Re: RE: Common Laundry Advice Needed
From: James Kacki (
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 12:09:22 -0700 (PDT)
Douglas, you sound wonderfully organized and it sounds like a great system.
To add a little info. to those considering options, residential units also come as a stackable unit,(dryer over washer) but I'm not sure if residential units would be adequate for the amount of use you describe (how many units in your communty?) Does anyone have experience with residential washers and dryers in a common house?

original message:

Douglas G. Larson wrote:
We have hook-ups for 3 sets of washers and dryers in our common house
and we purchased commercial Speed Queen machines for two of the hook-ups
and a one or our members donated a residential set for the third
hook-up. Our plan was to replace the residential set with a 3rd
commercial once they wear out.
Efficiency and Reliability
The commercial machines we use are called stackables, i.e. the dryer
sits on top of the washer. We chose this configuration to conserve space
in our laundry area. We use natural gas for heating our water and these
dyers heat with gas as well. Gas powered dryers are more energy
efficient than electric. The washers are front loader types which use
far less water than top loaders.
We have had the machines for close to 4 years now and they have been
reasonably reliable though we have no experience with other commercial
brands and so have nothing to compare with. I was on the laudnry
purchasing committee and the sense I got from the many sales people I
spoke with was that Speed Queen is considered among the most reliable of
the commercial brands. We have had the Speed Queen stackables repaired
maybe 4 or 5 times in 4 years.
Coin-op or not
We didn't want to charge for use of the machines but these commerical
machines don't come without pay devices, though we did have a choice of
either coin operated or credit card operated. We chose coin operated
because the salesman said the machines are programable and we could
program it to take zero quarters.  He was honest enough to tell us also
that while setting the quarter count to zero was possible doing so
disabled some feature in the machine. I don't recall what the feature
was but we chose to set the quarter count to 1.
We leave a key for the coin box hanging in the room so residents use it
to retrieve a quarter from the box to run the machines. So in essence
use of the machines is free.
Using the machines
The commerical machines are a little less flexible in the options you
have to select for any given run than residential machines. There is a
special door on the machines that you open with a special key to set the
programming. Once set the buttons on the front used to operate the
machine follow the programming that was set. The steps needed to program
them is on the complex side but it is doable and not something you tend
to change very often. As an example, one of the choices you are asked when you program it is
the duration of the wash cycle in minutes. I don't recall what duration
we chose but when you use the washer that is how long it takes on the
wash cycle. The user doesn't have a choice. This is in contrast to
residential machines where you can easily set the wash cycle to
different lengths by turning a dial. With our commercial washers you can add an extra rinse by inserting an
additional quarter. Adding additional quarters to the dryers adds more
time to the run. The amount of dry time added by each quarter is another
option in the programming. The total run time for the commercial washers is quite a bit shorter
than the residential washer even if the residential washer is set to the
shortest cycle.
Cleaning supplies
Two questions came up when we were setting up our community laundry
about the use of soaps and detergents. 1) Can we buy detergent in bulk and so save money?
2) Can we buy fragrance free detergents? (Some of the residents are
sensitive to the fragrances that are in detergents and so wanted
fragrance free varieties since we would all be using the same machines
and the odors tend to linger from one wash to the next). We have a community exchange - essentially a little store where members
can purchase laundry detergent, among other things. The detergent sold
there is purchased in bulk and is fragrance free.
We have a sign up chart in the laundry room where people sign up for
using the machines at certain times of the day. Out policy is that you
can sign up for 2 hours per week. Since our guest rooms are next to our
laundry room we limit use to between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm if the guest
rooms are in use. This sign up system works fairly well though
occasionally someone will sign up then not use their time, leaving the
machines unused for 2 hours or so. If someone else wants to use the
machines during that time it creates a bit of a conflict. It doesn't
happen very often.
We have two people who do the common house laundry and they sign up for
use just like everyone else.
Machine Sizes
Since we chose stackable units we didn't have a choise on the capacity
of the commercial machines. They came in one size though Speed Queen
does make various sizes in the non-stackble units they sell. But our
experience is that while the washers look like they are on the small
size they actually hold quite a bit. The dryers are much bigger than
residential models and moderate in size comared to other dryers you see
in laundromats.

Douglas Larson
Songaia Cohousing

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