Planning a Commercial Laundry?

Sometimes it’s tricky to figure out all the things you’ll need if you’re considering building or even adding onto an existing commercial laundry.  In this post, I’ll hit some of the high notes as well as give you some additional things to think about as you do your research.

Decide on Square Footage

If you’ve got unlimited space, you’re way ahead of the game!  Most people don’t, and the amount of space you can dedicate to your laundry will be a direct indicator of how much laundry you can work through in a given amount of time.  A small laundry processing 50 pounds an hour or so can get by with a very small space – 150 square feet more or less.  Depending on the amount of linen you will be storing in the laundry facility, a multiplier of 3 square feet per pound is a pretty good starting point.  Although as you get into larger and larger capacities, the number will get closer to 2 pounds per square feet, depending on the amount of linen storage.  If you plan to grow or add capabilities to your laundry (like ironing) make sure to allocate some extra space.

Think about Utilities

Water and Drain

Utilities for your laundry can have quite a bit of influence on the efficiency of the laundry.  For example, a laundry with an undersized water supply or drain system will take longer to fill and/or drain, taking extra time during these steps and costing productivity.  Think about it this way:  If the machine takes 10 minutes to fill and fills 5 times during a wash program, you have 40 minutes of wasted time versus the machine that fills in 2 minutes.  That will cost you time and money in a hurry!

Hot Water

An adequately sized water heater will make sure that the goods you launder will get cleaned in the time programmed.  Water temperature problems typically lead to less than ideal performance.  Look carefully at recovery times and storage volume to ensure your water heater is properly sized for your laundry.  This is especially important in a healthcare laundry where minimum temperatures are regulated by law.

Dryer Exhaust and Make up Air

The dryer will work much more efficiently with the proper amount of make up air and properly sized and maintained exhaust ducting.  Back pressure in the system or the restriction of make up air both cause drastic decreases in overall drying efficiency and add to the time required to dry.  The dryer can be though of as an air pump – any restriction reduces the air being pumped and therefore the amount of moisture trapped in the air.  Less moisture removal means longer drying.

Electrical Power

Your electrical power can be a huge headache if improperly sized.  Each machine should have a dedicated breaker of the correct size (shown on the nameplate of each machine).  Ideally, extra spaces in the electrical panel should be available for future expansion.  Thinking about this before the wire is pulled is prudent – it will be a much lower cost to add this expansion space now than trying to rewire later.

Gas Supply

Ensure an adequately sized gas supply so that your dryers don’t suffer for fuel.  Fuel starved dryers won’t light or burn reliably and will cause many hours of frustration for your laundry operators as well as cost time and money since the loads won’t dry properly without gas!

Personnel Requirements

Estimating employee requirements is an art in itself, but can be summarized as follows:

If the total washer capacity is less than 130 pounds, provide 1 employee for each 65 pounds of capacity.

For total washer capacities above 130 pounds, provide 1 employee for every 85 pounds of capacity.

Keep in mind that automation, management practices, and ironers will change this math.  The numbers above provide a good starting point – use your best judgment.

Laundry Carts

For best results, size your laundry carts to match the sizes of the washers to be used in the laundry.  That way, you can eliminate a scale if you make sure that the carts are filled properly prior to loading the machines.  It is always best practice to keep clean and soiled laundry separated, so plan on having separate carts for clean and soil.

Other Considerations

Water Hardness

Consider a water softener  if your water is very hard – your soap consumption will increase with hard water.  Typically, 3 grains or higher will see benefits.

Consider Softmount Washers

As discussed elsewhere, softmounts remove more water from the goods, leading to shorter drying times and higher overall efficiency in the laundry.

Get Humidity Sensing Dryers

Dryers that stop the drying cycle when the goods are dry save time, fuel, and money, as well as wear and tear on the goods being laundered.  Once an unreliable and expensive option, humidity sensing dryers are mainstream and mature.  Mechanical timer model dryers belong in a museum with their washer-extractor brethren.

More information can be found in our handy dandy Commercial Laundry Planning Guide.

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