When Marine Jesus Ortiz was stationed at Camp LeJune, N.C., he spent some time doing laundry at a place that served double-duty as laundromat and café. So when he left the Marines a few years ago at around the time his cousin, Laury Rosario, left the Navy, the two thought they might have a good business idea for their hometown of Newington, Conn.
Since the laundromat and café was neither one nor the other, both the cousins spent a lot of time dealing with state and local regulations and related code matters for their fledging Spin Cycle Café.
“There was no standard for a business like this,” Rosario says, adding that local authorities turned to officials in other states to determine how best to deal with it.
For example, the hybrid business needed completely separate water and mechanical systems for the laundromat and the food service portions, as well as backflow preventers.
Before Ortiz and Rosario knew it, a couple of years went by as they did much of the other work converting the space into what they wanted it to be.
Anyone starting a small business knows that time and money can quickly run out. At least the heating industry came up with an alternative to save the cousins money in terms of supplying hot water to both the laundromat and café.
John Pogorski of Allied Plumbing Supply, Hartford, Conn., suggested going tankless and put Ortiz and Rosario in touch with Mark Buder, Pendleton Associates, Manchester, Conn., a manufacturers rep who promoted the Rheem line.
Assuming an incoming water temperature of 40 degrees F and a 23-minute wash cycle, Bruder designed the job with six tankless units, providing 24.6 gpm at 120 degrees F. Each of the 25 washers takes one to two minutes to fill. If every washer was running hot water at once, Bruder says the fill time would be longer. It’s the worst-case scenario, but Bruder says the temperature of the hot water would not be sacrificed.
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.
Installer Robert Ouellette, owner of R. J. Ouellette Plumbing and Heating, Coventry, Conn., was also 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.
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 JobHobbs, 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 it will 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.”