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Laundry’s energy-guzzling ways will soon be a thing of the past

Cutting-edge Laundromat’s new machines and solar panels put it a step ahead of the competition

By Jessie Kirk

“I’m a huge consumer of resources,” he says matter-of-factly about the water and natural gas his washing and drying business uses each day.

But he’s doing something about it.

The Northeast Portland family man is in the process of gutting his 1,950-square-foot Laundromat to eliminate waste. He’s remodeling the space and turning it into one of the most environmentally friendly laundry centers in the world by installing solar panels, energy-efficient machines and gas-saving, compact boilers.

A general contractor who bought Maytag Homestyle Laundry nearly two years ago, Trelstad closed the doors Jan. 1 and started revamping his business for the 21st century. His cutting-edge Laundromat, now called Hyland Eco Laundry, will use less water, less natural gas and be a light, bright place to wash clothes.

“It’s all built around minimizing consumption as much as possible,” he said.

He’s spending substantial time and money to completely transform his shop. He says the investment means he’s taking an “educated risk.”

“I’m gambling that my new, well-laid-out store is going to decrease my consumption and hopefully by having the nicest Laundromat in the market today, that will bring in the customers.”

When it comes to sustainability, Susan Jowaiszas of Energy Trust of Oregon said that Laundromats are a “good place to look at energy efficiency.”

“They use a lot of hot water, they tend to be open a lot of hours so they have their lights on and, just like in your home, a commercial washing machine that’s more efficient saves energy and water,” she said.

From cave-like to innovative

The Beaverton Laundromat has served the wash-needing public for decades in the Highland Hills Shopping Center on Southwest Murray and Allen boulevards. When Trelstad bought the business, he said it had older machines, a strange layout and dark lighting making it feel “like a cave.”

After taking a yearlong course at Mt. Hood Community College to become a certified sustainable building adviser for his day job, Trelstad said he knew he needed to incorporate his education into his own property.

He sums up his newfound philosophy simply: “Businesses have to change.”

The new space will have bright walls painted with low VOC paint and a tidy row of 28 washers on one side and 30 dryers on the other, with plenty of folding space in the middle under bright, high-efficiency fluorescent lights. A new HVAC system will mean the air is clean and a stained concrete floor will require little maintenance.

Top-of-the-line Electrolux Water Saver washers will charge the customer less for cold water washes, giving users an incentive to use less hot water. The quality machines also spin out more water than the typical washer, meaning the clothes require less drying time.

“It will mean a better wash for the customer. These are the best washers on the market right now,” Trelstad said. “Plus they look good.”

The innovation doesn’t stop there. The washers can communicate with your cell phone, sending you a text message when there’s just a few minutes left on its cycle. The perk allows customers to venture out and grab a bite to eat or do some grocery shopping and have a heads up when their laundry is done. (The machine locks during its cleaning cycle so patrons won’t have to worry that their clothes will be stolen in the meantime.)

The efficient machines mean a savings of thousands of gallons of water. The old appliances used three gallons of water for every pound of clothes they washed. The new ratio is 1:1.

But the most significant improvements are those you can’t see.

Heating water hot enough to properly clean clothes usually takes a great deal of energy. That’s why Trelstad is mounting four, 4-by-10-foot solar collectors on the roof to preheat the water. Hot air exhausted from the dryer vents will be harnessed to heat the water even more.

With preheated water, the small, condensing boilers are only on when they’re needed. Trelstad estimates that the 99.8 percent efficient boilers will operate using less than 25 percent of the power than the “VW bus”-size boilers of the past.

“We plan on saving 55 percent or more on our water, 73 percent on our gas and 76 percent on electricity as compared to our previous usage,” Trelstad wrote in an e-mail.

‘It’s absolutely affordable’

Trelstad said he sees his considerable renovation as a longterm investment in the future.

“I have kids, and I want to have grandkids, and I’m starting to worry about what kind of world we’re going to leave for them,” he said, referring to his 5-year-old son Ronan and 3-year-old daughter Mallory.

Through Business Energy Tax Credits, federal credits and cash incentives from Energy Trust, Trelstad said the renovations are affordable, pointing to the $22,000 solar-collecting system he had installed for $2,000 as proof.

“Oregon is really progressive in that,” he said of the financial incentives.

In the long run, Trelstad said he believes the water and gas savings will pay off for him, and other business owners need to know it can be for them, too.

“It’s going to pay for itself. It’s absolutely affordable.”

The business owner said he hopes to open the doors of the revamped Hyland Eco Laundry during the last week of March, saving the grand opening for April 24, the Saturday following Earth Day.

“It will be a big, blow-out, free day to show people what we got and to show them how much better their clothes are going to get washed,” he said.

Trelstad said he is confident anyone who comes in will be impressed with the upgraded facility.

“People who use Laundromats in this area, once they come here, they won’t want to go anywhere else,” he said. “The machines are the best in the world.”

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