the local city. They also sort and pack fruit to supply the schools fruit scheme which applies to all primary schools in Norway.

And tucked away in the corner they even have a small commercial laundry, where we were proud to see one of our own products on view, one of the first renditions of our Aquatherm Micro heat and water recovery system, a fine example of Norway’s approach to all things environmental.  This is a stunningly beautiful country, and it’s clear the inhabitants intend to keep it that way.  We are very proud to be a part of that process.

 

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