Fairfield University students able to 'view' laundry
The days of students lugging their clothes to the laundry room, only to find there's no machine available, are becoming a thing of the past, at least at Fairfield University.
All of the washers and dryers at the dormitories are tied into LaundryView.com, an Internet application that allows tomorrow's leaders to monitor the status of their laundry through a web browser. The website provides several animated views of a laundry room, showing exactly what machines are free and taken, as well as out of order. A student can be in his or her dorm room or downtown getting a bite to eat and -- with a cell phone or laptop with an Internet connection-- know exactly when a machine is available or a load is finished.
Jessi Venables, an 18-year-old freshman who lives on her dorm's third floor, said she has LaundryView.com "saved in my favorites."
"I love it," she said. "Before I do anything, I check to make sure [the machines] are open. It saves me the trip of walking down here lugging a full basket of clothes and walking back up."
Fellow freshman Trish Doheny said there are some students who fail to take advantage of LaundryView and thus make unnecessary trips with their pile of clothes.
"I feel bad for them," she said.
Mac-Gray, the Waltham, Mass.-based maker of coin-operated laundry machines, in 2004 came out with LaundryView, which is being used by 260 universities worldwide, including Harvard and Syracuse universities. Connecticut schools using LaundryView include Yale and Eastern Connecticut State universities and the University of New Haven.
There is "no limit" as to how many more schools are being sought to use it, said Kourtney Barnes, marketing manager for Mac-Gray.
Students at some schools are required to pay a "nominal fee" to use LaundryView in addition to the regular cost to do laundry, Barnes said.
"It's on a case-by-case basis," she said.
In addition to partnering with LaundryView, the school in August replaced 57 washing machines and 55 dryers in its dorms with high-efficiency Maytag units that have saved almost 720,000 gallons of water, according to the university.
On someone's computer screen, available machines are colored white, while an in-use machine is colored red. As an in-use machine winds down its cycle, the machine turns from red to pink, giving a visual indication of whether a load is, for example, 50 percent complete or 90 percent finished. There is also a "classic mode" to the site that gives bar diagrams regarding availability, estimated time remaining and how long ago a cycle ended.
Joe Mercadante, a senior resident advisor, estimates at least 80 percent of the freshman residents at Regis Hall use LaundryView. The upper classmen however, do not take advantage of it as frequently "because they're not used to having it," he said.
Venables said LaundryView.com is great "because I don't like to leave my hamper down here."
Doheny added, "It saves me time. I can come down with my laundry basket right when it's finished. In the meantime, I can do some homework or watch some TV. It saves me the trip of walking down the stairs (from the third floor too early)."
While some might say that a student could time a wash load, Venables said the washers are not always reliable. The washing machines are supposed to take 31 minutes, yet they can sometimes run as long as 40 minutes, according to Venables and Mercadante. The dryers, however, run like clockwork, they said.
Mercadante, a marketing major, has experienced washing and drying clothes with and without the help of LaundryView.com. He would never want to go back to the old way.
"It's a huge lifesaver," he said. "I love it."
In a dorm full of students, LaundryView may sometimes appear inaccurate because the website may indicate four washing machines available, but by the time the student gets to the laundry room, there's only one free. In rarer cases, they're all tied up.
Mercadante offered a helpful hint to avoid these surprises.
"Walk really quick," he said.