Paying attention to equipment performance can save energy, labor and money.

By following a simple laundry equipment observation and maintenance schedule, facility operators can reduce washing and drying costs significantly - saving thousands of dollars a year in water, energy and labor. Here are five items to add to your laundry operations checklist:

Review your drying time. Drying time should be less than 35 minutes for a load of towels. Many dryers are set for far longer than necessary - wasting time and energy while degrading towel quality. Try testing the optimum drying time for your facility: Start at 30 minutes, and then increase drying time by two-minute increments until you are satisfied that the laundry is dry. Document the drying time and make it standard operating procedure.

Check dryer vents. Dryer exhaust venting should be checked monthly to ensure that airflow is not restricted. Even the smallest obstacles block airflow and can increase drying times, thereby increasing labor, energy consumption and linen replacement.

Make sure the dryer is heating properly. Since dryers pull air out of the room, there must be fresh air to replace the exhaust. If fresh air is lacking, dryers will not heat properly, causing longer drying times. Here is a simple visual inspection to perform: Open the maintenance panel for the heater and make sure the flame is blue with moderate bending. If you see a yellow-orange flame with significant bending toward the dryer cylinder, the heater is starving for oxygen. In that case, call in a repair specialist.

Clean washer inlet hoses. This should be done on a quarterly basis. If debris blocks the screen, fill times - and labor costs - will increase.

Remove drain valve obstructions. Items such as combs, pens, paper clips and string can get trapped in a washing machine's drain, keeping it from completely closing. If you suspect a leak, listen for water entering the drain during a wash cycle. If you hear it, something is keeping the drain open. This is a common maintenance issue that often goes unnoticed for weeks, wasting thousands of gallons of water. To repair it, inspect the drain after removing the drain hose, or call a repair specialist.