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Proper Fire Prevention and Safety in Laundries

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.

Employee Profile: Ryan Ritz, Chemical Engineer

Ryan Ritz began a long relationship with Paratherm in 2003, starting as an engineering intern while he was studying chemical engineering at the University of Delaware.  Upon graduating in 2006, Ryan was hired as a full-time employee.

In his time at Paratherm, Ryan has worn many different hats. He began working in the laboratory on research & development of low-temperature products. From there he worked on a myriad of special projects contributing to quality control, documentation control, development of manufacturing procedures, comparative product research, marketing, sales engineering, and service development.

One of the main technical projects that Ryan works on presently, focuses on product performance and stability comparison. How well will Paratherm products transfer heat? What is their longevity? How thermally stable is each new product going to be? When talking about high temperatures (some products go up to 650 degrees F) we need to be sure that the product is going to last a long time.  Beyond testing Paratherm’s own products, Ryan also analyzes competitive product lines. We want to be sure we have a full understanding of how competitors’ products work in comparison to ours so that when our customers ask, we can provide them with unbiased findings backed by technical data.

When the analysis begins, Ryan is looking for the way these varied products will comparatively break down. Two common ways thermal fluids degrade are through oxidation and thermal degradation (overheating).  Although we have our own internal lab for fluid monitoring and predictive analysis, Paratherm contracts accredited 3rd party laboratories to run ASTM standardized testing—with standardized temperatures and runtimes—to measure these forms of degradation on Paratherm’s fluids side by side with other products.

This type of work leads right into another project that Ryan works on, which is designing custom lab tests to compare products for thermal stability and oxidation resistance. Since the oil itself is an actual engineered product, it is imperative that the oils are designed to have an optimal ratio of physical properties that will translate to better performance and dependability. Many competitors put additives in their fluids that typically degrade well before the oil itself breaks down. The majority of Paratherm products are highly refined oils and synthetics that are engineered specifically for high-temperature heat transfer service, unlike typical lubricating or hydraulic oil. Because of that, there exists less likelihood for premature fouling and break-down due to inherent impurities.

Since Paratherm develops both natural mineral oils and synthetic fluids, we have a unique perspective. We are also able to compare our own products against each other. Ryan dedicates time to determine what the pros and cons are within our own product line. Since we have such a large product offering, many products will cover overlapping temperature ranges so we test to see how each product will perform in different systems with variables in operating conditions. Because of all this internal testing, Ryan is able to pass on this information to other sales people, who in turn are able to pass it on to fluid users and specifiers.

We take our products very seriously, and employ people like Ryan Ritz whose dedication and knowledge of the industry help to keep us ahead of the curve.

From Analysis to Hot-Oil System Cleaners, Paratherm Has it All.

Here at Paratherm, we offer three different hot-oil system cleaners that are designed for two different fluid chemistries. Whether you have a mineral oil-based system or a synthetic fluid-based system, we have a product that will work for you.

Both our our Paratherm LC™ and Paratherm AC™ system cleaner liquids are used the same way to clean your system as it runs. A small percentage of these additives are placed into your system by including the cleaner in your heat transfer fluid until it is laced with 3% to 12% of the cleaner; the percentage may vary depending on how dirty the system is, and also how fast you want the cleaning to occur. Once that process has been completed, you run your system as you normally would. After an interval of weeks or months, you drain the cleaned system and recharge with new fluid. Paratherm LC is designed for any mineral-oil based fluid, while Paratherm AC is used with any synthetic/organic-based fluid.

Our Paratherm SC™ system cleaner liquid operates under a different method and is used for smaller systems. Unlike the LC and the AC, the SC cleaner does not clean your system as it runs and instead operates as an off-line cleaner. This solvent-based product is put into your completely drained system where it will then need to be circulated, drained and flushed.

We also offer fluid analysis services so that we can help you determine if there are existing equipment problems or if there are operational issues that may be causing your fluid to degrade. If you are having these problems, cleaning your system and performing system maintenance will be a huge help. Check out our quick, one minute video about our fluid analysis service.