The CaroMont Health Ozone Laundry System

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Abstract

Ozone generating equipment was retrofit into the laundry washroom of the Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, NC, and began operating in the early part of July, 2010. Three ozone generating systems service six washer-extractors in the washroom. The performance of this fine-bubble ozone diffusion laundering system has been monitored since that time, with various adjustments made to ensure optimum performance and production results. Since installing this ozone system, the laundry has realized $46,000 per year savings in utility costs as well as reduction in water consumption of more than one million gallons per year, and lower wastewater discharge fees. In addition, the ozone-washed linens are cleaner and brighter than ever and the rewash rate has been reduced by 1.5-2.5%. The apparent Return-On-Investment (R-O-I) of this ozone laundering system, calculated on the basis of just these benefits cited, is 16 months.

Key Words

Ozone, Laundry, Health Care, Skilled Nursing Facility, Wound Care Nursing, Retirement Community, Cost Savings, Improved Laundry Quality, Reduced Environmental Impacts, Return-On-Investment, Hospital Energy Savings.

Introduction

CaroMont Health in Gastonia, North Carolina is a regional, independent, not-for-profit health care system. It encompasses Gaston Memorial Hospital with 435-beds; Courtland Terrace, a 96-bed skilled nursing facility; Gaston Hospice which includes the 12-bed Robin Johnson House inpatient facility, and CaroMont Medical Group, a network of 44 primary and specialty physician offices.

The CaroMont Heart Center provides a full range of life-saving cardiac care including open heart surgery. And, the CaroMont Cancer Center provides advanced 3-D radiation treatment planning and chemotherapy. An expansive, surgical suite offers the latest advancements such as stereotactic technology, a procedure using computer simulation, microscopic surgery and x-ray images for pinpoint accuracy. A level III neonatal intensive care unit for high risk infants and a pre-adolescent psychiatric center are among the latest services aimed at improving the health status of the community.

Established in 1946, Gaston Memorial Hospital opened in Gastonia, North Carolina as a memorial to all local soldiers who died in World War II. The present facility opened in 1973. A not-for-profit general and acute care facility, Gaston Memorial Hospital serves Gaston and surrounding counties. The hospital offers 435 licensed beds and features all private rooms.

Laundry at Gaston Memorial Hospital

Although Gaston Memorial Hospital contains 435 patient beds, it washes laundry from all of the units that make up CaroMont Health. This equates to some 3.2 million lbs annually of the usually encountered hospital linens, gowns, bed clothing, pads, mops, and washing cloths that contain the types of soils usually encountered in hospitals and health care facilities. Traditional laundering systems require large expenditures for heating water, for the water itself, for discharging laundry wastewaters to sewerage, for chemicals, and frequent replacements of the bedding, garments and cleaning mops and cloths laundered repeatedly.

Ozone Laundering

Ozone laundering is a recent commercial technology for which intriguing claims are made for energy and cost savings that can be obtained, in addition to incorporating the well-known excellent disinfection properties extant in water and wastewater systems that have been utilizing ozone technologies in many parts of the world for many decades. However, CaroMont Health was led to ozone laundering by the much less esoteric need to replace an aging, 30-year old hot water tank.

CaroMont Health contacted Texchine Inc. to provide a quote for a new hot water tank. Once obtaining the quote, CaroMont then began looking for alternatives because of the price of the job and logistics of getting the old tank out and new one in. Texchine Inc. proposed a promising alternative, ozone laundering, that offers the ability to launder using primarily ambient temperature water plus ozone, thus avoiding the need for the new hot water storage tank and heating coil. Once the initial R-O-I comparisons between the two alternatives were received it was obvious that ozone laundering presented the most beneficial long term rewards. It was then just a matter of gaining approval of the ozone laundering plan from the senior leadership at Caromont Health.

The hospital asked CaroMont Health to oversee the supply, installation, initial operation of an ozone laundry system retrofit onto each of the six washer-extractors located within the laundry room of the hospital. CaroMont also was asked to oversee the monitoring of the performance of these ozone laundering systems to gather energy and cost savings data from which to calculate a return-on-investment (R-O-I) figure. The ozone laundering systems were installed and began operation in early July, 2010.

Facilities and Equipment Employed

In the Gaston Memorial Hospital laundry room are four Braun Commercial Washers, each capable of handling 450 lbs of laundry per wash, and two 125 lbs per wash Continental Commercial Washers. At any health care facility, much of the laundry is considered light to medium soiled and a smaller percentage is heavily soiled. A significant fraction of laundry at this hospital is classified as medium to lightly soiled. Consequently, the two 125 lbs Continental washers are used for the heavier soiled laundry while the four larger Braun washers handle the medium to lightly soiled laundry. Thirty-seven (37) loads per day are laundered on the average, equating to 10,500 lbs per day of laundry.

The ozone system installed for this study is the EcoTex system manufactured by Clearwater Tech, LLC (San Luis Obispo, CA), consisting of one ECO2 ozone generator (maximum ozone output rating of 8 g/h at 3% concentration by weight), designed for smaller washers that handle the heavier soiled laundry, and two ECO4 ozone generators (maximum ozone output rating of 27 g/h at 6% concentration by weight), designed for larger washers that handle the light to medium soiled laundry. Each ozone generator is connected to a pair of washing machines -- the smaller ECO2 ozone generator being connected to the two 125-pound Continental washers. Each ozone generator is supported by an appropriately sized Sequal Technologies Workhorse 8c Oxygen Concentrator (to dry and concentrate oxygen from ambient air which is then fed to the ozone generator itself).

Three AeroQual 100 Ambient Air Ozone Monitors are mounted appropriately in the washer room close to each ozone generator and its piping that feeds this gas to its pair of washing machines. These ambient air ozone monitors serve three functions to ensure that laundry room workers are not exposed to potentially harmful concentrations of ambient ozone:

1. Detect any ozone that might appear in the room by leaking from any of the six washers. Should any of the ozone monitors detect ambient ozone concentrations above the current OSHA-specified Maximum Exposure Level (0.08 ppm) the ozone generator closest to that monitor is automatically shut down, thus ceasing the generation of ozone.

2. Detect any ozone that might appear in the room due to some catastrophic accident to any ozone generation or delivery system -- such as a wrench dropping on an ozone delivery pipe and causing a break in the piping. In such an event, the ozone generator is shut down, again ceasing the generation of ozone.

3. Provide positive feed-back control information to the ozone generator, essentially telling the ozone generator 'keep working, all is well'. To provide this function, the ozone generator MUST receive positive feedback (absence of ozone above the alarm set-point) at all times from the ambient ozone sensor in order to function, thus providing fail-safe operation.

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