Having your whites laundered using ozone gas sounds like a plausible premise for a scene set in the laundry of the Starship Enterprise. In fact, it's happening in Rotorua.
The Tendercare boutique laundrette and commercial laundry in Ti Street has boldly gone where few have gone before. With the assistance of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and ELS, an innovative Auckland laundry technology company, Tendercare is now laundering commercial quantities of linen, towels and bedding using nothing more than cold water, detergent and ozone gas.
It's the first commercial laundry in the country to be using ozone technology.
Using ozone for cleaning has been around internationally for some years but its application in laundries is new here.
Comprised of three oxygen atoms, ozone occurs naturally in the atmosphere whenever there is an electrical storm.
A laundry ozone generator replicates those conditions then introduces the ozone into the water under pressure. The gas destroys bacteria and cleans, whitens and brightens - all without the use of hot water - before it naturally reverts back to oxygen.
Tendercare's managing director Philippa Lewis was busy planning the 21-year-old laundry's expansion when she attended a trade show in the US in 2015 and came across the technology. It promised huge efficiency gains, while being kinder to the environment.
Impressed, Lewis returned to New Zealand and did her homework. She found Justin Treagus's company ELS, which was able to supply an ozone generator unit built by US company NuTek.
Treagus also directed Lewis to the EECA Technology Demonstration programme, a government scheme which provides co-funding support to early adopters of new and under-utilised technologies - if they can deliver energy and/or carbon emissions savings for the benefit of New Zealand.
Lewis was attracted to the environmentally-friendly nature of the technology: "When considering how to run the business, we've always tried to incorporate processes that are a wee bit kinder to the environment than traditional ones," she explains.
Lewis filled out the application and since then has worked with Dinesh Chand, contestable funds manager for EECA, producing the business case for introducing the technology and documenting the results.
Final figures on power and gas reductions are expected soon but Lewis estimates she is using 95 per cent less hot water.
"We've hugely reduced our gas and electricity consumption, our labour costs have gone down because the wash cycles are shorter and our water consumption has decreased."
Treagus, managing director of ELS, says while exact savings data is not yet available from Tendercare, there's an abundance of evidence from installations of the technology around the world.
"After the installation of an ozone generator, the instances where hot water might be needed are usually minimal, so we're pretty confident in saying that users will save up to 90 per cent on their water heating bill and up to 30 per cent on their water bill."
The Tendercare laundry is one of about 15 Technology Demonstration co-funded projects under way with EECA at any one time, across a range of locations and industries.
Chand says the final part of each partnership is to make public the findings and results of the project - so similar businesses around New Zealand can learn about the technology, replicate the results and perhaps avoid some potential pitfalls.
"This is an important part of EECA's strategic mandate to encourage new and innovative ways of working. Along with energy efficiency, the focus is more and more on emissions reduction and renewable technologies. This is a wonderful example of that."
Lewis is chuffed with the results: "It's easy, safe and extremely effective. From my perspective, I've been able to reduce costs and make the business more competitive and cost-efficient, while doing something for the environment.
"And the laundry smells wonderful."
EECA Technology Demonstration programme
- Provides co-funding support to early adopters of new and under-utilised technologies delivering energy and/or carbon emissions savings in New Zealand.
- Up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the cost of a project.
- Up to a maximum of $100,000 per project.
- The current funding round closes on September 20.
See the Funding and Support page at www.eecabusiness.govt.nz