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Rigging Training

Last year, we shared details on a couple rigging jobs we completed.  While we (and our customers) were incredibly pleased with the results, we felt like it was time to add to our experience with some advanced training. Rigging is a dangerous business and widening our knowledge base with information on best practices, tools of the trade, and challenging scenarios was a natural next step.

So, Matt, Josh, Nick, Jody, and I spent two days studying intermediate to advanced rigging applications, and now we are prepared to safely perform Level 2 rigging activities.  What does that mean?  Now we are equipped to calculate tensions based on sling angles of symmetric and non-symmetric loads as well as headroom limitations and load weights. This is important both to guarantee the safety of our crew and to ensure that equipment is properly secured for offloading and installing. In addition, we learned more about different slings and hardware options, and how to select the appropriate options for the job.

The training was intense, and the examination was challenging, but we all agreed it was worth putting things on hold to understand the details of handling large heavy loads safely and with the right tools and materials. Before this training, Tri-State was already prepared to handle all kinds of rigging situations.  Now that we’ve completed this advanced training, we have a much better understanding of the do’s, don’ts, and how-to’s of moving, offloading, and installing extremely large, heavy, and expensive equipment.    

If your business has a big job in the works, and you know you’re going to need help, give Tri-State a call at 866-885-5218; we are happy to be of service.

Items Neglected on an Air Compressor

Because most dry cleaning and laundry equipment has some pneumatic operations, having a properly functioning air compressor is vital in keeping your facility running properly.  Below are the top items, in no particular order of importance, that are typically neglected on most air compressors. Tri-State Laundry Equipment recommends that you set up a routine maintenance schedule for all your equipment and when you do, add these items to your list for your air compressor.  Be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications on your compressor to determine the frequency for each item listed below.

  1. Belt tension and condition – check to make sure the belt can travel freely and that it doesn’t have excessive wear or damage.
  2. Air intake filter – clean or change if it has an excessive buildup of dust and dirt.
  3. Oil and oil filter – just like with a car, you want to be sure you are using the proper oil and amount as well as change both the oil and filter regularly to keep your compressor running properly.
  4. Tank drained of water – this should be done daily because intake air has moisture in it, which settles at the bottom of the tank.
  5. Check for leaks – at the tank, pump, within the operation, and at the pressure switch.For more information on checking for leaks, check out this recent blog post.
  6. Tank outlet water separator and filter – check to see if needs to be cleaned or replaced.
  7. Mounting bolts – make sure they are tight to the floor and the pump is tight to the tank to avoid unnecessary vibration.
  8. Motor bearings – make sure they are properly greased, including the fittings at the ends.

One additional thought – if you don’t have an air refrigerated dryer, you should consider one sized for your air compressor’s CFM capacity. Dry air is a must for long life of pneumatic valves and cylinders and makes a big difference in the equipment’s reliability. Think about most repairs on your dry cleaning and laundry equipment, and I bet it is pneumatic valves being replaced or rebuilt which is mostly due to moisture and lubricant mixture; they just don’t work well together.

If you have questions or concerns about air compressors, please feel free to call Tri-State at 1-866-885-5218.

Caring for your Commercial Dryer

Today, with washing making up nearly 50% of a dry cleaner’s volume and 100% of hotel and hospitality establishments, we service way more commercial dryers than we did just a couple years ago.  Sadly, as with so many other pieces of equipment, our service technicians share stories of how commercial dryers are not being properly cared for.

The problem with not properly caring for your dryer is the fire potential; the biggest issue is lint buildup within the dryer and duct work from filters not being cleaned properly or being damaged.  Most laundry fires start in the dryer due to this very issue and because most dryers are Natural/Propane gas, when you have fire for heat and lint built up all over the inside of the dryer cabinet and duct work with lint in it, a piece of lint blows through the burner and into the dryer on fire, and puff, you have fire being fanned by the blower motor which gets it going and keeps it going until the electrical wiring burns up and shorts the motor.  It’s pretty scary, and it should be.

To properly care for your commercial dryer, follow this maintenance schedule:

  • Cleaning the entire inside cabinet and duct annually, and it’s not hard when done annually but it is when there is 3” of build up throughout.
  • Clean the burner and all orifices, ensure the burner is in good shape, because they do decay from exposure to gases from combustion.
  • Check filters for good condition. Make sure there are no holes and if a seal is around the outside of the filter is it in ok shape .

Proper belt tension is important:

  • Check for bearing wear by lifting up on the inside of the drum, and if there is excessive bearing wear then you will be able to lift the drum an inch or so.
  • Trunnion adjustment is possible on some dryers which is a means of lifting the front of the drum with adjusting bolts on the rear bearing assembly to keep the basket from rubbing the front housing.
  • Make sure sail switches are properly working and aren’t jumped out. (This happens when you absolutely need the dryer and don’t have the part to repair and forget to replace).These are switches installed in the air ways usually where the duct attaches to the dryer to make sure there is air flow, so you don’t have heat without air flow.

Always consult your owner’s manual for all maintenance requirements and safety procedures, and feel free to contact Tri-State if you have questions about how to properly care for your dryer.

New Shirt Finishing Equipment vs. Used Shirt Finishing Equipment

Several years ago, the shirt unit evolved from the traditional 3-piece unit (body, collar & cuff, and sleever) to the 2-piece tensioning body and collar & cuff.  Over time, manufacturers perfected the tensioning body with sleeve pleat presses, rear shirt body tensioning, and larger side expansion for bigger shirts.  In fact, the early tensioning units do better than most top-of-the-line 3-piece units, in my opinion, because the shirts aren’t handled as much, which leads to wrinkling of the pressed part of the shirt while it’s waiting for the next step. 

A unit from 2005 that doesn’t have the tail body tensioning feature or the sleeve pleat pressing option will do a beautiful shirt, and if your customers demand a pressed sleeve pleat (I think we as operators want this more than customers), then you can touch it with an iron.  Bottom line, a tensioning shirt unit operating as it should doesn’t do a better shirt than a 1992 3-piece, unless of course you’re in Texas doing Cowboy shirts.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

So, you’re reading this and thinking you might need to upgrade.  Well, a new single buck from Unipress or Sankosha lists at $40,000 plus, depending on your negotiating skills, and a double buck lists in the mid to upper 50’s.  How can you justify that kind of money?  It really depends on your shirt volume, cost, and return on investment.  If you’re doing 2,000 – 4,000 shirts a week, the first question you should ask is do I need a single buck or a double buck?  But if your business is small and shirt volume is less than 1,500 per week, then going with a good-quality used unit makes sense.  

You can purchase a refurbished single buck tensioning unit with steam blown sleeves, rebuilt valves, replaced hoses, re-padded to factory padding, and checked for wear issues for $7,500 to $17,000 and a double from $7,500 to $25,000, with a 6 month parts-only warranty from Tri-State Laundry Equipment.

Now that makes a much faster return on investment while still putting you in the realm of new technology with parts availability, machine reliability, quality product, and customer happiness…..sounds pretty good, huh?  To check out Tri-State’s inventory of used finishing equipment, call us at 866-885-5218 or click the link below:

http://tristatelaundryequipment.com/c-7-dry-cleaning-used-equipment.aspx

Calculating Hot Water Needs for a Commercial Laundry

When doing laundry at home, you place the clothes in the machine, add the detergent, select the cycle, select the water temperature – cold, warm, or hot – and then hit start.  You do what laundry needs to be done, and you aren’t super concerned with the costs associated with doing that laundry.  Sure, you try to be cost conscious by waiting to wash some items until there is a full load, and you wash as many loads as you can in cold water, but your priority is to make sure you family has what they need.  If it were only that easy in a commercial laundry; in fact, running a commercial laundry business that way will surely lead to waste and lower profits. 

That’s why commercial laundries use Hot Water Calculators to help determine how much hot water is needed based on machine size and volume.  Attached is a file to a hot water calculator for a commercial laundry that considers elevation, heat loss, and machine size using 2.50 gallons of water per pound as its standard. Keeping in mind that the starting temperature of ground water is usually 40-50° Fahrenheit, the desired temperature is entered, and the Delta T is the difference in the two.  Most of the time hot water systems are talked about in terms of rise being the Delta T. This calculator is set to figure that 70% of the wash is hot, which considers both splits and warm wash cycles.  The rule of thumb as far as storage tank capacity is concerned which is a necessity to keep volume of made up hot water is for storage to be 2/3 of the hourly capacity of hot water produced to temp. 

So, to help you calculate the hot water needed for your facility, we’ve attached a file with a completed sample.  Feel free to save this file and adjust the information to match your facility so that you can determine how much hot water you need.  And of course, we are here to answer any questions you might have about your hot water needs or commercial laundry equipment.  Just call us at 1-866-885-5218 or contact us through our website.

Hot water calculator.xlsx

Parker Boiler’s New Vertical Water Wall

Everyone has their own set of thrills.  For instance, some guys get excited about cars; my wife tends to be enthusiastic when it comes to jewelry; my blogger is motivated by chocolate; and I have a thing for boilers.  So, imagine my reaction when I learned that Parker Boiler has a new process boiler under development.  While this sort of thing isn’t new to Parker – their engineers are constantly developing, reworking, and improving equipment and processes, and even though their Water Wall tubing design and the Low NOx Metal Fiber burner system is top notch, they’ve found yet another way to improve upon it.

Here are just a few advantages when choosing this model:

  • Safety – Parker’s tube bundle is extremely flexible and provides a long-life with a 25-year warranty against thermal shock.
  • Large Heating Surface – This provides increased efficiency, long boiler life, and reduces chances of scaling.
  • Sealed Combustion – Reduces the heat loss and increases efficiency to 84%.
  • Variable Speed Blower – which provides a wide turn-down ratio for production matching steam supply, saving on utility costs.
  • Internal Accessibility -- Cabinet inspection panels are easily removed for service access to the burner, tubes, and steam storage drum.
  • Heavy Insulated Cabinet – The cabinet is constructed to effectively reduce heat loss.

Plus, we get all the great Parker traits we have all grown to expect like 100PSI in 10 minutes and extra dry steam from the large horizontal steam drum.  Of course, this model will be manufactured in conformance with UL Standard 795 & ASME-CSD-1.  But to top it all off, this Parker Boiler from 9.6 H.P to 24 H.P will easily pass through a 35” door .......BAM!!!

TriState is a proud distributor for Parker Boiler equipment, and if you have questions about our Parker Boiler equipment, please contact us.

Electrolux Barrier Washing Machines

I found several on-line articles that talked about how most washing machines are crawling with bacteria; throw your clothes in for a wash, and they could come out being dirtier than before.  There are several industries out there – hospitals, medical labs and facilities, nursing homes, and food manufacturing – where that’s simply unacceptable.  These businesses require washing machines that are designed for disinfecting; where items go in unclean and come out free of germs, bacteria, micro-organisms, and dust particles.  That’s where the Electrolux Barrier Washer comes in.

Here are just a few things we like about this washer:

  1. Guaranteed Hygiene – Electrolux is a global expert in linen hygiene, and their Barrier washers offer an ideal solution by allowing unclean clothes to be loaded through one side of the machine and then clean items to be unloaded on the other side of the machine, reducing any chance of cross contamination.
  2. Economical – Electrolux designed a unique drum and uses their own specialized dosing system that utilizes less water and detergent to help lower costs.
  3. Reliable – Electrolux builds their machines to last, and the Barrier washer is no different with its unbalance detection system, translating to less vibration and wear and tear on the machine.

Here’s a photo from a VA Hospital we recently worked on where control is extremely important, so we have a glass separation wall between the incoming wash side and the outgoing drying and finishing side.  Of course, this operation is on a much larger scale than most, but an Electrolux Barrier Washer can adapt in any facility.



If your business needs a washing machine that offers a guaranteed line of defense from spreading germs, bacteria, and micro-organisms, then Tri-State believes you should look at the Electrolux Barrier Washer.   To learn more, feel free to contact us online or call us at 1-866-885-5218.

American Dryer Corp.’s New I-Series Dryers

Y’all have heard that quote about boys versus men and the cost of their toys.  Most men get excited over new televisions, stereo systems, motorcycles, boats, and while I love all those things, I also get really excited about new laundry equipment.  It’s true, and American Dryer Corp.’s (ADC) new I-Series Dryers are sweet.

What’s new about the I-Series Dryers?

  1. They are calling them the I-Series, ‘I’ standing for intelligent airflow design; ADC continues to fine tune and make improvements with each model they introduce, and with this series, they’re boasting shorter drying times and safer, more reliable operations.  
  2. ADC has also developed and patented an Automatic Airflow Compensator, which can be added to the I-Series. This automatically adjusts and compensates for the high static pressure caused by airflow restriction.  This compensator senses, calculates, and maintains proper airflow through the drying process, resulting in faster dryer times, lower energy costs, and more efficient use of personnel time.
  3. ADC’s Sensor Activated Fire Extinguishing System (S.A.F.E.) completely removes any concerns about dryer fires because it instantly senses fire, quickly delivers water to that area, and then shuts itself down whether it occurs when in use or sitting idle.

American Dryer Corp. has always been known for high performance and outstanding reliability. This new series delivers all of that with a sleek-looking design, stainless steel basket and front, and self-cleaning lint screen. It comes in both gas and electric for any facility connection.  If you are in the market for a new commercial dryer, give Tri-State a call at 866-885-5218.  We are happy to answer any questions you might have and to get you started in the right direction.

Washing Machine Preventative Maintenance

The majority of our OPL washer and dryer service comes about because facility owners and managers fail to perform routine preventative maintenance measures on their equipment.  Setting up and maintaining a proper preventative maintenance program may seem like a headache, but a bigger headache will come about when you have to deal with downtime and pay for emergency repair service.  Avoid the headache by picking a date, and sticking with that date each month, and following this outline:

  • Check washing machine belts for wear and proper tension.
  • Check to make certain the drain valve is closing properly with no water running out while the basket is full of water. If it is, it will extend the cycle time to make the level control and cause excessive water use.  To correct the issue, take the drain apart to make sure nothing is inside keeping it from closing.  Also, make sure the drain motor is functioning properly and the linkage is lubed.  If all else fails, replace the valve.
  • Clean the inverter fan filter if it is clogged with lint.  If it is, it could cause the inverter to overheat.
  • Check all water valves, as well as the soap hopper, for proper function.  If they aren’t working properly, most valves can be disassembled and sand or debris cleaned out or rebuild kits obtained for repair.
  • Check the shocks if the machines are soft mounted; some shocks will require a proper oil level.  For those that don’t require a specific oil level, make sure the drum assembly form doesn’t show excessive vibration which leads to excessive wear.  Worn shocks and springs will cause the washer to continually redistribute the load during extraction and will fail and stop or at least extend the program time.
  • Check hard mount washers for mounting bolt tightness during extraction, observe the frame at the floor for any movement.  Once the bolts loosen the washer will shake badly, damaging the floor and washer basket bearings from excessive vibration.
  • Check the bearings for lubrication; some require grease and some have an oil bath bearing housing. Check for bearing wear by opening the door and lifting on the basket. There should be little to no minimal play. If the washer is shaking badly and you have play in the basket, then replace the bearings and seals as soon as possible.  Letting this continue will badly damage the washer and cause the repairs to be much higher.
  • Check all hoses for leaks. I can’t tell you how many times a motor and inverter has needed replacing due to a leaking hose dripping down on the motor or electrical components, causing costly repairs.

Simply taking a little time to check the above items on your washers could save you lots of time and money in the long run.  But of course, if you have questions about your washers or need repair service, Tri-State is always here to help. 

Using Chilled Water Spot Cooling

Dry-cleaning and laundry facilities can be hot in the winter months which means they are downright unbearable this time of the year.  Understandably, there are lots of folks that simply cannot endure that kind of heat, and that translates to lower production rates and possibly loss of good employees in a tough labor market.

Last year, we offered several solutions to help keep your dry cleaning plant cool, and today we want to focus closely on the one that we believe is the only serious cooling alternative – chilled water spot cooling.  This system uses a process water chiller, like those used for cooling water for dry-cleaning machines, along with a heat exchanger or coil and fan to blow cold air like air-conditioning.  Duct work is run overhead to each work station with trunks rated to handle the cubic feet per minute (CFM) of the air handler and then drops pointed down at each work station.

Here are some important tips when it comes to installing this type of cooling system:

  • Before installing, study the space using known figures like 2 drops per ton of water chiller, a chiller sized for the drop station amount, an air handler sized for the chiller tonnage, and a header trunk sized for the CFM of the air handler before beginning installation.
  • As you are doing planning, focus on routing and how to hang the main header trunk as well as where to install the air handler, supply and return chilled water piping. 
  • Tri-State recommends an 8” drop, which handles around 300 CFM, terminated approximately 7’ above the floor at each station, using an elbow on the end of each drop to fine tune the direction of air flow.
  • Remember, this is a process water chiller with a high amperage compressor and pumps.  Using this system will increase your utility cost. 
  • While it is rather costly to install and run compared to other options, it is much more effective and less expensive to operate than trying to add air conditioning to the entire facility.  Sometimes it is cheaper to cool people than to try cool an entire space.

If your dry-cleaning facility has hit that unbearable point, feel free to give Tri-State a call at 1-866-885-5218 or send us a message.  We are happy to answer questions and offer assistance.

Meet Matt Harris

I remember when Kevin hired Matt (pictured in the middle), who was just 19 at the time, back in 1999, to be in charge of Preventative Maintenance.  The office staff, myself included, quickly took a liking to him, and we all not only went out of our way to mother him, but we also peppered him with our sage wisdom.  Over the years, we watched Matt grow into a responsible man, a talented mechanic, a devoted husband, and a doting dad.  Those last two are especially important given that he married the boss’s daughter!

Matt spent about two years doing Preventative Maintenance before Kevin transitioned him to repairs and then ultimately installation.  While Matt has attended a few training sessions, most of his training has been on-the-job with some of the best in the industry.  Today, Matt likes nothing better than to walk into a job, having no clue what to do, face the challenge head on, and then ultimately figure it out.  And the bigger the job, the better.  Here are a few recent examples of big jobs with challenges that he, of course, solved:

  • In 2015, a dry cleaner in Raleigh experienced a devastating fire, so Tri-State installed an entire plant’s worth of new dry cleaning equipment in a temporary location.  Just a short time later their new facility was completed, so Tri-State then moved and reinstalled the equipment at the new store.  He spent about a year practically living in Raleigh.
  • Then there was the time a broken-down boiler installed in a boiler room was too large to take out through the doorway, so Tri-State had to bring in a crane to remove the old one through the exhaust hole in the roof as well as bring in the new boiler the same way.
  • “And it’s always fun,” explained Matt, “When the dry cleaning machine won’t fit through the door.”  But these are the problems Matt enjoys solving.  “No two jobs are ever the same,” he went on, “and each one always teaches me something.”
  • Lately, Tri-State has been doing equipment work in Maine with a few linen and uniform companies in dealing with massive washing machines that are 80 feet long.  Matt said it is hard and heavy work, and I hope to share more about that in our next post. 

Of course, even when you love what you do, there are tasks that aren’t so much fun, and for Matt it’s installing conveyors.  Why?  “It is labor intense, there are lots of parts, and everything is overhead,” he shared.  “My arms get really tired.”

With 18 years in this industry, I wondered what sorts of changes he’s experienced.  “Laundry equipment is definitely more computerized than it used to be,” Matt explained.  “A few years ago, washing machines lasted longer and could be repaired with a $30 part.  Today when there’s a problem, it’s usually computer-related and costs significantly more to repair.”

Lastly, I asked him if he had any parting words of wisdom to share.  “I guess to remind folks to always take care of their equipment and to follow the manufacturer’s suggestions on proper care and maintenance,” said Matt.  “Typically equipment that’s really well taken care of doesn’t require nearly as much attention as equipment that’s neglected.”

Condensate Return

Over the last couple months, we’ve been focusing on boilers; specifically, we’ve talked about boilers based on fuel options, and we’ve also discussed determining capacity needed.  Today I want to talk about improving your boiler’s efficiency, and one way to do that is to monitor the condensate returned to the boiler with a goal of maintaining a return temperature of around 180 degrees.

Let’s dive into specifics.  One type of energy steam contains is latent energy or latent heat.  According to mobile-dictionary.reverso.net, latent heat is the heat evolved or absorbed by unit mass or unit amount of substance when it changes phase without change of temperature.  In a dry cleaning plant, when steam is supplied to a process, the steam releases latent energy to supply the piece of equipment with the steam it needs to function and then condenses to a liquid condensate.  That condensate still has energy, and if pumped back into the boiler, makes the boiler run more efficiently.  How?  First, less new make-up water is required, which helps keep water costs down.  Second, that water is already hot, so less energy is required to heat the water.  Third, most of the corrosive dissolved Oxygen has been removed from the water, reducing system corrosion.

Do these three things to make sure your plant is set up properly:

  • Always T upwards off of the supply and return header to the equipment connections
  • Always put a check valve after every steam trap
  • Confirm that all steam traps are in good working condition

This last point is exceptionally important as equipment will not work properly without steam supply and as a result, it’s constantly blowing steam by heating the condensate return system above the 180 degree target temperature.  Then the pump can’t pump water into the boiler at over around 200 degrees so it takes longer to fill the boiler which equals more cost to run the pump longer. Also, remember that increased return water temperature equals malfunctioning steam traps that allow steam to blow through the trap and heat the return water.  This can result in more than 14% flash steam loss.  It’s basically like you’re putting a brick on the steam pedal of a puff iron, and its blowing steam all the time the boiler is up to pressure.  Double utility cost hit when the steam is blowing by heating the return water which causes the pump to run longer using more electricity and the boiler to cycle more often because the pressure is being lost through the malfunctioning steam trap. All this can be detected by checking the return tank water temperature, if you are regularly running over 185 degrees.

What Size Boiler Do I Need?

Last month we discussed the different fuel source options for commercial boilers, showing the cost savings and other benefits of choosing natural gas or propane over other options.  Obviously based on last month’s post, Tri-State Laundry Equipment prefers natural gas boilers, and we want to continue the boiler conversation focusing on what size natural gas boiler best fits your business.  To determine this, we’re going to talk in terms of BHP (boiler horsepower), which is a boiler’s capacity to produce steam.  One BHP is the amount of energy required to produce 34.5 pounds of steam per hour at pressure and temperature of 0 psig and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

When I try to determine boiler need, I use two sources: first, a spec sheet from Unipress that provides finishing equipment technical specifications (all pieces of dry cleaning and laundry equipment have a BHP number), and second, years of experience.  For instance, I know that a dry cleaning utility press is rated at 1 BHP as is a dry cleaning legger or any other dry cleaning press that uses steam to heat and steam emitted for finishing.  Pants toppers with a form and emit steam to condition are rated at ¾ BHP, where form finishers which are any bag form that finishes dresses and tops and blows air and steam are rated at 2 BHP.  I tend to rate puff irons at ¼ BHP regardless of whether they are single or triples because they don’t emit steam all the time, and they consume a very small amount when at rest.

We all have our own unique set of talents, and mine is knowing all these numbers off the top of my head.  But for the remainder of the population, pressing equipment manufacturers provide a BHP number for all their laundry, shirt laundry, and dry cleaning pressing equipment as well as for dry cleaning machines and washers and dryers.  Sometimes a little digging might be required, but this is an important number to know when outfitting a new plant or when purchasing a single piece of equipment simply for an upgrade.  Once you have all your BHP numbers, figure in about 5% for header heat loss but be careful not to oversize unless the customer demands it.  And when it’s time to replace your boiler, don’t simply replace it with your current size.  Instead, run through this exercise to see if a larger size is necessary.

Determining your required boiler size can feel a bit complicated and overwhelming, but an experienced boiler system sales and design person can come up with a really close calculation.  And of course, Tri-State Laundry Equipment is always here to help whether is it’s dry cleaning or laundry boilers or dry cleaning or laundry equipment.

Choosing the Right Boiler Based on Fuel Type

While there are a number of fuel options for boilers, with some of them being quite unusual or messy (think biomass or coal), we’re going to focus on three for several practical reasons.  First, the last thing you want is an employee shoveling pulverized coal into your boiler and then heading over to press white shirts.  Second, it can be difficult to round up burnable plant material and debris from wood construction.  You get the idea.  For our purposes, let’s talk about the following three:

  • Gas Fired – Gas fired boilers burn Natural Gas.  Natural Gas is chiefly Methane, but when it is removed from the ground, it may also contain Butane, Ethane, Pentane, and Propane.  These other products are stripped out before the Natural Gas is sent down the pipeline.  Natural Gas is one of the most efficient fuels to use for boiler operations because it is relatively inexpensive, energy efficient, dependable, and environmentally friendly.  While Propane is used in similar ways, it is quite different from Methane.  For instance, a smaller amount of Propane is required to produce the same amount of heat.  The good news is that it is easy to compare costs because both are done based on BTU ratings.  To learn more on how to compare costs, click here.  There is a down side to installing gas – the initial investment can be rather costly depending on your current set up.  We suggest bringing in a qualified technician to provide an accurate estimate of what is involved so that you can take the initial cost into consideration. 
  • Oil Fired – Oil fired boilers are particularly popular for homes and businesses that are not connected to gas mains.  There are several downsides to going with oil.  For instance, the cost of oil can vary greatly.  You need to have an oil tank onsite or nearby and have oil delivered.  Finally, oil fired boilers require more maintenance and attention because of dirt and soot buildup.
  • Electric – Compared to gas or oil boilers, electric boilers are more efficient because there’s no need for an exhaust flue for waste; therefore, no heat escapes from the system.  They also tend to take up less room than other boilers and can be more cost effective to install.   Plus on top of all of that, they are quiet.  On the downside, electricity is more expensive in most parts of the United States. 

Let’s do some cost comparing.  Our benchmark is Natural Gas which will give us 1,075,000 BTU’s per 1,000 cubic feet at a cost of approximately $3.87.  Propane will give us 91,000 BTU’s per gallon at approximately $.86 per gallon, which calculates to 11.8 gallons of Propane for a cost of $10.14.  Oil is our next fuel choice at 138,500 BTU’s per gallon priced currently at $1.59 per gallon, which translates to 7.8 gallons of fuel oil at a cost of $12.40.  Our last option of electricity requires 1-KW to produce 3,413 BTU’s at an average cost of $.1031 per KW and that translates to $37.80.

Summary:

To create the same quantity of steam, it costs

Natural Gas    $3.87

Propane    $10.14

Oil        $12.40

Electricity    $37.80

When you take a look at all the factors, not only is there a big difference when it comes to costs, keep in mind that Natural Gas is clean burning, and oil requires burner adjustments and maintenance to keep it in proper tune.  While there are some positives to electricity, the high cost makes it impractical.  Even though everyone doesn’t have access to Natural Gas, it would be beneficial to find a location that has it or petition your local gas company to expand into your area. 

If you need help choosing a boiler, feel free to contact Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company.  We are always glad to help.

Solving Compressed Air Leaks

When running a dry cleaning plant, we seem to come up with all kinds of work-arounds to temporarily resolve machine issues just so we can get through production.  Compressed air issues are no exception – we simply solve this problem by increasing the regulator pressure, but doing this should not be a long-term fix.  If you are having compressed air issues, here’s what Tri-State Laundry Equipment recommends:

  1. Check each machine’s air connection, which is typically into a coalescent filter and an air pressure regulator.  Ninety percent of the time, the filters we see are leaking air from the drain.  This is easily solved by either disassembling and cleaning or by a kit from the maker for a rebuild.  These kits contain the needed seals which have gone bad; the same applies to the regulator.
  2. Examine each machine by closing off the air supply to the machines then opening only the air to the machine you are checking for leaks.  This will make it easier to pinpoint the location of the leak.  If the machine has vacuum or blower motor, you’ll need to either turn them off or disconnect the power to the motor so the machine can function, and you can hear and find the leaks more easily.  Specifically check fittings and cylinders as they are the most common locations for leaks.  Once they’ve been located, you’ll need fittings, air tubing, and cylinder repair kits to make the repairs.  Repeat the process on every machine until they’ve all been thoroughly examined, identified as leak-free, or all repairs have been made.

We realize this is quite a process.  I’ve been guilty of letting this kind of issue go in order to complete production, but I promise that the effort is worth it.  In the long run, having a properly operating machine with constant air pressure at the right pressure will reduce wear and tear on your air compressor, help reduce your utility costs, increase the quality of your product, and improve overall productivity.

If your business is struggling with air pressure issues, contact Tri-State Laundry Equipment at 1.866.885.5218.  We are glad to help.

Caring for Your Air Compressor

Good quality dry cleaning is part science and part art.  Over the years, dry cleaners have become more and more reliant on compressors, in part for the role they play in the proper function of a plant’s equipment but also for precise amounts of air on demand for things like specialized, detailed work.  So if your goal is to provide customers with bright, clean, crisply finished garments, but you are using dirty air, then you are fighting an uphill battle.  Luckily, it’s not difficult to use clean compressed air to run your equipment and to clean customer’s clothes. 

Below are some simple steps to keep your air compressor operating at peak efficiency:

  • Intake Vents: If your intake vent is dirty or clogged, it will force your air compressor to work harder.  Regularly check and clean your vents, especially if you’re in a dusty environment. 
  • Belts: Inspect them for excessive wear and damage, replacing them as needed.  Also be sure to check the tension, ensuring the belt can travel freely.
  • Air filters: Exceptionally dirty or blocked air filters allow dirt from outside in, requiring your compressor to work harder to intake air.  Check your filters often and change them if they have a buildup of dust and dirt.  
  • Oil: Consult the manufacturer’s guide to make sure you are using the proper oil.  Some manufacturers recommend non-detergent oil or synthetic oil.  Check the oil level on a daily basis to make sure it isn’t running low.  Finally, change out the oil every 500-1,000 hours to keep your compressor functioning properly.
  • Separator:  If you allow water to accumulate, it will eventually get pulled back into the system.  Check and empty your separator regularly, and replace the element every 2,000 hours of operation.
  • Heat Exchangers: Dirty heat exchangers won’t function at their max potential.  Cleaning them regularly will make it easier for them to keep temps down. 

Being proactive and properly maintaining your air compressor translates to money saved in the end because you reduce your chance of down time, will produce a quality product consistently, and your equipment will last longer.  But maintenance isn’t the only air compressor related topic we need to discuss.  It’s also important, especially important, to detect and solve air compressor leaks immediately.  Next month we’ll tackle that issue.  In the meantime, if you have an air compressor issue and need help, just contact Tri-State at 1.866.885.5218.

Coin-Operated Laundry Equipment

I’ve never really liked doing laundry, but I particularly disliked doing laundry while I was in college.  It was so incredibly inconvenient to lug a week’s worth of laundry to the laundromat, along with a pile of quarters, and then spend the next several hours babysitting my laundry while trying to study too.  I think my biggest frustration, though, was how long it took for my clothes to dry.  Many times, I had to put a second round of quarters in, so between the time and the expense, I really began to dread laundry day.

It’s funny that I have such vivid memories of college laundry.  I could describe the place in great detail, though I couldn’t tell you what brand the washers and dryers were.  Of course, I had no idea I would be writing about coin-operated washers and dryers twenty-five years later.  But as you think about your coin-operated laundry facility, what do you want your customers to remember?  Do you want them to dread laundry day, or would you rather they have memories of how quickly and efficiently they were able to get that weekly chore completed so they could move on to other things?

When it comes to coin-operated laundry equipment, Tri-State Laundry Equipment looks for brands that will provide customers with easy, convenient, quick, and reliable service, and that’s why Tri-State features American Dryer Corporation and Wascomat coin-operated equipment.  Dryers come in heavy duty double-stack or single-stack options, and washers come in a single-stack front-loading style.  Both washers and dryers have a coin pay or card pay option.

While your customers will appreciate the easy pay, easy use, and quick washing and drying results, you’ll appreciate the energy efficiency, low maintenance, and access to interchangeable parts.  If you are in the market for either new or used coin-operated washers or dryers, contact Tri-State Laundry Equipment at 866.885.5218.  We’ll be glad to answer any questions and help you determine which products will work best for you and your customers. 

Preventing Commercial Dryer Fires

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, clothes dryers account for roughly 15,600 fires annually, and the number one contributing factor to dryer fires is failing to clean built up lint.  But homeowners aren’t the only folks forgetting to properly clean the lint from their dryers, those of us in the commercial laundry and dry cleaning business are guilty too.  Given that October 9-15 is Fire Prevention Week, we thought this might be a good time to remind you why this simple little task is so important.

Below are some photos of the inside of a dryer from a nearby hotel that hadn’t been properly maintained.

The accumulation of this much lint could have blocked the airflow and caused heat to buildup, ultimately resulting in a fire.  Not only are dryers a common cause for home fires, commercial dryers are also a leading cause of fires in the commercial laundry and dry cleaning industry.  Thankfully, the owners of the above dryer made a service call, so Tri-State pulled it apart, cleaned it thoroughly, and now it’s running properly.  To help avoid a commercial dryer fire and to keep your commercial dryer running efficiently, Tri-State recommends the following:

  1. Clean the lint compartment after every load.  When cleaning the filter, check for items that might have gotten trapped, such as dryer sheets, which can hamper proper air flow.
  2. Monthly, check the duct for lint and other items that might have made it past the filter.  Also, vacuum the exhaust duct monthly to ensure proper airflow.
  3. Biannually or annually, have the entire dryer, including the lint filter system, thoroughly cleaned and maintained by a professional.

These three simple steps will not only help reduce the chance of fire in your facility, but they will also help clothes dry more efficiently, and they will help keep your utility costs down.  If you need help with commercial dryer maintenance, feel free to send us a message or give us a call at 1.866.885.5218.

Configuring a Dry Cleaning Plant

A customer of ours recently experienced a fire in their central plant, so Tri-State was asked to help relocate and install equipment in a temporary facility more than half the size of the original plant.  It’s interesting -- I’ve been in a lot of dry cleaning production facilities and have seen what I thought to be smart and efficient layouts as well as poorly designed layouts.  Plus, I’ve been in this industry for over 33 years and always felt I had a good grasp on how to properly layout commercial dry cleaning and laundry equipment for maximum productivity, that is until we underwent this exercise.  If I am being completely honest, we all, including me, learned a lot about how much production space is really required to achieve maximum productivity.  Here are three things I learned and would like to share with you thanks to my recent experience:

  1. Have a plan with a final goal in mind.  In our case, the customer had a catastrophe and had to set up a new facility, but many times the need for reconfiguring or moving is to accommodate an increase in volume.  Making these sorts of changes can be really expensive and may not all fit into the budget at one time.  Don’t cut corners; instead consider implementing a plan in phases until you reach your ultimate goal.
  2. Just because you are great at operating a dry cleaning plant doesn’t mean you will also be great at designing one.  If you’ve been in the business as long as I have, then you’ve experienced a reduction in piece count over the years.  Because volumes aren’t what they used to be, it can pay to take a closer look at each station to see if there is an opportunity to reduce steps or to see if one person can handle multiple pieces of equipment.  If you are concerned about productivity and layout, consider hiring a professional dry cleaning designer.
  3. Bigger isn’t always better.  It’s so tempting, since you’re already in the middle of the project, to get the biggest, best, fastest, coolest, most state-of-the-art piece of dry cleaning or laundry equipment out there, but do this with every single piece and suddenly you’ve gone way over your budget.  Be realistic with your choices. 

If you find yourself needing to reconfigure or move your business, don’t hesitate to give Tri-State a call at 1.866.885.5218.  We’ll be glad to help you figure out what you need so that you can maximize both your productivity and resources.

Meet Chris Lawson

It is safe to say that Chris Lawson grew up in this business.  His dad, Kevin Lawson, is the Vice President of Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company, so Chris started helping at age 16 with installs and preventative maintenance during summer breaks.  After graduating from high school, he started working full-time doing repair jobs and has slowly worked his way into Service/Parts/Sales Manager.  I would call him a ‘Jack of all Trades’, given his ability to do everything from solving a mechanical issue to tracking down hard to find parts to gutting and installing a dry cleaning or laundry facility.  His dad says he’s ‘better than me at telling customers what part is needed for repair and how it applies to the machine.’  Given what I know about his dad, I’d say that’s a pretty big compliment.

Chris is an interesting guy – fantastic family man and incredible sharp-shooter, but I’m guessing that you’d like to know how he can help your business.  Here are five things that will show you what an asset he could be to your business:

  1. His knowledge of dry cleaning and laundry parts is unreal.  He’s configured a system to where we stock the most commonly needed and the most critical laundry, dry cleaning and coin operated machine parts to reduce customer down time.  Tri-State mostly stocks Wascomat, Electrolux, Unimac, ADC, Speed Queen, Parker Boiler, Forenta, Unipress, and Ajax, but Chris can quickly and easily track down any part when given the right information.  More importantly, with his years of experience, relationships with our techs, and connections with dealers around the country, he can also track down parts even if information is lacking.
  2. In his time in this industry, he’s noticed significant improvements in the way the equipment works.  For dry cleaning, all of the new presses are operated by computer boards, and for laundry, extract speeds of washing machines have increased greatly along with programming via Bluetooth.  While these advances help with trouble shooting, the down side is that advances in technology usually come with an increase in pricing.
  3. He likes helping customers improve their quality, productivity, and overall laundry processes.  To be successful in this area, Chris believes he needs to know a little bit on just about everything.  That’s why he goes to every available manufacturer’s training and tours their headquarters when given the opportunity.  
  4. He enjoys going above and beyond for his customers.  For instance, he once got into his truck at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and drove to Virginia to meet a customer and give him a boiler part so that the customer wouldn’t be down come Monday morning.  And there was the time that he once helped our install crew completely gut and rebuild a dry cleaners in Lumberton, North Carolina over the fourth of July holiday, taking 97 hours and being completed in five days.
  5. Just as he gets great satisfaction about going above and beyond, he is equally as frustrated when he spends hours looking for a part that no one has or can get.  One of the things he dislikes the most is not being able to come through for a customer.

In closing, Chris wanted to share the following piece of advice: “Always keep your eye on quality.  Something may be enticing because it’s cheaper, but quality always wins in the end.”  Sound advice from a super-qualified guy.  If you are having issues with getting the dry cleaning and laundry parts you need, consider giving Chris a call at 866.885.5218.  He’ll move heaven and earth to try and help you.

Boiler Room Due Diligence

I often wonder if other people’s brains work like mine.  I think about a topic, which leads to another topic, then another, and before I know it, I’ve created this whole big-budget movie-like scenario in my head that warrants an Emmy.  In last month’s blog post, we discussed common causes for low-water levels in boilers, and writing that post led to a number of thoughts, which climaxed with a not-so-pleasant explosion-like ending.  I realize that is taking it a bit far, but boilers, if not properly maintained, can fail, leading to a potentially dangerous situation.  And one thing I can say for certain is that most folks do not properly care for their commercial boilers.

Here are 5 easy things you can do to both keep your boiler in good working order and to avoid a potential boiler room disaster:

  1. Safety first – Always wear the appropriate clothing, shoes, and safety gear when working on your boiler.
  2. Follow procedures – Create a set of guidelines to follow for proper startup and shutdown, and make sure that whoever is responsible for following the guidelines understands and follows them carefully and consistently. 
  3. Preventative maintenance – Set up a routine preventative maintenance program according to the manufacturers’ specifications, and be sure to document each one along with any unusual findings.
  4. Inspections – Perform regular inspections and address any issues found during the inspections immediately.
  5. Boiler room – The boiler’s burner needs the appropriate amount of air circulation to work properly.  If there isn’t proper circulation, the boiler could produce carbon monoxide, so avoid storing unnecessary items in the boiler room.

If your new or used boiler is in need of attention and you don’t know where to start, call Tri-State Laundry Equipment Co. at 866-885-5218.  We are glad to offer assistance with advice, service, parts, or equipment replacement.

Top 6 Causes for Low-Water Levels in Boilers

Boilers have been around for over two hundred years.  I believe it’s one of, if not the, most important pieces of equipment in any business, and yet, it is also the most neglected.  You can find a work-around if a press isn’t functioning properly, but if your boiler goes down…..then your entire business is down.  There are a number of reasons why a boiler might go down, but the one I want to focus on today is low-water levels.  Maintaining the proper water level is vital when it comes to proper and safe boiler operation, because if the internal water level drops too low, the safety triggers are activated and the boiler shuts down.

I’ve worked on lots of boilers in my 30 years in this industry, so based on my experiences, I’ve come up with a list of the top six culprits, along with solutions, to low-water level issues.

  1. The return tank fill valve is stuck, preventing water from filling the return tank.  Before doing any other trouble shooting, check the sight glass for proper level.
  2. Corroded or scaled low-water safety probes will keep your boiler from sensing the proper water level.  To remedy this problem, simply remove the probes, clean them with sandpaper, place them back in their proper place, and check all wiring to the probes for proper continuity.
  3. A faulty check valve, whether leaking or stuck, will not allow water in to the boiler.  For this, replace or rebuild the check valves between the feed water pump and the boiler. The most common combination is a swing check near the pump and a spring check before the boiler.  Make sure the checks you use are working steam pressure rated.
  4. Corroded piping between the makeup tank and the boiler will not allow the pump to be supplied with water. First, check the y-strainer between the makeup tank and the pump check to ensure the screen isn’t clogged.  Next, check the piping all the way to the boiler for corrosion build up.
  5. If the return water is too hot, the pump could cavitate when it runs.  The optimal water temperature for a boiler is 180 degrees, and if the temperature gets too high, the pump will not fill a pressurized boiler. A good way to temporarily solve the issue is to run water from a hose over the pump head to cool it so it can pump until the cause is determined and repaired.
  6. The return system feed pump is too weak to provide the proper water feed.  Check this by slowly closing down the valve in the feed line between the pump and the boiler while listening for a binding noise in the pump.  If you know that your checks and piping are in good shape then you can either rebuild the pump or purchase a new one.  To make rebuilding simpler, there are kits available depending on your mechanical abilities, but if you have never attempted this before, I would suggest a new pump so that you don’t risk being down because you couldn’t complete the rebuild.

As you can see, there are a number of causes for low-water level issues, and good trouble shooting is vital when trying to determine the cause of the problem.  This is when, if you don’t have the mechanical knowledge yourself, a relationship with a good service technician comes in.  If you are having boiler issues and don’t know where to start, Tri-State Laundry Equipment will gladly help.  Simply call us at 866.885.5218, and we will be happy to offer assistance.

Keeping Your Dry Cleaning Plant Cool

There are so many wonderful things about summer, except for the heat.  While temperatures outside will be in the 90’s, temperatures inside a dry cleaning plant can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.  Such heat can lead to employee dehydration and fatigue.  To help combat that, Tri-State has come up with a few ideas to hopefully help you and your staff beat the summer heat. 

Adjusting hours – Adjusting production times to start and end earlier in the day is by far the cheapest alternative, provided customer needs can be met. 

Cooling Systems – There are both installed and portable cooling systems.  While both are effective at cooling, they tend to be expensive to install, run, and maintain.  When it comes to installed systems, Tri-State uses MagicAire Air Handlers that have water-cooled coils in conjunction with Kleen Rite Water Chillers to cool the coils.  MagicAire Air Handlers come in a variety of sizes, and you can purchase the appropriately sized chiller accordingly.  When shopping for your plant, Tri-State recommends staying at or below 2 drops sized at 8” per ton of chiller for spot cooling.  When piping, pipe just above the work station so that the air comes out above the employee’s head.  Portable cooling systems work well; in essence, they are air conditioning units with a 6” hose to point at employees.  There is, however, a flaw with this particular solution.  The air intake gets clogged with lint because many operators fail to properly clean its filter; it is an issue that can ultimately cause damage to the unit. 

Area Fans – Area fans are an economical solution to help make the inside of a dry cleaning plant more bearable during hot summer months.  Tri-State has found that the best area fans for use in dry cleaning plants come from Global Industrial.  They can be moved around in work areas as well as directly mounted to the wall.  While they obviously don’t cool the air, when properly placed, they do a great job at keeping the air moving.

Swamp Coolers – If you are in an area with relatively low humidity, a swamp cooler works well at cooling, and it can be fairly inexpensive to install and maintain.  Here’s how they work – swamp coolers are open systems that blow air into the building drawing it through filter pads soaked in water from an on-board tank and pump system. Unlike air conditioners, where air passes over a set of coils filled with a refrigerant, swamp coolers cool the air down by evaporation, and they use a lot less energy than air conditioning units. 

Ceiling Exhaust Fans – We believe this, in conjunction with small fans blowing on workers, is the most economical option for cooling dry cleaning plants, provided the exhaust fans are properly positioned.  Here’s a great example -- the shirt laundry finishing area produces the most heat because of the required operating steam pressure needed for proper finishing and production time.  Placing exhaust ceiling fans above the shirt finishing area (because they are the greatest source of heat in the building), allows the heat to be drawn out, so it naturally cools the space.  But be sure to use caution when choosing the fan size and designing the space because you can put too much negative pressure on the building.     

If you have questions about combating the heat in your business, please give us a call at 866.885.5218.  We are happy to help.

Tips for Purchasing a Good Quality Used Boiler

Over the last several years, we’ve shared with you why we like purchasing good quality used dry cleaning and laundry equipment over brand new.  Replacing your old, worn out boiler with a good quality used boiler is also an effective and efficient way to spend your resources.  There are typically two types of boilers that dry cleaners use – Vertical Tubeless Boilers and Watertube Boilers.  Before you start shopping for a used boiler, we’ve come up with a list of tips to help you with your due diligence.

Check the following on Vertical Tubeless Boilers:

1.    Was it chemically treated, and if so, do you have the routine water analysis reports?  If not, a trusted boiler technician can do an internal inspection and determine the current condition.

2.    What was its inspection, maintenance routine, and daily blow down regiment?  Proper boiler maintenance ensures it runs efficiently, keeps utility costs down, and most importantly – increases the life of the boiler.  Signs of improper chemical treatment and consistent blow down include pitting of the water jacket and scale build up. 

3.    Are there any leaks?  Leaks allow steam to eat away at the metal.  Specifically check for leaks between the boiler sections, hand-hole gaskets, and piping.

4.    Have the flues been properly maintained?  This is an area that is rarely checked or properly maintained but is still important as it significantly impacts the boilers performance and its ability to expel flue gas and build steam pressure efficiently.

5.    Are the controls in working order?  While the condition of the controls is important, it’s not critical as they are easily replaced.

Check the following on Watertube Boilers:

Determining whether a used Watertube Boiler meets the necessary criteria is a bit easier than for Vertical Tubeless Boilers.  First, start with investigating its chemical treatment, the water analysis reports, inspections, maintenance, and blow down regiment.  Next, do an internal tube and steam drum inspection to see if there is any pitting or scale buildup within the tubes and steam drum. 

On a side note, Tri-State Laundry Equipment likes Watertube Boilers for dry cleaning operations because of their fast start up time and ability to start and stop each day.  You also won’t have the flues to contend with if it’s an atmospheric tube type like with Parker Boiler’s Watertube Boiler.   If that is the case, then inspection, cleaning of each cast iron burner, and cleaning its gas orifice makes the burner system like new again.   But keep in mind that all other brands of Watertube Boilers that are not atmospheric will require the same attention as the Tubeless Boiler in respect to the flue system.

If you are in the market for a used boiler and have questions, please feel free to call our office at 866-885-5218.  We are happy to help.

Dry Cleaning and Laundry Parts

Don’t you hate it when you have a piece of equipment that’s malfunctioning, you know what the problem is, and you can’t seem to find the part quickly?  My employee with the HE washing machine recently found herself in that situation.  Her home washing machine was restarting its cycle about 30 minutes into the wash.  Her husband did some research and found that it was a faulty valve which caused the electronic sensors to malfunction.  It was actually an easy fix – except no stores in the area carried the part, so he had to order it……and she had to wait.  She watched as the laundry just piled up.

Now if your business is dependent upon all your equipment functioning properly, that situation simply won’t do.  When I first started working for Tri-State, we had a rather small warehouse with a sparse selection of regularly needed parts.  Fast forward 20 years.  Now we have an expansive warehouse stocked with both dry cleaning and laundry parts as well as dry cleaning and laundry equipment.  The range of brand names we stock include Parker, Wascomat, Electrolux, Maytag, Speed Queen, ADC, Unimac, Forenta, and Unipress……and the list goes on.  Plus, with our years in the business, we’ve developed a substantial network of merchants that can help us quickly locate a part should it not be at our warehouse.  Our technicians are licensed refrigeration technicians, certified sonic hydronic testers, and master pipe fitters as well as experienced in machine & tooling and electronic evaluation, and that extensive training and experience is really valuable in identifying parts and determining part numbers when unknown.

If you have a parts emergency, call us on our toll-free number 866-885-5218.  You will receive top priority, and you can relax knowing that we will do what it takes to minimize any inconvenience for you and your customers. 

Commercial Washing Machines

I’ve noticed a pattern with many of my blog posts; I often seem to start by mentioning the ever-increasing costs of utilities, and I try to offer solutions to help reduce those costs.  This post is no exception.

One of my employees recently purchased a high-efficiency home washing machine.  After using it for a month, she received her first water bill and marveled at the fact that both the consumption and cost went down around 40%.  Her delight made me start thinking about ways we could help both conserve water and save costs, and the same benefits hold true if businesses invest in the latest commercial washing machine technology.

At Tri-State Laundry Equipment, we like the Electrolux smart washers.  Depending on the model you choose, their washers offer a variety of features including custom programming, power balance for both maximum water extraction and even weight distribution, and smart dosing which automatically adjusts the ratio of chemicals to water.

The thing I like the most about Electrolux’s washing machine line is that you can save up to 30% on water.  How?  Well their washers weigh the load size and then add the appropriate amount of water and laundry chemicals – on every single load.  Not only will that save in utility costs, but it will also help save in supply and labor costs as well.

If your washing machine has your utility bills going through the roof, consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model.  Call me, Kevin Lawson, at 866-885-5218.  I’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

Commercial Dryers

While dryer technology hasn’t changed too much over the years, there have been a couple new features, one being moisture sensing, added to more recent models.  Companies like Electrolux/Wascomat and American Dryer Corp. have really embraced this dry control feature that turns the heat off once the moisture level reaches a preset number entered by the operator.  I love the idea of using this moisture control shut off feature for things like delicate items or linens, and I also love the fact that it frees up the operator from having to babysit the load.

Though I am a fan of the moisture sensing feature, I mentioned that dryer technology hasn’t changed much so that makes purchasing used commercial dryers a great option.  Of course, we always suggest doing your due diligence when purchasing any piece of new or used equipment.  When considering used commercial dryers, take a look at the dryer’s age, condition, and parts availability.  Here are a few key items to check:

  • Condition of the basket shaft bearing – to do this simply lift up on the drum from the door opening.  There should be little play, 1” or less.
  • Clearance between the basket and the front door opening lip – if there is very little clearance or some rubbing, then the bearings and basket rollers need to be replaced.
  • Noise level when the basket turns – if there is a bumping noise, more than likely the front basket support rollers need to be replaced.

Keep in mind that the actual piece of equipment is not the only thing to consider before making a purchase.  Here are a couple more things to investigate:

  • Make note of the dryer’s dimensions.  Obviously it needs to fit in the space you have in mind, but it also needs to travel through doors and hallways to get there.
  • Be sure you have the proper air make up for the dryer.  This is important from both an efficiency and code standpoint.  Fresh air needs to enter the room from outside at the same rate that it is blown out of the room.  To avoid a draft in the room, place the inlet air behind the dryer, making certain that the opening is 5 times the size of the exhaust pipe area.  Grates and slats many times block a portion of the air vent area, so be mindful of that as well.  Most manufacturer’s installation manuals offer more specifics to help, but we are glad to answer any questions you might have.

Once your commercial dryer is up and running, don’t neglect it.  Be sure to check out Tri-State's resources section on how to provide proper ongoing care for your commercial dryer in North Carolina and elsewhere.  As always, feel free to contact us at 866-885-5218 if you have questions or need assistance.

The Importance of Insulation

If you follow our blog, then you know that we’ve discussed managing utility costs a number of times.  I focus on this subject because utilities can run 6 – 18% of volume, and I tend to see a lot of mismanagement in this area.  One easy way to help reduce waste, improve efficiency, and lower your utility costs is to properly insulate.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, uninsulated steam distribution and condensate return lines are a constant source of wasted energy.  They further go on to say that insulation can typically reduce energy losses by 90% and help ensure proper steam pressure in plant equipment.  But let me tell you how I read those statistics – reduced utility expenditures equals a larger number on your bottom line.  So let’s get started.  Walk through your plant and take some notes.

  • Are all pipes up to 7’ high insulated?  Not only will this help with waste, it is also mandatory for safety purposes.  Get this taken care of first so that the risk of employee injury is eliminated.
  • Is everything that reaches or exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit insulated?  Check your boiler, supply and return steam lines, steam traps, and fittings.
  • Consider insulating cold pipes, ducts, chillers, and roof drains - this will help control condensation and reduce the chances of deterioration.
  • Before purchasing insulation, do your due diligence.  Take a look at using removable insulation covers or jackets on things like valves, steam traps, and boilers.  They are economical and provide easy access should the need for repairs arise.

Once everything is insulated, be sure to properly maintain both your equipment and its insulation.  Leaks and condensation can cause insulation to become wet, which will impact its effectiveness.  Be sure to replace wet insulation promptly.  If you have questions about insulating your dry cleaning and laundry equipment, simply contact us through our website

Heated Hydrocarbon Cleaning

Not only was the new Unipress Hurricane Double Buck Shirt Unit a hot topic at the 2015 Clean Show, heated hydrocarbon dry cleaning machines also generated a lot of buzz.  That’s because for years now, dry cleaners have been trying to find a more eco-friendly cleaning product that produces the same results as perc.  Unfortunately, few have performed at an adequate level, leaving many dry cleaners both holding off on upgrading equipment and wondering if there will ever be a magic bullet solution to the problem.

An organization in Texas conducted some testing using a hydrocarbon based cleaning solution, somewhere around 1970-1980.  Unfortunately, the testing didn’t progress too far.  We’re not sure why, but perhaps it had something to do with the machinery’s technology.  Fast forward to 2010, a long-time dry cleaning guru, recognizing that there needed to be an alternative to perc, analyzed the data from the previously mentioned testing and believed he’d found that magic bullet solution.  He also found data related to heat successfully cleaning industrial work gloves loaded with grease.  He believed that heat in conjunction with a high class petroleum based solvent was the ticket.

After hooking up with a dry cleaning friend that had a Georgia-based cleaner and specially ordering a machine, they started testing the theory.  Somewhere along the way, in addition to the heat, he determined that the proper detergent played an important role, and Wes Brunson with Fabritec International supplied that missing piece.  The results were simply amazing.  Pre-spotting, with the exception of things like ink, blood, and paint, all but disappeared.  Grease stains were removed easily.  Food spots were coming out 99% of the time without pre-spotting.  Dark loads were getting a 98% pass rate.  Many beaded and embellished garments could be cleaned with this method.  Whites were coming out brighter than if they’d been wet cleaned.  The fibers relaxed resulting in a nicer feel to the hand and fewer wrinkles on the garments, which translated into reduced finishing times.  And as an added bonus, there was no odor.  There is one catch -- these results came as long as everything is done properly -- the right programming in the right machine with the right detergent, but “the magic is in the heat”.

“The dry cleaning industry has long been looking for a viable alternative to perc,” said Kevin Lawson, Vice President of Tri-State.  “With its success in stain removal and reduction in waste, I see heated hydrocarbon as the future of the industry, possibly replacing perc permanently.”  If you are one of those operators that’s been holding off dry cleaning equipment upgrades or purchases for the arrival of the magic bullet solution, now could very well be that day.  Need help getting started?  Simply call us at 866-885-5218; we are here to help.

Used Unipress Equipment

Last month, we shared some information about the new Unipress Hurricane Double Buck Shirt Unit that was unveiled at the 2015 Clean Show.  It is an impressive piece of shirt laundry equipment and will most likely entice many operators to upgrade.  Translation – that Hurricane will have to replace something, and I see an opportunity for others to upgrade to a high-quality piece of Used Unipress equipment while saving some money.  Here are three great Used Unipress pieces out on the market right now:

• The Unipress NT, the first in the Lightning Series, boasts features like a contoured chest, side air bags, and dual timers.  It is a sturdy and reliable piece of equipment that has stood the test of time.  While this press is no longer in production, parts are still readily available should a need for repairs arise. 

• A piece of Used Unipress equipment we really like is the second generation in the Lightning Series – the Unipress AP.  It can produce 90 shirts per hour on a double buck and 50 per hour on a single buck.  Not only does the AP produce a beautiful shirt, it also has an open design for easy maintenance, microprocessor controls with self-diagnosis, and is easy to operate. 

• Unipress LS – This press is the third in the Lightning Series and is designed to produce the highest-quality shirt, increase piece count, and reduce labor costs.  Features we love include foot operated clamps, scheduled maintenance notifier, and microprocessor controls with self-diagnosis.

No matter what piece of used laundry or dry cleaning equipment you are looking for, make sure you work with a reputable company that discloses what repair work has been done on the equipment.  We fully disclose all repair work before selling any piece of used equipment.  Additionally, many distributors sell used equipment as is.  We offer a 90 day parts only warranty many of our pieces of used laundry or dry cleaning equipment.

If you need assistance selling or purchasing equipment, call Kevin Lawson at 866-885-5218 or visit our website www.tristatelaundryequipment.com.

Unipress Hurricane

I love attending The Clean Show.  It provides an excellent opportunity to check out the latest in technology and to talk one-on-one with the companies we partner with.  Probably the most looked at and most talked about item at this year’s show was the Unipress Hurricane Double Buck Shirt Unit.  I’d like to show you a photo of this unit, but as you can see, there was a mob surrounding it the entire time.

You can check out the Unipress website to see photos and to get more detailed information about this piece of shirt laundry equipment, but let me tell you what I like about it:

  • The Unipress Hurricane has a touch screen to monitor production, but that’s not the end to the touch screen’s capability.  When an error occurs, the screen lets the operator bring up the manual at the point of error and then identifies the parts needed to correct the issue.  This gives the operator all the information needed to pinpoint and communicate the problem to the mechanic, who can show up prepared with all the parts needed to fix the problem.
  • Unipress by far manufacturers the best shirt unit on the market.  That being said, no piece of equipment is perfect.  In the past, there have been issues with rubber hoses cracking causing units to lose vacuum.  They’ve solved that problem in the Unipress Hurricane unit by re-engineering it to eliminate rubber hoses and vacuum lines and then replaced them with aluminum tubing.
  • Finally, they did some fine-tuning on the tensioning arm by both beefing it up and adjusting it towards a more natural angle.

Apparently I’m not the only one impressed by this updated shirt unit.  Sales of the new Hurricane far exceeded anyone’s expectations.  I can see why.  It’s a fantastic piece of equipment.  If you’re in the market for a similar piece of equipment, Tri-State has a great selection of used Unipress equipment.

Refrigerated Air Dryers

A recent conversation with a customer in Texas about refrigeration air dryers led me to think about a pattern we have with our maintenance calls.  As you know, every press in every dry cleaning facility operates by air-activated cylinders to either raise and lower or close and open ironing heads, transfer forms, and such.  Each one of those cylinders has a rubber O-ring that is affected when moisture mixes with the lubricant at the seal.  The problem that many facilities experience is that the air going to the equipment has too much moisture, which ultimately creates maintenance problems and costly repairs.  Unfortunately, many folks tend to ignore this issue; however, with just a little planning and effort, this issue could actually not even be an issue at all.  Here are my three suggestions to help remedy the problem.

1.  Installing your air compressor in the boiler room seems like a logical choice given the amount of noise it produces; however, the boiler room has both a higher temperature and higher humidity than the surrounding area.  Instead of taking in ambient air from that humid environment, we suggest that you pipe the intake to pull air in from outside the boiler room.


2.  Install a refrigerated air dryer.  Here’s how it works – warm wet air enters the dryer and is cooled down.  The moisture that was in the air condenses to water, and that water goes into a water separator bowl and filter.  What’s left is dryer air, which is reheated to room temperature to keep the outside of the pipes from sweating.



3.  Your last line of defense is to install an oil water separator on each press.  This device is designed to keep water from mixing in with the lubricants and getting in your rubber seals and valves, ultimately leading to premature valve failure.  The photo below is of a combination separator/filter/regulator.


Protect your investment.  If you are having water vapor issues, contact us at tristatelaundryequipment.com or call us at 866-885-5218.  We are happy to help.

Graying Garments

A common complaint among frequent dry cleaning customers is that their white and light colored garments look dingy – sometimes referred to as ‘graying’.  This issue comes from redeposition – a situation where the dirt, dye, spotting agents, and body oils from dirty clothes get suspended in the dry cleaning solvent.  Those soils are then redeposited back on to garments in future loads.  Along with the garment’s dingy look, there sometimes can be an odd odor as well.

What causes redeposition?  Actually a number of things, so we’ve come up with a list of the most common causes:

• Using dirty solvent.  Most dry cleaners distill their solvent constantly so that each load is cleaned in clean solvent, but there are some discount cleaners that try to save money by running this process only periodically.   The result is clothes being cleaned in solvent that is at best, murky and at worst, brown.  Your solvent should always be clear.

• There is a lack of solvent exchange between the drum and filters.  There could be a number of issues causing this including dirty or clogged filters that don’t allow the solvent to pass through; a clogged pump strainer; a malfunctioning tank inlet/outlet, filter inlet/outlet, or wheel inlet/outlet valves; the pump not pumping because of either a clogged button trap or a malfunctioning valve at the button trap causing the pump not to have suction.

• Clogged bleeder lines for the filter housings, an issue that is often overlooked.  Each filter has a bleeder line to bleed off air and ensure that the filter is completely full of solvent.  These lines can clog with lint, causing the filter to not completely fill.  That means you could be operating with only half the filter area of your filter system.

• Dirty carbon filters.  Carbon filters are used to remove dye and should be changed every 1200-1500 pounds of cleaning each.

• Improper sorting.  Not only should you sort your loads based on color, you should also sort for weight.  Be sure to run lighter weight garments separately from heavier weight items.

• Overloading the machine.  If the machine is too full, it won’t allow the solvent to move around the wheel properly, causing removed soil to remain in contact with garments longer.

The good news is that the graying color can many times be removed by simply cleaning the garments again in fresh solvent.  If you’ve had customers comment on their whites, do some investigating.  If the list above doesn’t solve your problem, then contact us at tristatelaundryequipment.com or 866-885-5218.

Professional Wet Cleaning

When did people start cleaning their clothes?  I suspect it’s when they started wearing them.  Though I suppose that they didn’t clean them quite as often as they should have.

Web sources site the first form of dry cleaning being used by the ancient Romans.  According to ecocleanaustin.com, they used ammonia and fuller’s earth to launder their woolen togas.  Fast forward to the 19th century where Jean Baptiste Jolly, a French dye-works owner, noticed that his tablecloth became cleaner after his maid spilled lamp oil on it. He then developed a clothes cleaning service using this process which ultimately became known as dry cleaning.  According to drycleancoalition.org, perc became the solvent of choice for dry cleaners in 1962.  In recent years, however, the use of perc has declined as more environmentally friendly options arose.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Knight of Kreussler, Inc. about an ever growing in popularity alternative to dry cleaning – professional wet cleaning.  David explained that Kreussler, Inc. developed this process in 1985 as a healthier alternative to solvent-based cleaning processes.  Professional wet cleaning is the practice of cleaning dry clean only goods in water.  But please take note - professional wet cleaning is not like doing laundry.  Professional wet cleaners use specialized equipment and processes to safely care for garments.  It takes more than just having the special equipment to professionally wet clean a garment.  It also takes considerable knowledge and skill as most items being cleaned are not durable goods but rather more fragile pieces.  The specialized detergent must do the cleaning so as to eliminate the mechanical action that could lead to shrinkage and dye bleeding.  In addition to the specialized detergent, a conditioner must be used so that the fabrics won’t get hard and rough to the hand.  Finally, garments must be properly finished.

Why might you want to add a professional wet cleaning system to your dry cleaning plant?  First, there are lots of garments that cannot be dry cleaned.  For instance, items like beaded dresses, wedding gowns, and silk items are sometimes better suited for professional wet cleaning.  Second, water soluble stains tend to come out easier in professional wet cleaning; it’s not that dry cleaning cannot remove them, it’s just that there will be a lot of spotting to get the same result.  Third, more of the garments manufactured these days are washable as opposed to 30 years ago when everything had to be dry cleaned.  Finally, professional wet cleaning doesn’t produce any hazardous waste.

There are lots of great companies out there that are heavily invested in wet cleaning soaps, conditioners, and processes.  Besides Kreussler, companies such as Electrolux, Fabritec, Faultless, and UNX are leading the way in this exciting industry.  If you are interested in learning more about professional wet cleaning, feel free to contact us.  We are happy to answer any questions you might have.

An Alternative to Perc

According to Wikipedia, the Kauri-butanol value ("Kb value") is an international, standardized measure of solvent power for a hydrocarbon solvent, and is governed by an ASTM standardized test, ASTM D1133.  And why is this number important?  Because solvents are typically used to dissolve materials, and the higher the Kb value, the better the solution dissolves and ultimately cleans.  Unfortunately if the number is too high, the solvent can pull color from and possibly damage garments.

According to a Dow MSDS sheet, the Kb value of perchloroethylene (typically called perc) is 90.  In the past, the benefit of using perc as your solvent was that it was a better cleaner.  Perc easily dissolves most oils, greases, and fats in the cleaning process.  But over the years the use of perc has declined as more environmentally friendly options have been developed.

At Tri-State, we are all for being more environmentally friendly whether it is ensuring best practices are followed or if a client wants to seek an alternative cleaning method besides perc.  Over the years, dry cleaners have been trying more eco-friendly cleaning products, but few have performed at an adequate level.  Customers ultimately were disappointed with the results.

Recently a long-time customer of ours, Bowen Cleaners in Greenville, North Carolina, switched from a couple of perc machines to a Realstar 80lb Dry Cleaning machine using DF2000, a synthetic hydrocarbon fluid which has a Kb value of 27.  We were happy to be a part of that process and consider Rich Volk, the owner, an extremely knowledgeable resource as to the changeover of performance and results.  So far, Rich has been pleased with the results.  “I grew up using perc, and it is still the best cleaner by far,” said Rich.  “But using the hydrocarbon solvent and upgrading to the optional Realstar solvent heater, I’m getting better results on water-soluble stains and my spotting has gone down 50-60%.”  I learned a number of things during my conversation with Rich, and here is my takeaway:

• Perc is still the best cleaner, especially at getting out oil-based stains.

• Hydrocarbon, even with the lower Kb value -- as long as you are using the right soap, is a great alternative, and it is great at getting out water-soluble stains.

• Hydrocarbon produces significantly less waste than perc.  Rich was disposing 4-6 drums every 5 weeks and is now disposing 1 drum roughly every 10 weeks.

• On a down side, his cycle times have increased significantly but he has combated that by using a machine with a larger capacity.

• He is getting better mileage out of hydrocarbon solvent, so he is recognizing a cost saving there as well.

• Hydrocarbon isn’t limited to just Realstar machines; he is also using the same process in a Union machine.

• There isn’t as much federal or state red tape involved with using DF2000.

If you are in the market for a new dry cleaning machine and are debating on which solvent to go with, weigh the pros and cons of all the options out there.  As you weigh your options, be sure to speak with a machine manufacturer, such as Realstar USA, who can suggest an experienced distributor to help bring the project to fruition.  You may just decide that hydrocarbon could prove to be a great choice for your business just as it has been for Bowen Cleaners.  

Why We Seek Out Used Unipress Equipment

I love purchasing good quality used equipment.  In particular, I like to purchase later model Unipress Dry Cleaning and Shirt Laundry Equipment.  Let me just tell you why I seek out to purchase and refurbish this particular line of used equipment:

• Unipress is based in Florida, and all their equipment is Made in the USA.

• Replacement parts are readily available and reasonably priced.

• Repairs made to used pieces of equipment stick a good 5-7 years.

• Unipress carries the highest resell value.

• Most American dry cleaners are loyal to Unipress, and when they are looking to upgrade equipment they too seek out Unipress.

• Unipress spends a significant amount of money on research and development.

Speaking of research and development, Unipress is constantly tweaking and making advances in their technologies.  In the last 5 years, their advances have been noticeable changes but have not been so catastrophic as to change the way a plant operates.  Therefore, companies that are constantly going with the latest and greatest will benefit from these upgrades without impacting the setup of their operations. Companies that are looking to replace equipment from the mid-1990’s are recognizing significant increases in efficiencies when they upgrade to a good quality used piece of Unipress finishing equipment dated around 2005-10.

In a prior post, I shared with you the reasons why you should consider purchasing used laundry equipment.  I touched on the fact that we clean and replace any broken or worn out parts on each piece of used equipment before placing them back on the market.  That’s just it – I touched on it.  I am certain that I didn’t stress how seriously we take this task, and I didn’t share with you the step by step process we’ve created for each category of used equipment – used laundry equipment, used coin operated equipment, used boilers, and used dry cleaning equipment.  We want every piece of equipment that comes from Tri-State to be in peak condition before it is installed in your place of business.

For information on how we go about refurbishing used Unipress Dry Cleaning and Shirt Laundry Equipment, and all other pieces for that matter, check out our Process for Cleaning Used Equipment found in the resources section of our web site. 

Keeping a Tidy Evaporator Coil

I regularly go into lots of dry cleaning plants.  One thing I consistently notice is that owners and managers don’t take the time to properly maintain their equipment.  If you want to keep your equipment in top-notch shape and produce a quality product quickly and efficiently, you need to take care of your equipment.  One thing you can easily do to keep your equipment in top form is to prevent an excess build-up of lint at the evaporator coil.  Before we get into how to do that, let’s talk about what the coil does and why keeping it clean is important.

Solvent is turned to vapor due to the heat from the condenser/steam coil.  The vapor along with lint from the garments being cleaned, travels to the evaporator coil through the filter.  There the vapor is condensed to a liquid, consisting of both solvent and water, due to contact with the cold surface of the coil.  This liquid drains to the separator, where the solvent returns to the based tank and the water is expelled.  The air flow then goes back to the condenser/steam coil and the process starts all over again.

The filter is the only thing that provides protection to the evaporator coil.  If lint builds up and embeds in the coils, then the entire process is slowed and can become so bad that the evaporator coil will freeze as the lint insulates it from the heat.

Cleaning or changing the filters at the end of each load will help prevent equipment failure and will help keep cycle times fast.  If your coil is already embedded with lint, remove it (most are installed with quick fittings) and clean it with a HVAC coil cleaner.  Do not brush the coil because you could damage it.  After you clean and rinse the coil, put all water in your waste drum for proper disposal because of the lint’s contact with solvent.

I hope this information helps you understand the importance of keeping a tidy evaporator coil.  If you have questions about your evaporator coil, leave a message below or contact us at our office.  Be sure to check out our helpful hints section for additional information on evaporator coils.

Coin Laundry Payment Options

In July, we shared with you the proprietary method of accepting payment at self-service Laundromats offered by a company we like doing business with, ESD.  While there are advantages to going this route, there are also a few draw backs.  For owners, the equipment is quite expensive.  For customers, they don’t like that the cards are only good at that one particular location, which many times leads to leaving cash on the card.  They also don’t like that the cards themselves are expensive.

But think about our society.  Very few folks carry cash now, especially those under 30 – and many times those are the folks that utilize self-service Laundromats.  These days, Laundromats don’t have to choose which payment system they want to install.  Tri-State Laundry Equipment can now install coin-operated equipment and add on a system that allows customers to pay with coins, a credit card, a debit card, or a proprietary card.  Plus, Card Concepts Inc., another company we often partner with, offers a smart phone app that gives customers the ability to create an account, add value, and even check machine availability.

Today there are so many options.  And just like with the proprietary method, these systems allow owners to track sales and customize reporting.  Plus the equipment itself isn’t nearly as costly, so the upfront investment won’t be so steep.  There will, however, be card processing fees to consider.  Those fees vary depending on the system manufacturer as many times they partner with specific processing companies.

Lots of options to consider – options that will set your business apart from the competition.  If you are thinking of updating your current setup or if you are in the market to open a new facility, please contact us.  We will be glad to help you sift through all the information and figure out what’s best for your facility and community.  

Why Choose Used Laundry Equipment Over New Laundry Equipment

I had a brand new car – once.  Now we always purchase vehicles that are approximately one-year old.  We have a commercial grade zero-turn lawn mower.  We bought that used too.  I could continue on, but I think you get the idea.  Let’s go back to the car.  We have now purchased our third vehicle from a local business that has proven itself to be trustworthy.  On each vehicle we did our due diligence, researching both the make and model of the car as well as that particular car’s history.  For the mower, we did our due diligence there as well.  If you are like me, no matter what you are purchasing, you want to get a great deal without sacrificing quality or service.

You know, the same thought process and method can be applied to a piece of dry cleaning or coin laundry equipment.  You could purchase new.  Keep in mind that sometimes a new piece of equipment has a manufacturing lead time of 3-6 months.  You could wait and still purchase new, but don’t forget the freight costs that the manufacturer will pass on.  You could wait and pay the freight costs, but think about the long-term implications.  You’re paying a premium for that new piece of equipment that may or may not last just as long or perform just as well as a good-quality used piece of equipment.

What if you did your due diligence and got a top-notch piece of used equipment at a great price?  Both used laundry equipment and used coin operated equipment can save you hundreds of dollars over the price of purchasing new which translates to more money that can either be saved or put toward another project.  Plus used equipment, when properly maintained, can last for years before needing to be replaced.  That’s where Tri-State Laundry Equipment comes in.  We reveal the type of work that’s been done to restore every piece of used equipment to peak physical and functional condition. We like for our used equipment to look new again, too, so that you or your customers can tell the difference.

Not only can we help you with both used laundry and used coin operated equipment, we can help you with replacing your worn-out boiler with a refurbished used boiler so that your business can continue on with all the hot water you need to keep your laundry operating in the black.  What about dry cleaning equipment?  We can help there too.  We refurbish used dry cleaning equipment by cleaning the piece and replacing all the worn-out parts to keep it running in tip-top shape.  And we offer a 90-day parts-only guarantee on every piece of used laundry equipment that we sell.

For more information, please check out the resources section of our web site.  Contact us today if you would like to begin your search by browsing our used dry cleaning equipment products.

Top 4 Reasons Your Boiler Won’t Keep Up

Let’s keep this simple.  Here are four things to check if your boiler isn’t keeping up:

  • Do you have a tubeless-type boiler with internal flews? Do you clean them yearly as required by the manufacturer?  If not, clean them (and be sure to put on your soot suit when you do).
  • Check your water temperature.  If the temperature is too high, the boiler slows down significantly.  Keep the water around 180 degrees.
  • Check your return tank for city make-up water.  Most tanks have a float valve to maintain the proper water level by adding city water to compensate for water loss.  If the tank is constantly being filled by city water, your boiler is trying to boil much colder water extending the boiling point and holding down operation pressure. (Plus your water bill is probably high too.)
  • Makeup air is important for proper combustion, so make sure you have enough.  The rule to follow is 1 square inch per 1,000 BTU’s.
If the first four haven’t helped your boiler problem, then have it checked out by a qualified technician.  Be sure they check all the required settings like burner gas pressure, free air, and burner adjustment.  But 90% of the time, these four reasons apply.  So regularly check your boiler and increase production and improve energy efficiency.  If you have boiler issues that you simply cannot solve, feel free to contact us for additional support.

Payment Options – ESD Smart Cards

During my college years, I regularly visited the Laundromat.  Back then, the method of payment was quarters, and I carried a baggie full on each visit.  That isn’t the case today.  Self Service Laundry facilities are changing with the times, and now customers have a number of payment methods available to them.  

One popular method is ESD’s SmartCard System. Here’s what you need for this system: the cards, card slides, value transfer machines, and software.  Below is a simplified version of how it all works:

The Cards – This is what the customer uses as their method of payment.  They simply load a dollar amount onto the card, and then they can start doing laundry.  Cards can be plain white or be customized.

Card Slides – This piece of equipment is mounted on a washer or dryer and is adaptable to most equipment brands.  It checks the balance on the inserted card and will then send a signal to the machine to start if funds are available.  Then it deducts the price from the card’s balance.

Value Transfer Machines – The VTM allows the customer to add money to the card with cash or a debit or credit card.

Software – Allows the owner to maintain or adjust pricing, adjust wash and dry cycle times, run specials, run various reports, and change the language the system uses.  

If you have any questions about self-service laundry payment options, contact Tri-State laundry Equipment Co. at 866-882-5218.  We are here to help.

Tips for Maintaining Hotel Washing Machines

Here are a few tips from our experts for maintaining commercial laundry equipment, more specifically washing machines used in hotels. Keeping your commercial washing machine in good condition will help save money in repair and replacement costs, especially if you have multiple pieces of equipment.

Washer-Extractor:

·         Check the door lock and door seal daily for proper operation.

·         Wipe the door seal clean weekly.

·         Inspect the water inlet valve hose connections daily.

·         Allow the interior to dry by leaving the door open at the end of each day.

·         Check the drain discharge line to ensure proper drain operation.

Washers (Front- and Top-Load):

·         To avoid that "musty odor," let the washer drum dry by leaving the door open when not in use.

·         Every year, check the fill hose filter screens for debris or damage. Clean and/or replace the filters as needed.

·         Each month, check all of the hoses to each machine for signs of cracks, blisters, or significant wear. Replace worn or torn hoses immediately.

Keeping all of the parts of your hotel washing machine properly maintained helps reduce repair and replacement costs down the road. (Notes: if repairs are needed, we can help locate laundry parts). Also, though a hotel may have multiple machines, there is nothing worse than losing a machine and slowing down the process.

If your hotel also has self-serve coin laundry equipment, follow these same tips to keep them up and running!

If you have additional questions about maintaining your commercial washing machine, contact us today.

The End of a Fantastic Press

For years, Tri-State Laundry Equipment installed and serviced the Model-A Pants Topper from Cissell Manufacturing.  That particular pants topper was in just about every dry cleaning plant from coast to coast.  It was incredibly easy to operate and super reliable.  Super reliable except for one little weak link – the return spring that tensioned the expander.  The part lasted for several years, depending on the pant volume, but then would wear out over time.  It was a pretty simple fix.

Several years ago, Alliance Laundry Systems purchased Cissell and stopped manufacturing the Cissell line of finishing equipment.  That also means that the return spring stopped being manufactured as well.  Suddenly dry cleaners everywhere were on the hunt for this little but important part.  In fact, it is probably one of the most sought after dry cleaning parts in the U. S.  

If you have a Cissell Model-A Pants Topper, you might want to start thinking about your next step.  There are some terrific options out there by Unipress, Forenta, and Sankosha.  As always, be sure to do your due diligence before making your decision.  If you have questions, you can call Tri-State Laundry Equipment at (336) 992-5218 or reach out to me on LinkedIn.

And on a side note, I have to admit that I get a little sentimental when I see a Model-A Topper in great shape, with the exception of the return spring, on a truck heading to the scrap yard.

Commercial Washer Extract Speeds

Spin, extract speed, G-force -- what does all that mean to your business? Those words are crucial in having a more efficient commercial laundry production, reducing utility costs, and reducing your impact on the environment. Today I want to touch on the first two benefits.

I’ve been in the commercial laundry and dry cleaning business for almost 30 years now. I remember when utility expense hardly impacted the bottom line, perhaps because our volume was so high that we operated full force all day. But with the change in fabrics and dress style, volume isn’t what it used to be. And as a result, many of us may need to consider making changes to improve efficiencies. One way to do that is by updating our commercial washers.

Today’s commercial washers are in one word – impressive. They offer options that can fit any situation and budget. They have extract speeds, which is really the key to production and energy savings, anywhere from 90 to 450 G-force. Of course the higher the G-force, the higher their cost. But in evaluating washers, you must consider the long-term payback in both production time and utility savings. For example, a 100-G extract machine’s all cotton load will require around 39 minutes to dry in correctly matched dryer to washer while a 450-G extract soft mount washer, the load will dry in around 27 minutes. Those 12 minutes per load, over the course of a day, can make a huge difference in pounds per shift, per person and so on.

There is so much to discuss in relation to the latest in commercial washers and extract speeds. Look forward to future posts where we will examine more closely how these savings work and a bonus benefit – longer linen life due to reduced drying times.

How Well Do You Treat Your Boiler?

I often interrogate dry cleaning and laundry operators about their boiler maintenance procedures, and I typically get interesting and troubling answers.  Here’s how it usually goes:
 
You have a blow down regimen – right?  Oh yeah, we blow it down at least once a week in the afternoon.
 
Do you treat your water?  Umm….no….it’s too expensive.
 
When’s the last time you cleaned your flues and burners?  I didn’t know you needed to do that.
 
So you get the idea.  Proper boiler maintenance is huge - it can save you LOTS of money and headaches.  How?  Water contains impurities that coat the water jacket or tubes in your boiler causing it to need more gas (higher utility bills) to boil the water in order to make steam.  Those impurities also coat the internal water and safety probes causing the pump to fail (think repair costs) and create problems like cutting off on low water safety because it can’t measure the water through continuity.  Properly maintaining your boiler, like blowing it down regularly, not only eliminates the problems I just mentioned but also the ones I haven’t even gotten to.
 
If you’ve been neglecting your boiler, here’s what I recommend:
 
1. Get a chemical company to analyze your water so you know what’s in it.  Using two companies is ideal so you can compare their findings and recommendations.
2. Based on the findings, you can then come up with an appropriate blow down regimen.  Follow it religiously.
3. Consult your owner’s manual for recommended flue and burner cleaning and follow it too!
 
So now your boiler is clean.  Your flues and burners are clean.  Your boiler is running efficiently, as it was designed to do, and the heat can penetrate the metal to get to the water without those impurities slowing the process, ultimately creating more steam at a LOWER utility cost.
 
Not only can you enjoy lower utility costs, you can also increase the life of your boiler.  We like Parker Boilers for their fast start ups, low cost of ownership, and ease of repair.  The average cost to install a boiler is anywhere from $2,800.00 to $4,000.00.  Add in freight in the rage of $700.00 to $3,000.00 depending on size. I haven’t even mentioned the cost of the equipment yet.  Taking all these things into account, doing things like treating your water doesn’t seem so expensive and properly blowing down doesn’t seem so taxing.

Top 3 Reasons to Purchase Used Unipress Equipment

Here’s a little known secret of dry cleaners across the United States -- If money is a bit tight but there is a need to upgrade equipment, then purchasing late model used Unipress Laundry or Dry Cleaning equipment is the ticket.  Here’s why:
  • Unipress produces high quality equipment with long lasting components
  • Unipress parts are readily available from both Unipress and industrial supply houses
  • With a little TLC and some fresh paint, they can be made to look like new
But be advised – used Unipress equipment may be hard to come by.  The used press market has been nearly tapped out with fewer cleaners going out of business and current cleaners postponing upgrading equipment because of economic uncertainty.  If there happens to be a Unipress piece on the market, it usually goes quickly.

There are two pieces that are nearly scarce because every dry cleaning plant needs them and few are turning them loose -- The Unipress 42X Dry Cleaning Utility and 46X Dry Cleaning Auto Legger.  Other items that are high in demand are WAZ Jean Press, DLZ Double Jean Press, as well as any used Unipress late model shirt unit like the NT, AP, or LS.  One additional note on the shirt units, even though Unipress added some features to the LS shirt unit, many operators like the quality the older NT provides and are unwilling to spend the money on the upgraded unit.


The bottom line is this – even though they may be hard to come by, all the models listed above are worth seeking out.  That’s why I’m sharing the secret with you.

Why should I go to The Clean Show?

It’s a question I get asked often, and then it is usually followed by a long list of reasons why they aren’t attending.  One of the more common reasons is ‘I don’t really need anything.’  I would disagree.

I will follow that up with these points.  First, while The Clean Show is full of the latest in technology, it is also attended by thousands of your peers.  Those folks come with a wealth of information and ideas to share.  Second, it gives you an opportunity to talk one-on-one with the companies that manufacture the equipment and products you use every day.  Finally, it gives you the chance to learn the latest methods and processes.

But let me tell you why I like attending The Clean Show; it allows me to spend hours talking and learning about something I simply love.  This year, I am particularly interested in seeing the Compass Control computer for the Electrolux and Wascomat Commercial Laundry Equipment line.  The computer is fully programmable and will be the same on both Electrolux washers and dryers.  I’m also really excited about seeing the newly introduced Unipress BAG Auto Bagger with a loader/unloader for a fully auto operation.

The Clean Show does showcase the latest and greatest in equipment.  Things I believe dry cleaners should look for this year – POS systems, bar coding, garment sorting and automation.  But it also gives you the opportunity to discuss your operations and our industry as a whole with other attendees to learn as much as you possibly can.  The Clean Show is really what you make of it.  But you won’t know if you don’t go.

Is Something Slowing You Down?

I’m sure you pay close attention to your production equipment – washing and dry cleaning machines, pressing equipment, etc.  But do you go as far as to check the fill times on those machines?  Why is fill time important?  Well it can hold up your production process and in turn cost you money.

Washing Machines – Fill times will vary based on incoming water pipe size and the size of the machine itself.  But if your machine seems to be filling slowly check for clogged hose screens and drain valves that aren’t properly sealed.  Both are simple to do but instructions do vary a bit depending on the brand of machine you have.  Be sure to consult the owner’s manual and follow all the safety procedures before starting.

Dry Cleaning Machines – Cycle times can vary depending on these simple factors.  First, make sure all pump strainers are clean.  Second, ensure that the level float switches are working properly to ensure proper fill levels.  Finally, make sure that the filter and spin disk is clean to allow solvent to flow freely without added back pressure from solid build up.

Refrigeration and Steam Coils – Cleaning these should be part of your annual maintenance plan.  If they are not cleaned, air flow will be restricted, dry time will increase, and the wheel will hold a solvent odor.  Coils are actually easily cleaned by simply removing quick fittings and then wiping down with coil cleaner from a refrigeration supply business.  Make sure before you remove these coils that you have new gaskets and proper waste containers to dispose of the lint, acid, and rinse water.

So bottom line – watch the time it takes for you to process a load.  It may tell you if something in your plant is slowing you down. 

Associations Make An Impact

It's a natural thing for me to look at the mechanics of equipment or methods of operation and wonder - why or what if?  But doing that has caused me to learn lots of things the hard way, which in turn has cost both time and money.  That's why I am a firm believer in industry associations.

Currently I am a member of the Coin Laundry Association (CLA), North Carolina Launders & Cleaners Association (NCALC), and Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA).  Plus I am a board member on the latter two.  I've found that being involved in these groups gives me a sounding board for new ideas.  Many times you get great information and insight from the members speaking about their own experiences.

I do need to add a qualifier here -- I'm not suggesting that you run every idea by other members before you make any decision.  But being involved gains you access to experts and other folks that have experienced many of the things you may be experiencing.  These associations will benefit you professionally -- and personally.  Besides great information, I've also made some friends along the way.

Water Heating Options

There is always room to improve efficiencies so I am constantly analyzing equipment and methods. Here’s my latest mission – the hot water heater for 40 to 80 pound washers. And here’s my conclusion – instantaneous gas water heaters work really well provided you have the inside wall space for installation and venting. They are somewhere in the 84 – 94% efficiency range depending on whether they are condensing or non-condensing.

What’s the difference between condensing and non-condensing? A condensing water heater circulates the incoming cold water through an exhaust heated heat exchanger before it goes through the gas fired heat exchanger thus preheating the incoming water and utilizing the exhaust heat. A non-condensing unit does not have the exhaust heat exchanger and simply heats the water as it passes through the gas fired heat exchanger.

There are advantages of using an instantaneous water heater. For instance, not having to maintain a supply of hot water for use and not constantly burning gas to maintain the desired temperature in the storage tank. But there is a disadvantage; there is no head start. That means that your incoming water is at ground water temperature. The temperature does depend on your location. Around here that means around 65 degrees, which leaves a 65 plus degree rise to reach our hot water temperature cycle requirement for most hot wash cycles.

A setup that I’ve really grown fond of is where multiples of instantaneous come in for adequate flow rate. Take this scenario; an Electrolux EXSM665 65lb washing machine has a fill rate of around 16 gallons per minute. A 199,000 BTU heater at a 70 degree rise from ground water temperature is 4.2 gallons per minute. Therefore, we’d need to install three units to supply the 12.6 gallons per minute needed. I like the Rinnai and Noritz brands because they can be controlled to work together as one unit. They can even switch back and forth as to which is the master unit for even unit usage.

Unfortunately, there are still some unknowns. The cost of three 199,000 BTU instantaneous heaters will be less than one 80 gallon 199,000 BTU tank heater; however, the installation of the instantaneous system will be higher because of the three exhaust systems, additional piping, and such. And though the cost to operate this system is considerably lower, I don’t yet have a real life payback in utility savings. I will monitor this and provide more information at a later date. But ultimately, I believe this setup is definitely worth considering.

Should You Consider Purchasing Used Laundry Equipment?

In my first blog post, I shared how my obsession with mechanics began. That life-long passion has translated into this philosophy for me -- If is it mechanical and parts are available, it can be repaired. That translates into good news for you. There is an opportunity in our industry to buy both good used commercial laundry equipment and used dry cleaning equipment, but you need to know what you’re getting.

Here's a huge tip to help you make a wise purchase on good used dry cleaning equipment - get the serial number and do some research. Here's why - on some used commercial dry cleaning equipment, such as a used Unipress laundry legger, parts are no longer available. If it's a machine where the parts are no longer available, I would recommend stopping the process right then. It doesn't matter how good the deal or how good of an electronics whiz you are, it's not worth it.

If the parts are still available, the seller has knowledge of the operation of the machine, and you believe the machine to be in good condition, then the next step is to determine if the price is fair. Once you settle on a price, then ask for a 30 day parts warranty. If they refuse to do that and it's not but a few years old, take a pass. There's a red flag there.

Used commercial washers are a little different. You'll still need to get the serial number to check for parts availability. Most parts increase in price with the age of the washer because they cost more to stock and are difficult to obtain due to low sales volume. Here are two huge tips on used commercial washers. First, you also need to consider removal and reinstallation costs. Second, be sure to check out the bearings and seals. If they aren't good, you'll have no platform to work from. At best it will turn into a big, expensive job from a labor and parts standpoint. To check for bearing wear, lift up on the drum at the door. If there is any play, then take a pass. Again, ask for a 30 day parts warranty if you decide to purchase the machine.

The bottom line is this - I would not hesitate to purchase a used piece of equipment as long as parts are still available, the operator shares first-hand experience and pictures, and there is no sign of excessive wear. Now go out, do your homework, and get a great deal!

Keep The Air Flowing

Air flow during the dry cleaning dry cycle and cool down is incredibly important. Why? There are two reasons. First, when the air flow is restricted by clogged filters and coils it extends the dry cycle. Second, you can get incomplete drying resulting in poor solvent mileage. How does it get restricted? Lint just builds up over time.

In a perfect setup here’s how it should work: The air during the dry cycle flows freely from the blower through the steam coil into the wheel then through the condenser housing (refrigeration coil) and button trap. The cycle repeats until the sensor moves to the next step.

Within this cycle are several filters. What I find when I visit plants is filters that are in poor condition and badly clogged from inadequate cleaning. All the filters should be vacuumed thoroughly and kept clean without embedded lint for proper air flow. Filters should also be replaced if they aren’t in good condition. If your filters have holes, all those little lint bunnies will pass through the holes to land in your condenser coil. This also slows air flow, reduces heat transfer, and prolongs the dry cycle.

The solution is simple. Clean all filters after each load. Keep an eye on the condition of your filters and replace those that are worn out. Once a year pull out your condenser coil and spray with coil cleaner then rinse.

The bottom line is this. If you keep your coil and filters clean, you’ll enjoy faster more complete drying times; produce more loads per hour; and save in labor, utility, and solvent costs.

Reducing Utility Costs

When I make statements like the one following, I show how long I’ve been in the business or perhaps worse – my age. Back when I ran a plant, your boiler came on at 6:00 a.m. and went off hopefully by 6:00 p.m. IF you were lucky enough to be done with production. Back then, utilities ran just 3 – 4% of volume, and there was no need to have to control them.

Today utilities can run 7 – 9% of volume and are a critical management item for any operation. Because I am in and out of plants daily, I regularly see steam puffing out of return tank vents. I also hear water running out of the overflow when I step into boiler rooms. That’s money up in smoke or down the drain. Here are a few tips to help you control utility costs:

1. Check traps regularly for blow by.
•The easiest way is to buy an Infrared Temperature Gun.
•Take a reading on both the inlet and outlet of the trap.
•It should have a 40 plus degree differential.
•This indicates the trap is working properly.
•If it’s not working properly, repair or replace.

2. Insulate all steam lines – supply and return.
•This prevents steam loss and keeps the plant more comfortable in the summer.
•It’s also a safety requirement for pipes up to 7’ high.

3. Put a thermometer in one of the threaded couplings in the return tank for the boiler.
•Monitor the temperature in the tank with the ideal being around 180 degrees F.
•A higher temperature indicates trap blow by.
•Check for valves leaking between the boiler and return tank.
•A good way to determine if the check valves are working is to test the temperature of the feed water line from the pump to the boiler. It should also be 180 or less.

4. Be sure you have adequate make up air for combustion for maximum boiler efficiency
•A good rule of thumb is ½” of open incoming outside air for every 1,000 BTU’s of the boiler
•Weather is also a factor – both temperature and humidity. Keep in mind, you can control a lot but unfortunately not the weather.

5. Check your return tank float level.
•Make sure it seals off when your desired level is made.
•Be sure that level is BELOW the over flow of the return tank.

Running a dry cleaning operation isn’t like it was when I ran one – you just took care of customers and the rest fell into place. With reduced volume and smaller profit margins, we have to be cost conscious. We sure don’t want our profit going up in smoke or down the drain. I hope these tips help you increase your bottom line. Look for more cost saving tips in future blog posts.

My name is Kevin Lawson, and I am obsessed with dry cleaning and laundry equipment

When I was five, I often visited King Auto Parts in King, North Carolina with my Grandfather. King Auto Parts, my Grandfather’s favorite hangout, was where he bought me my first ever SK ½ Drive Socket and Ratchet Set. I’ll never forget how excited I was as I carried that set in the green metal case home. I still have it today. In all seriousness, that ratchet set changed my life. As soon as I got home, I began taking apart and reassembling everything within reach. Figuring out how things work became my passion.

After high school I held a few jobs before joining A Cleaner World in 1983 as a dry cleaning plant manager. This position not only allowed me to continue dabbling with mechanical stuff but it also allowed me to fulfill another passion. I like to talk, and I like people. As the years went by, my role expanded to include managing multiple locations, scouting for new locations, and dealing with franchisees. In 2000, I was asked to head up the maintenance division of A Cleaner World which at that time included over 40 locations. It was a dream come true.

Since then, Tri-State Laundry Equipment Company has gone from being the maintenance division of A Cleaner World to a business that also designs, installs, services, and sells all kinds of dry cleaning and laundry equipment including Parker Boiler, Electrolux, Wascomat, Unipress, Kleen-Rite, and more. Plus over the years I’ve hired guys just like me – guys with a passion for solving mechanical problems. In fact, I’ve seen them perform some pretty amazing feats in rather unique circumstances. I look forward to sharing some of those stories with you.

It is my sincere hope that this blog will be able to provide answers to common questions and problems associated with dry cleaning and laundry equipment while having a little fun along the way. And when I say I really like to talk and I really like people – I really do. I hope to hear from you.