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Laundry equipment.

Periodically, NURSING HOMES asks the vendors of major product categories for nursing facilities to provide general purchasing guidelines to aid administrators' decisionmaking. For this installment, top manufacturers of laundry equipment were asked: "What are the cost/benefit considerations in evaluating the microtechnology options on the newer equipment?" "What should be evaluated in terms of conserving water and energy?" "What specific features should be looked for to conform with today's regulations on 'contaminated linens?'"

Michael Floyd, National Sales Manager, Speed Queen: "With microtechnology, there are two major areas of consideration. First, how flexible are the controls? Will they enable you to adapt to changing requirements over the years, as with, for example, contaminated linens? Can you adapt the cycle times, the water temperatures, the water levels to the specific loads that your facility handles, using water and energy efficiently?

"That gets to the second question, but first I want to mention another major cost/benefit consideration: Ease of operation. Usually the operators of laundry equipment are not particularly well-versed in computers or computer programming. The controls have to be set up for simple operation -- push 11, you do bedsheets, for example. Staff turnover is always a concern in this area, and the technology has to be such that people can train on it easily.

"Warranty protection is, of course, another very important concern. Today's microelectronics are much more reliable than they used to be and, in our case anyway, justify a two-year warranty.

"As for conserving water and energy, today's microtechnology provides much more flexibility and versatility than ever before. Whereas before you had a selection of only a few cycles with manual controls, today you can select up to 99 cycles, and without a large number of programming steps. Now you can do washing and extraction using the exact water temperatures and levels and extraction cycles necessary, and in the process reduce dryer time. Dryers, too, have microcontrols that adjust to the extraction level required. With proper settings, depending on the type of linen and degree of soiling involved, water and energy waste can be kept to a minimum.

"An important feature to look for in washing contaminated linens is a lockout feature. This prevents the washer door from being opened during the entire washing/extraction cycle, as when, for example, someone might want to throw in another pillow case that they had forgotten. Now they are shielded from unprotected contact with the linen until it is cleaned."

Leroy Trevigne, National Sales/Product Manager, Pellerin-Milnor: "The microtechnology is cost-effective for a number of reasons. There is the variety of washing formulas available which you can adapt to your specific needs. In some cases, there are troubleshooting programs that allow problems to be specifically identified so that the repair person doesn't have to go through the entire wash cycle. And, finally, there is a lot of adaptability built in; even if you have program functions that you never use, they are there if you need them, and at no extra cost. If you have special needs, such as recordkeeping, or a printout on a machine's performance, or creating laundry tags, you can do that with the controls available. Sometimes we add improvements or upgrades that can be set up on the same machine. That is something you never could do with the old relay logic or electromechanical control technology, where you might even have to buy a new machine.

"This technology allow you to conserve hot water, probably the most expensive consumer of energy that a laundry has. Not only can you program different water temperatures and levels for a variety of goods, you can build in intermediate extraction cycles that will reduce the number of rinses you need. Microtechnology can also reduce energy consumption in dryers--the larger ones, anyway--with devices that can measure the dryness of a load and avoid overdrying, that is, resetting the dryer for say, another 15 minutes when all you need is 5. (Of course, the major energy waster in dryers is worn-out, faulty seals, which are unfortunately pretty common.)

"As for the 'contaminated linen' regulations, I don't think that anyone has an exact fix as yet on what the terms 'decontamination' or 'sterilization' mean, although nursing homes and hospitals have been dealing with this problem, by and large successfully, for years. It is basically a function of water temperature. You have to decide whether the hot water supplied to your laundry is hot enough, and if it isn't, whether the machine itself has equipment to make it hotter."

Randy Karn, Commercial Division District Sales Manager, The Maytag Company: "One of the benefits of microtechnology is one-touch selection, which allows users to choose one of several programmable cycles. This is particularly advantageous when there are several people who use the equipment. The programmable cycles allow the person to vary the wash, rinse and extraction cycles, depending on the needs of the items being laundered. It also makes it easier for chemical suppliers to hook up the equipment for precise dispensing. This eliminates the need to alter the manufacturer's wiring and therefore avoids possible service problems.

"The same is true of the new dryers, with which you can vary temperatures, cool-down periods, and level of drying with one touch. An auto-dry feature allows you to precisely control the level of drying, from 90 to 100%. Some fabrics, such as cotton, have a natural moisture level when dry, and overdrying is damaging. The microtechnology-controlled dryers dry only to the level specified, no matter what the size of the load.

"Finally, there are built-in diagnostics in machines controlled in this manner, which expedites servicing.

"All of this flexibility ties in with water and energy conservation. You can vary your cycles according to your exact needs. By controlling the cleaning chemicals, it will avoid problems with oversudsing and damage to laundry due to improper applications. Some of our models have a high-extraction superspin feature that reduces dryer time and gas usage. And auto-dry drying saves on the energy used by overdrying.

"To ensure efficient energy use, the administrator should ask his or her distributor for an evaluation of the facility's laundry area to make sure that the equipment purchased is sized appropriately for that particular facility's needs. Otherwise, you may end up using more energy than you really need for the job at hand."

"The contaminated linen regulations are something that can change with short notice. At this time, our products can handle water temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which exceeds existing requirements for nursing homes and hospitals. The flexibility of programmable washers and dryers should also allow users to meet any new regulations."

Thomas Fleck, Vice President of Marketing, UniMac: "When upgrading or replacing a laundry area that may have been designed 10 or 15 years ago, certain considerations need to be addressed. Has the linen volume increased since the laundry was designed? Can you use the same space, or will you need more? One way to lower your operating cost and get a better return on your investment is to replace outdated, inefficient equipment with the newer high-efficiency, high-productivity equipment that microtechnology has made available. There have been many innovations in the past 5 to 15 years, most importantly, a major increase in flexibility to do specific jobs, with respect to water temperature, water level, cycle times and chemical dispensing. This increased flexibility and efficiency gives you consistent quality and extended linen life at a lower operating cost.

"There are three particular advances worth noting when it comes to energy and water conservation. The WE-6 microprocessor in two of our models offer built-in capability to operate optional water reuse systems. Water reuse and reclaim is not popular now due to the low cost of water and waste treatment in most areas of the country, but this could change in the near future. The Energy Department is in the process of setting energy, water and waste reduction goals for our industry. With the WE-6, the capability to adapt to waste water reuse is built-in; these machines will not become obsolete in a few years due to future standards or mandates.

"Another new feature are the variable frequency A.C. drive controls, capable of producing 6 programmable wash and extract forward speeds, plus reverse, from one simple, single-speed motor. So-called inrush current can be reduced by as much as 50% and operating power by as much as 40%.

"The A.C. drive's flexibility allows for three different extract speeds -- 200 to 348 G-force for the terrycloths, 125 to 140 G for mattress pads, blankets, spreads and the like, and 85 to 90 G for permanent press and blends. The savings in energy and gas can be considerable.

"As for the subject of decontamination and regulations, the increased acute care demands of recent years are making more demands on the laundry. The concerns are the same, but there is more awareness now of the potential for problems to occur if proper procedures are not followed. If they are, we can remain certain of producing safe, clean results. An exception would be a health care facility using the wrong washer-extractor for the job, such as washers designed for coin laundry or home operation, which use timers and formulas designed for relatively light soil loads. Additional handling of the linen for extensive prespotting or rewashing will lead to high operating cost and reduced linen life. These machines may be attractive because of their low acquisition costs, but they will ultimately cost more to operate."

Joseph Schick, Vice-President of Institutional and Industrial Laundry Equipment, Wascomat: "Probably the greatest cost-effectiveness of the new microprocessing controls comes from reduction of staff time spent waiting for unnecessary cycling to be done. There is also, of course, precise control of laundry chemicals used for the specific load size and machine size, and easier identification and repair of inefficiencies in the machine.

"As for conservation, there is the increased productivity available from using the same amount of space in the laundry room. For example, two 65-pound washers can now occupy the same amount of space as two older 50-pounders used to; meanwhile, the high-extraction capability can improve dryer productivity by 40%. You can therefore increase productivity substantially using the same amount of laundry room space -- an important consideration, particularly if the nursing home has decided to go back to reusables from disposables. There is also a savings in water use available from the use of deep-water rinses instead of spray rinses, which can use as much as 27 gallons per minute with 45 to 50 pounds of water pressure. Don't forget, you pay for water three times -- to bring it in, to heat it, and to get rid of it.

"I don't think facilities will have difficulties with decontamination using existing equipment, but if they are renovating, they may want to reconsider laundry room layout and storage for contaminated linens. HVAC modifications can aid in controlling cross-contamination between soiled and contaminated linens."
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Title Annotation:Ask the Vendor
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:10 practical ways to reduce liability risk.
Next Article:Management skills for tomorrow's nursing home administrator.

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