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Hopper Optical Error On Change Machine

Hopper Optical Error On Change Machine

     I have a friend that helps out in my Laundromats as I live 30 miles away and he lives within a mile. He does some of the basic management functions including moving money between machines and the changers and unplugging jammed changers.

     Last Sunday I got a text that there was a problem with the changer. As I wasn’t going to be there that day he said he would take a look. He checked a few items and reset the changer and everything seemed OK.


     About an hour later the attendant called him and said it had an alarm again. He sent me a text so I said I would look at it the next morning.

     The display showed a Hopper Optical Error. This was a new one to me so I tried the normal power Off reset but it still had an alarm.

     Next I pulled the hopped out and dumped out all of the quarters to see if there was something obvious.

     I don’t have a spare hopper for this model of changer so I figured I would investigate a little deeper. Hey if I messed it up it had to be repaired anyway.

     I pulled one side of the hopper apart and found a small piece of paper stuck in the coin slot.


     My best guess was that someone used it to put into a coin slot in a machine they had a problem with and  it was small enough to go inside (or maybe a kid stuck it in there). Once the quarters pushed it to the box, it got dumped back into the hopper and worked it’s way through the machine.

      I cleaned up the parts I had opened up and put everything back together and it worked like normal.

     I always worry when I pull things apart that their is that spring that will fly out or you need a special tool or jig to re-assemble the part but that usually never stops me from looking.


      If you have employees or are considering hiring some get a copy of the Employee Handbook I use in my stores. It provides a solid foundation for you relationship with your employees.

You can get a copy HERE.

Episode 26 – Bulkheads

Coin Laundry Bulkheads- Definition and Explanation

     This is a term that many who have been in the Coin Laundry business for years talk about all of the time and we may forget that people that are new to the business are not familiar with all of the terminology.


          Lets start with a definition and go from there.

According To WikiPedia

Bulkhead may refer to:

A structural safety device:

  • Bulkhead (partition), a wall within the hull of a ship, vehicle, or container
  • Torpedo bulkhead, a type of armor designed to keep a ship afloat even if the hull is struck by a shell or by a torpedo
  • Bulkhead (barrier), a retaining wall used as a form of coastal management, akin to a seawall, or as a structural device such as a bulkhead partition
  • Bulkhead door, an angled door covering the exterior stairwell of a basement
  • Bulkhead flatcar, a type of rolling stock designed with sturdy end-walls to prevent loads from shifting past the ends of the car
  • Rear pressure bulkhead, an airtight structural feature of an aircraft

 Well that certainly cleared it up.

           As with many words they have evolved from the original meaning and morphed into something else.

            We can pull out part of the term that it means a wall. Previously I worked in the paint facility of a automotive manufacturing plant. A bulkhead there referred to a part of a wall or a steel plate where the paint lines connected from one side to the other. Usually through a rows of fittings.

         We are getting closer now.

           In Laundromats the Bulkheads are the area behind the washers where the utilities are routed and connected. 

         The sizes vary depending on the size and type of the machines.


An older Laundromat Bulkhead with open trench drains.

     Older Laundromat normally had rows of Top Load washing machines. They backed up against a bulkhead that was run through the store. These tended to be short and narrow. Typically about the height of the back of the Top Load washer and about 12′ to 16′ across.

         As machines got bigger these were sometimes modified to be taller the cover the back of the newer washers.

 The contents of the bulkhead has not changed.

           Power: This can be from 120 V to 240 V in most laundromats and could be single or 3 Phase. The connections are made directly in the back of the machine or through a standard plug and receptacle.


Bulkhead with breaker panel.

Electrical panels containing the breakers for the washers are normally mounted on the ends of the bulkhead to provide easy access for Service Techs and customers should a problem come up. The older Top Loader bulkheads had the electrical panels mounted under the top cover.

This picture shows the original end of the bulkhead with the location of the breaker panel. The Bulkhead was increased in height to accommodate the larger washers

Although the height of the bulkhead was increased the depth was not as there were no other washers on this side of the bulkhead. If washers were added the bulkhead would need to be increased to at least 30″ deep. 

 A view of the original bulkhead and breaker panel with the framing for the larger washers.

Water: Hot and cold. Piping sizes have increased from 1/2″ up to 2″ depending on the size and amount of washers connected to each bulkhead. Each washer will have a minimum of 1 Hot and 1 Cold connection. Some have additional connections for feeding the chemicals (soap) trays so the flow can be adjusted to prevent the soap tray from overflowing or spraying out the top. These can be connected with a Y connection after the valve or with a separate connection to the piping.
The main water pipes are sometimes referred to as Header pipes (Headers). Each connection will have a valve at the header.

          The timers on most washing machines do not actually run until the washer fills with water to the preset level. Having the right sized piping and water flow will fill the washers fast and complete the wash in the shortest time possible.

         Water flow is affected by each part of the system. Piping and hoses should be as large as possible (within reason of course). But don’t overlook the valves at the headers. Install a ball valve or similar type will provide a full flow of water as opposed to a Globe valve that has restriction built in.


 The following diagrams help show this difference.

Another possible restriction is the hose size between the valve and the washer. Many installations now are completed with custom hoses made of 3/4″ ID (Interior Dimension) material. The ones for your home washer are not meant for a large capacity washer. 

Custom made hoses in Laundromat Bulkhead. Correct length and size provide unrestricted flow.

Drains: The water has to go somewhere and it’s all downhill from here. Top Load and small, soft mount front load washers have built in pumps to push the water up and into a drain pipe. This type of setup is also used to prevent the water from running out of the washer.  Larger washers have a gravity drain that is controlled by a drain valve below the drum that is opened and closed between cycles.

Drain Valve in Action

            A washer with a drain valve is connected directly to the drain pipe and will probably be combined with the other washers to the building drain. The drain piping size and slope is also important to handle the volume that will fill the pipe when the drain valve opens. 

          Many customers that are using multiple machines will start them all within seconds of each other so they all finish at the same time.

          The drains can be connected together in a single pipe or connected to a steel drain trough. This trough works well as a place for coins and other items to settle and prevent the piping from being plugged . In some cases the drain is an open trough under the bulkheads. This is only found in older stores as it leads to a humid and smelly laundromat.


This problem was covered here and Here

          That is the basics of Laundromat Bulkheads. The size, shape and material varies but they all have the same purpose.

          When you are designing your laundromat or making upgrades make sure the bulkheads are big enough and deep enough to handle all of the utilities and the Service Tech that needs to get in there to work on the equipment. Most washer motors can only be removed from the back.


If you have any questions or comments please let me know.



Laundromat Water Heater not lighting or heating

Laundromat Water Heater not lighting or heating 

     Recently we relocated a Water Heater, although many people call it a “Hot Water Heater” the water is not hot until it gets heated so it’s a “Water Heater” but enough of that.

     The water heater fired up and worked when we tested it and the tank heated up without a problem. The next day when I came into the store I heard the “Tick, Tick ,Tick” of the igniter but not the familiar dog barking sound after. After the Ticks you should here a “Woof” as the main burners light.

     NOTE: This is for information only and you should not attempt to work on any gas appliances without proper training. Call a professional.

       As I have many years experience working on burners I decided it was a good time to pull the burner out and provide some explanation of the operation and possible cause.

     It’s really a simple concept for the tank type basic water heaters. The gas comes through a valve, sometimes a regulator depending on the supply pressure (we will discuss High and Low Pressure another time), next is the Gas Valve and then there is the Pilot Route and the Main Burner Route.

     When the request for heat is made form the thermostat on the tank the pilot valve opens and gas is released through a small tube to the ignitor (spark plug) at the main burner. Once the pilot lights the flame heats a thermistor. This device changes resistance when it’s heated and tells the main burner that the Pilot light was lit and is still on.

     Next step is the Gas Valve opens the flow to the main burner and all of the parts of it light from the pilot light. A slight “woof” sound is heard as the burner coves a large area and the gas lights across them from the pilot. Sort of like pouring a bucket of water on the floor, it takes less than a second to cover an area but it’s not instant.


       When water heaters are installed, moved or any of the piping, valves or regulators upstream from the Gas Valve is worked on there is a chance that something will plug the Gas Valve. This could be some rust from the inside of the pipe, some pipe dope or putty used at the joints or some metal fragments from threading the pipe.

       So, as in this case, it worked during the initial test but plugged up after a few cycles. A small puff of air will usually clean this out but in some cases the Gas Valve will need to be replaced.

 NOTE: As I mentioned above- This is for information only and you should not attempt to work on any gas appliances without proper training. Call a professional.

Have a great day and Keep It Clean.



Episode 25 – Employees or Contractors

Employees or Contractors

   During the planning of your Laundromat some decisions need to be made about how the store will me run on a day to day basis. The focus of this discussion is about the people that will or will not be in there every day.

       One of the options is to have an Unattended Laundromat. This is just how it sounds. The customers go in, use the equipment and leave without any contact with someone representing the store. Cleaners are used at least once a day, and this could be in the middle of the night so the customers have no interaction with the personnel. Some customers will see you as you empty the coin boxes or fix some equipment but their main options are a phone and a concern box.

       The next two types are similar, Partially Attended or Fully Attended. Partially Attended stores usually have someone there every day of the week but usually only during the business day (7am to 6pm) the rest of the time the store is Unattended. The Laundromat may close at 10 or 11pm or be open 24 hours. Fully attended stores have someone there at all times the store is open for business. This does not mean that the store stays open until 11pm or is open 24 hours. One of the stores I bought was Fully Attended but only had hours of 7am to 7pm. Within 6 months I had finished the renovations that allowed me to change the hours to 6am to 10pm and be attended from 7am until 6pm. We have since become a Partially Attended, 24 hour store. 

       The responsibility in of an Attendant is primarily to attend to customers, help with explaining the operation of the equipment, and maintain the cleanliness of the store. By default they act as a form of security just by being there.

       Many stores develop a Drop Off / Fluff And Fold / Wash And Fold business to increase revenue and offset the cost of the attendants.

      The final part of this discussion is to use your own employees to run the Drop Off service or use a Contractor working inside your store. The Contractor would be running their own business and you would essentially become an “Unattended” Laundromat. The Contractor would clean the store in exchange for rent.

       There are opposing positions on the merits of each method and the costs and effort involved with each.

       If you are renovating or opening a new store you will want to look at each of the methods and determine which one is right for you, your business and your market place.



Episode 24 – HARO and Retiring Early

 HARO and Retiring Early

  Help A Reporter Out ( is a site that connects reporters and other writers to experts and sources for their stories. This can be a great opportunity to get your business and experience in front of a new or enlarged market. Most articles will provide links back to your sites

         In this article I provided some information on investing in a new business and how being able to do what you want is the best form of retirement.

        Being in the Coin Laundry Business many of the items on the list are available long before you actually “retire”.