Sustainability: Water & Energy Saving

As we look to decarbonise commercial laundry, we need to note the work that the sector has already undertaken to reduce impact on Climate Change. The Climate Change Agreement has been a scheme to keep this in focus and allow the industry to work effectively with Government to find solutions to reduce its affects.

This is not a situation whereby we can rest on our laurels, and we are advantageously placed due to knowledge, awareness and commitment to take adventurous and challenging steps that make a real change in the coming years.

Many sites are already utilising water to water heat exchangers (such as Heat-X Energo) as an effective and low cost method to gain a temperature uplift from waste water. Further heat can be recovered from hot air rising from ironer beds or flue gas recovery from boilers and gas dryers, using Air to Air heat exchangers.

There is also a very good opportunity to capture heat from the ambient air in the laundry itself through using a heat pump, with an added benefit of cooling the environment for operatives. Heat pump technology is not new and uses the principles of evaporation and condensation to move thermal energy in a very efficient manner. The energy output can be up to 4 times more than that consumed in electricity to drive the pump. If this electricity comes from a green source such as solar panels, we start to get zero carbon heat generation.

When coupled with the heat recovery systems outlined above we could potentially have a complete system for heating the water required for washing processes in the laundry, particularly if using modern low temperature wash chemistry such as Cool Chemistry from Christeyns.

The challenge comes with the drying and finishing process. Typically, this accounts for 80% of the energy consumed in a laundry and gas or steam have been the traditional main sources of heat. There appears to be no appetite from Government to support the use of hydrogen as a gas replacement in this sector so future solutions are looking at electric heating.

Currently the so called “spark gap” of cost per KwH of electricity v gas is a significant financial challenge and this is where state intervention may be required with a change in levies and financial support to a accelerate the step to a full electric energy model. Moreover, a further technical challenge is around the power consumption required to electrically heat the drying process which would need the laundry to effectively connect directly to a grid substation to draw the power required. Electrically heated industrial boilers are being coming more viable with steam generating capacity increasing and assuming green electricity, steam would become carbon neutral.

Solar is a good source for water heating and the power demands of the building (including EV charging) though is obviously not available for 24 hours and can be generated when there is no production demand. However, as laundries are very good at storing hot water, excess solar energy can be stored in water rather than investing in currently very expensive industrial batteries or delivering it back to grid at a lower price.

One interesting aspect Christeyns found of having a solar installation is the energy management software that manages it, which can provide insight to energy consumption patterns and help identify those vampire devices such as pumps and heaters that operate when not required.

Perhaps less headline grabbing is the continuous improvement work that can be done to optimise wash process, which is about motivating behaviour change at operator level to ensure correct classification of textile/soiling for process selection which ultimately drives down reprocessing and the process gap. If we wash less, we use less.


David Benson

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