Case Studies

Hybrid Laundremat-Cafe Uses Tankless System To Give 25 Washers All The Hot Water They Need

When enterprising cousins Jesus Ortiz and Laury Rosario decided to open the first combined café/Laundromat business in Connecticut, there was a lot of research to do and countless decisions to make. Choosing a manifold (connected) six-unit, tankless water heating system to handle the hot-water needs of the laundry side of the business was part of that challenging process. In the end, the new business owners have found that the tankless system, manufactured by Rheem Water Heating, simplifies one of the most important aspects of their business – inexpensively providing plenty of hot water at the right temperatures on demand. 

Make that a Load of Laundry… on Rye: The Spin Cycle Café Laundromat in Newington offers 25 commercial-grade washers and 24 dryers on one side of the building, and an inviting TV lounge with a light-food and beverage service on the other.  Even at full capacity, the washers reliably deliver hot water, thanks to the gas-fired tankless units that were installed. The owners use a separate tank-type heater to service the limited hot-water needs of the restrooms and the café.

Ortiz and Rosario – U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy veterans, respectively – tackled the challenge of building a business from scratch with a mixture of resolve and “blood, sweat and tears,” says Ortiz.  The Connecticut natives started with an unusual v-shaped building and spent more than two years converting the space into their café/laundry fusion.  Ortiz had frequented similar establishments when he was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina several years ago, so he felt confident the idea would work equally well in the Northeast. 

When Ortiz returned to Connecticut in 2003, he and Rosario began to lay the groundwork for Spin Cycle. “There was no standard for a hybrid business like this,” says Rosario, noting that local authorities turned to officials in other states to determine how best to deal with it. 

To comply with state and local regulations and meet the new requirements for their unprecedented combination business, the owners were required to have completely separate water and mechanical systems for the Laundromat and food-service segments, as well as backflow preventers.  Sorting out the code requirements took considerable time.  Along the way, the owners ran short of money. 

Choosing a gas-fired tankless water heating system for the Laundromat proved to be a very economical decision, and it came at a critical time.  The original plan was for a conventional, 100-gallon, tank-type water heater, Rosario says.  But when John Pogorski at Allied Plumbing Supply in nearby Hartford suggested going tankless, she and Ortiz were quickly convinced.
   
“Tankless… the Way of the World”: Pogorski put Rosario in touch with Mark Bruder of Pendleton Associates, the local sales representative for Rheem Water Heating. Bruder subsequently designed a manifold tankless system to suit the facility.

On the opposite site of the ground level, facing the washing and drying equipment, is the cafe area, offering an inviting TV lounge with a light-food and beverage service. Assuming an incoming water temperature of 40°F and a 23-minute wash cycle, Bruder designed the job with six units, providing 24.6 gallons per minute (gpm) at 120°F.  Each of the 25 washers takes one to two minutes to fill.  But what if every washer was running hot water at once? The fill time would be longer, says Bruder of this worst-case scenario, but the temperature of that water would not be sacrificed: it would remain 120°F at every single washer for as long as they took to fill. 

Bruder adds that the low initial cost of materials, coupled with the energy savings and product longevity, make the tankless option extremely appealing. The system’s redundancy is also important to Spin Cycle.  If one of the six manifold heaters goes down, Ortiz and Rosario would still able to provide hot water through the other five units during repair or replacement.

Rosario likes the tankless option.  “I started doing research and learned that tankless is being used more and more, especially for larger projects like hotels that require a lot of hot water at one time,” she explains. “There were marvelous reviews about it, and I thought: ‘If it can work for those facilities, why not a Laundromat?’”

Installer Robert Ouellette, owner of R. J. Ouellette Plumbing and Heating in Coventry, was also all in favor of going tankless. “Had Spin Cycle gone with a new boiler, it would have cost $25,000, and the owners would have had to maintain temperatures 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says.
 
Ouellette estimates he has installed 250 tankless units in Connecticut to date with many more to come. “Tankless is going to be the way of the world,” he says. “There’s a huge savings. With tankless, if no hot water is needed, it shuts off, so no energy is being used.”   
 
The project engineer was unfamiliar with tankless technology, so he initially was not as enthusiastic about it. “The owners got some pushback,” Bruder admits, but the engineer’s concerns were ultimately allayed, and Newington building official Peter Hobbs approved the plans. It was an important educational process for everyone, recalls Bruder. 

“After the project was complete, the same engineer asked me to size a tankless job for a different project,” he says.

The Right Choice for the Job: Hobbs, who was familiar with tankless technology prior to the Spin Cycle project, says the tankless system was the right one to use for this kind of business. “The technology made more sense because the washing machines are sitting idle much of the time,” he explains. “There’s no question that by not operating 24/7, but only on demand, the tankless units will save the owners money on energy bills.”
As with any new business, low operation costs are key to success.  While the new business has no usage experience with a boiler or a tank-type water heater to weigh against the tankless option, Rosario is encouraged about the energy savings they’ll gain.

“I think it is a way to hold down energy costs,” she says. “Just comparing our gas bill to our electrical bill, the gas cost is three quarters lower.”

For more information on Rheem tankless water heaters, visit http://rheemtankless.com/content/ or call 1-866-720-2076.

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RHEEM MANUFACTURING COMPANY, headquartered in Atlanta, is a leading worldwide provider of total comfort systems including water heaters, heating and air conditioning equipment, pool and spa heaters, and boilers. Its Water Heating Division manufactures a full line of tankless propane (LP) and natural gas models that provide a continuous flow of hot water whenever needed. With no standing pilot light and no storage tank, the energy-saving units eliminate the need to maintain a large supply of pre-heated water.