In recent years, long-term care facilities have started moving toward ozone use in laundering. Ozone has been recognized for over a century as an effective cleaner. It is an unstable form of oxygen gas that is generated when oxygen is exposed to electricity. Ozone’s unstable chemistry causes it to easily bond with elements common in dirt and debris to form oxides, which can then be washed away.
Due to its instability, ozone must be generated at the laundry and is done so in two ways. One involves temporarily storing ozonized water in tanks and the second involves injecting ozone into the water supply at the washing machine. The direct injection application is more common in long-term care facilities.
Some of the benefits of ozone use are:
- Ozone reduces hot water use since it dissolves more easily at lower temperatures making it more effective in cold water. Ozone has been advertised to reduce hot water usage in long-term care facilities in the range of 70% to 90%. Additionally, hard water residue is less severe in cold water, thus lengthening equipment life and removing or reducing water softening efforts.
- Multiple ozone industry sources report a 20% to 30% reduction in overall water use. This is achieved by reducing the number of cycles required due to better cleaning ability. Such water savings may also reduce sewage expenses.
- Washing and drying times can be reduced by 15% to 20%, which decreases gas consumption and may provide staffing benefits.
- Ozone use in laundering does not remove the need for detergents, but can reduce the use of detergents in the range of 25% to 40%.
- Independent test results indicate a 99.5% bacteria kill count with ozone versus 97% in traditional laundries.
- Ozone is also reported to produce whiter, softer linens and reduce skin irritation due to reduced chemical use.
Ozone’s biggest drawback is its relatively new application in laundering which may lead to it being perceived as less reliable and requiring more monitoring. When installing an ozone system, owners should be aware that ozone over-exposure can weaken fabrics. Also, OSHA has realized that worker over-exposure to ozone is a health concern. However, room sensors and monitors are available and are being improved to minimize these risks.
“The benefits of ozone use in laundering generally involve energy savings and cleaning quality.”
An industry report lists four long-term care facilities with an average ozone system payback period of 3 years (Healthcare Review; Sept. 17, 2002). IndustrOzone, an ozone system manufacturer, estimated an average payback of 18 months for long-term care and a first cost estimate for a 100-bed facility starting at $14,000. Similarly, an ozone system consultant reported that a 120-bed long-term care facility can save approximately $1,500 each month (from National Energy Services Company, Inc.).
– Bryan C. Smith, PE, LEED AP
Bryan is a Licensed Mechanical Engineer, LEED Accredited Professional, and Board Member of the USGBC Central Pennsylvania Chapter. Please feel free to contact Bryan for further details regarding the above information.