Located in Hickory, NC, Maple Springs Laundry is one of the largest independent laundry businesses in the Southeast. Ever since the business was launched in 1972, founder Bob Daughtry has focused on efficient resource management.
For years, Maple Springs depended on one 150-hp firetube boiler to provide its steam. However, as the business expanded from an 8,000-sq-ft building and increased its capacity to processing 100,000 lbs of laundry per shift, the cost of fuel to run the boiler was rapidly rising. Not only did they want to conserve energy, but they wanted a boiler that was ecologically friendly. Vice president and general man-ager Lee Bell said the company has been concerned about the environment throughout his 25-yr tenure and earlier.
"Being a good steward of the environment has always been a top priority at Maple Springs Laundry. Everything is very carefully thought out, from the environmentally sensitive cleaning agent chemicals we use in our washing and bleaching processes, to the high-efficiency equipment we select in order to minimize fuel usage and greenhouse gasses," he said.
As a recent example, Maple Springs recently installed a new water filtration system that allows wastewater to be reused as initial flush water for soiled linens, greatly reducing its need for city water. Additionally, by pre-heating incoming city water with warm recycled wastewater, they reduce fuel usage, and keep their cost per pound competitive.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONEIn 2003, the business installed two, 100-hp Miura low NOx boilers. These two compact units coordinate with each other in response to chang-ing steam demand. As Bell noted, "When demand slacks off, one of the boilers will automatically go into a low-fire mode while the other modu-lates down."
Since the installation two years ago, Maple Springs Laundry seen its gas bills drop by 19%, while the price of natural gas has been soar-ing. According to Bell, "We paid $5.70 a decatherm in 2004. We paid $16.47 a decatherm in 2005. For October 2004, our gas bill was $25,858. Our gas bill for October 2005 was $57,882." Had they still depended on the firetube boiler to provide their 70 hrs/steam/week, Maple Springs' bill would have been $10,997 more.
With a decatherm costing $5.70 when they bought the Miura boilers, Maple Springs calculated it would take a bit over three years for the gas savings to pay for the new units. Now, with a decatherm costing $16.47, it will only take a little over a year for the energy sav-ings to pay for the units.
LESS WATERBell said Maple Springs doesn't resist change, but their boiler inspector had some concerns. "Our boiler water treatment expert and the inspector had some ‘if's and and's,' but now, both of them are saying, ‘You did the right thing.'" In regard to water treatment, the expert was worried about the Miuras' blowdown. The units only have 29 gal of water in them, whereas the firetube has around 1,000 gal of water. "You can blow all the water out of the Miura, while it is hot, and then put it right back on-line. Of course, you wouldn't want to blow a thousand gallons of water out of the firetube, anyway. You blow down the firetube to seventy pounds of steam and then you have to build back up again," Bell noted. "We always had to do this after the plant was shut down. I can blow down the Miura whenever it is necessary and the plant operations won't be affected." (And no one has to be paid overtime to do it.)
Currently, Maple Springs Laundry services 28 hospitals at its 45,000-sq-ft processing facility. The business currently services a de-livery radius of 110 miles from Hickory, which covers parts of South Carolina. It is proud of its 24-hr turnaround on linens, six days per week (with the exception of Christmas holidays).
Maple Springs has decided to add another 24,000 sq ft to the plant, thanks in part to the increased capacity and savings offered by its energy efficient boilers.