Thursday, May 3, 2001

DENNIS ODA / STAR-BULLETIN Teresita Bajit, a housekeeper at the Waikiki Beachcomber
Hotel, folds clean linen washed with ozonated water.

Luck of Shamrock
lowers Hawaii
hotel energy bills

A Honolulu company
hopes to take its ozone
system national

By Russ Lynch

A new Honolulu company is hoping Hawaii's hotels will save money by flushing its product down the drain.

For many businesses, heating water is the costliest use of energy, and a Honolulu firm says it can save large hotels hundreds of thousands of dollars by putting ozone into the water instead of heat.

The Ala Moana Hotel, for example, recently replaced an electric water heating system for its laundry that cost more than $30,000 a year to run, compared to only a few dollars a day for an ozone system. The hotel also got a rebate of more than $13,000 from Hawaiian Electric Co. for installing the more energy-efficient ozone system.

Savings from using ozone systems, designed and sold by Shamrock -- The Trinity Corp. can add up, according to users. And the company hopes the Hawaii experience and mounting electricity costs from California's energy crisis will quickly take it national.

The 400-room Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, which has used an ozone system for more than a year, says the savings are real.

Roy Honda, who handles such behind-the-scenes details at the Beachcomber, says using ozone instead of heat doesn't just save on energy, it saves on chemicals that are no longer needed to kill bacteria and clean the laundry.

"Our chemicals are down by about one-third," Honda said. "And we are using a little less water and that saves on sewage fees as well," he said.

The Beachcomber spent some $80,000 to install the system and says its laundry energy costs have gone from the hundreds of dollars a day heating the water with natural gas to the $5 or $6 a day it costs for the electricity to run the ozone machine.

The Hapuna Prince Hotel on the Big Island spends $20,000 a month to heat the water to wash its sheets, pillow cases, table linen and other laundry items and figures that will go to zero if it buys the system. That's a savings of $240,000 to $250,000 a year.

Shamrock is the brainchild of John Connors, who has operated a business called Ozone Industries in Honolulu for a little more than a year, and former public relations consultant Dan McGivern.

McGivern said that when he and Connors first talked about it, ozone injection into laundry water was already allowing users to use water 75 percent cooler while maintaining the same level of cleaning ability.

"I told him it had to be 100 percent cold water," no heat at all, McGivern said, and that's the way it is working out.

There are a number of manufacturers of ozone generators on the mainland who claim to provide for 75 percent to 80 percent less heat but Shamrock says it is the only one currently offering 100 percent. Heat and chemicals are generally major parts of the process needed to clean linens, such as the sheets and towels laundered by hotels.

Shamrock recently installed the system in the Ala Moana Hotel, its second major customer, and is negotiating with other hotels. Hotels confirm that these are the first ozone laundry systems in the islands.

Chuck Freedman, a Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman, said the $13,253 Ala Moana Hotel rebate came from a program that rewards businesses and residential customers who install energy-efficient equipment.

Consumers and the utility both save, Freedman said.

"If we are able to reduce our peak generation demand, it means we can defer the time when a new power plant has to be built," he said. Power plants are expensive and the cost has to be passed on to the consumer.

The ozone player

Ozone is a blue gas that in water breaks up quickly into highly concentrated oxygen, a powerful anti-bacteria and cleansing agent.

It can be used in homes and small systems are available for that. Big commercial laundries have tried it and found it has not necessarily suited their purposes. Some heat and chemicals are needed when dealing with greasy fabrics from restaurants, for example, and that cuts into cost savings. But after seeing successful use in hotels, at least one local commercial laundry is expressing interest, Shamrock officials said.

They have solicited major hotels in Hawaii, some 260 leading hotels around the world and dozens of other potential users.

Connors, who is president of the ozone laundry treatment division of Shamrock, earlier used his Ozone Industries business to demonstrate ozone's effectiveness in other areas.

The Tamashiro Market in Palama, for example, uses ozone-laced water to wash down its counters and equipment. Hawaiian Electric's consumer newsletter Powerlines says the Tamashiro family found many benefits, such as no more risk of cleaning chemicals contaminating surfaces and complete disinfection of walls, tables and utensils with no harmful effects on employees.

Connors also introduced an ozone system to take care of the smelly algae and general corruption of water in the reflecting pools at the state Capitol, problems that had plagued the building from the onset.

"It seems to be working," said James Richardson, head of central services for the state Department of Accounting & General Services. It cost about $89,000 to install the system that pumps ozone into the water. The state was paying some $75,000 every year to a contractor to try to keep the ponds clean, with limited success.

The ponds have some circulation problems and there are still some algae spots, Richardson said, so custodians still have to go to work there.

But judicious use of Capitol custodians and a new contract with the ozone suppliers to maintain the system for a few hundred dollars a month cuts the maintenance costs to about $6,000 a year. The state gladly pays $80 to $90 for lunches once a month to have state prisoners come down and clean up, Richardson said.

Shamrock is promoting its system on a Web site, and by mailings around the world.

Entering the ozone layer

>> An ozone generator takes air and converts it to ozone, best known to most of us as the gas that surrounds the earth, protecting us from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ozone has three molecules of oxygen, O3, rather than the normal two, O2. When injected into water, the third molecule breaks away and reacts with other elements, attacks bacteria and cleans and purifies, as a natural biological defense useful for many situations that involve disinfecting and cleaning.

>> The machines sold by Shamrock - The Trinity Corp. range in price from nearly $100,000 to about $200,000. Each machine consists of a tank about four feet high holding about 250 gallons of water that gets tinged with blue as the blue ozone gas is pumped into it.

>> The ozone-treated water is delivered into laundry washers as needed. It works better in cold water and allows users to reduce energy and chemical costs while producing fresh-smelling and chlorine-free laundry.

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