Washers at American go high-tech

For students at American University, laundry day no longer means hoping for an available washer or dryer when walking into the laundry room. AU students can now go online and check for available machines from the comfort of their dorm rooms.

The online laundry system, called e-Suds.net, was installed in nine AU residence halls with laundry facilities this summer. The new digital technology, connected to all of the school’s 283 washers and dryers, allows students to check via the Internet when a machine is finished with a load, and opt to receive an e-mail or text message to their cell phone when their wash or dry cycles are complete.

“(This new system) makes life more convenient for the students,” said Julie Weber, AU’s director of housing and dining.

AU is one of 16 colleges across the country to install the e-Suds equipment. Weber said the new technology took six weeks to set up and called the program “surprisingly inexpensive.” GW officials said they have no plans to implement the online technology, calling the program “cost-prohibitive.”

“GW received information about the e-Suds online program late last year,” Matt Nehmer, GW’s assistant director of media relations, wrote in an e-mail last week. “After receiving the program information, we analyzed the cost estimates associated with program installation, implementation, maintenance and administration.”

Nehmer said the University took steps to upgrade its 465 laundry machines during last year’s winter break, but added that GW will continue to “evaluate other options to provide this service, or a similar service, as they become available.”

The AU laundry system operates through networking equipment installed in existing washers and dryers so schools don’t necessarily have to buy new machines, said Wendy Jenkins, vice president of marketing for USA Technologies, the parent company of e-Suds.net. E-Suds supplies the online technology to laundry vendors, who then equip university machines. Jenkins said that GW’s laundry vendor, Caldwell and Gregory, is one of the primary retailers for e-Suds.net.

“The students have really embraced (e-Suds). It provides a higher level laundry service to the students,” Jenkins said. Caldwell and Gregory, which is under exclusive contract with GW until 2013, did not return phone calls as of press time.

Despite lengthy wait times during peak laundry hours, some GW students said they don’t mind the University’s current laundry set-up.

“Most of the laundry problems that I’ve had are problems that I’ve created by my occasional laziness or lack of attention,” sophomore David Steines said.

But other students said they don’t like blocking out several hours of the day just to do their wash.

“There have to be more (laundry) machines,” freshman Jae Park said.

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