This system, developed by Tri-O-Clean, incorporates ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen, in the wash water to clean more quickly and thoroughly with less energy, water, and washing chemicals. The technology has also been installed in commercial laundries, penal institutions, and hotels.
"Ozone is 15 times more powerful a disinfectant in water as chlorine and many times faster in destroying viruses and bacteria," said Myron Jones, EPRI's project manager for the Healthcare Initiative. "So there are many health as well as environmental and cost benefits to this system."
An estimated 5 billion pounds of soiled linen are produced annually in the 7,300 hospitals in the United States. Using ozone increases laundry production and reduces labor since ozone wash cycles are shorter. Chemical costs can be reduced up to 60% and hot water costs reduced by over 80%, extending linen life due to less wear on fabrics. Closed-loop recycling ozone systems reduce the amount of water used by up to 70%.
An onsite ozone generator produces ozone via an electrical discharge. Ozone gas is then mixed with water flowing to the washing machine where it transforms soil from insoluble to soluble, enabling the soil to be loosened and removed from the fabric. Lint and other particles are removed from the wash water through a series of filters. The recycled water is then re-ozonated to be used in the next wash cycle.
EPRI is providing the ozonation program through its international Healthcare Initiative, a growing coalition of some 90 utilities and 200 hospitals, healthcare facilities, and associations that introduces new electricity-based technologies and services to the healthcare industry.
Through EPRI's program, member utilities nationwide are beginning to introduce the ozone laundry system to their healthcare customers. Two of these are customers of Georgia Power Company and Illinois Power Company.
Mark Todd, president and CEO of Magnolia Manor of Americus, Georgia, which processes an average of 70,000 pounds of linen each month, estimates the new system will be cleaner and save the nursing home approximately $20,000 per year in overall costs. "We saw this as an opportunity to improve our system and offer even better services to our residents," he said.
Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Illinois, which treats over 2 million pounds of laundry each year, is installing an ozone laundry system and projecting savings of $52,000 per year.
"Our hospital is typical of most in the healthcare industry in its efforts to maintain high levels of patient care, improve cost control, and adequately address environmental issues," said Tim Stone, Decatur Memorial's vice president. "EPRI's Healthcare Initiative and Illinois Power have offered us a positive alternative to our current laundry system to incorporate these objectives."
"We see ozone technology as having a beneficial impact on human health and creating a cleaner environment," said Clark Gellings, EPRI vice president of Customer Systems.
EPRI, established in 1973 and headquartered in Palo Alto, California, manages science and technology R&D for the electricity industry. More than 700 utilities are members of the Institute, which has an annual budget of some $500 million.