Laundry fires are among the more common types of fire that occur in institutional settings. They happen with regular frequency—yet, they often can be prevented. It’s a matter of following correct procedures utilizing the best heating systems. Recently, an entire high school had to be evacuated when one of the laundry dryers caught fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt; but it could have been much worse, and possibly, could have been preventable.
General rules for safe operations and fire prevention in laundry facilities include use of preventive maintenance (lint removal, cleaning, checking for proper exhaust, etc.), never leaving equipment unattended while in use, proper knowledge of manufacturers’ safety precautions, and never drying materials with rubber or cleaning solvents on them.
One specific way to increase safety in industrial laundries is by specifying a thermal-oil system instead of other heating alternatives. Not only are there many other benefits—increased productivity, lower operating costs, no system corrosion, less maintenance, fewer environmental hazards, and possibly eliminating the need for a licensed operating engineer—there are also lower risks associated with hot oil. For example, the Paratherm HE heat transfer fluid has a flash point of 440 degrees and a fire point of 500 degrees, which are higher than the operating temperature of hot-oil ironers.
While the potential for serious fires when using thermal fluid systems is low, it’s important to keep certain things in mind to mitigate risk as much as possible. In general, when using these systems, allow for adequate ventilation, consider using a dike to contain leaks, install isolation and bleed valves, use a properly sized expansion tank, and ensure all insulation is placed and maintained properly. Also, have your fluid supplier analyze the fluid once a year, or more often if you notice changes in system performance. Chemical analysis of the hot oil can help pinpoint what’s wrong with the equipment, and can even help prevent future problems and system downtime.
We’ve seen great success with the use of our products in industrial laundries throughout the country. In California, for instance, where the law requires the use of a 24-hr licensed attendant for direct-fired steam systems, but not for thermal fluid systems, hospitals throughout the state have replaced steam with hot oil and specified Paratherm, saving money and staying safe.
Always remain cautious and follow procedures correctly, and the use of thermal fluid systems in laundries will prove highly beneficial and safe.