By Treena Hein
New technology gives operators many options to cut power
By Treena Hein
Overall energy use efficiency of vending machines has grown in the last
few years, and that’s expected to continue. New machines feature LED
lights instead of fluorescent, which cost more but use a lot less
Overall energy use efficiency of vending machines has grown in the last few years, and that’s expected to continue. New machines feature LED lights instead of fluorescent, which cost more but use a lot less power. In addition, all new vending machines imported into or manufactured in Canada now carry an ‘Energy Star’ rating. They use up to 3 KWh of electricity per day less than older models.
But new power conservation options are opening up new ways for customers to save on their power bills – highly flexible options which can be tailored to any location and situation. However, “Energy conservation is focused on pop machines, mainly to reduce power consumption when machines are not being used,” notes Glen Willcox, a technical support specialist at Toronto-based Brokerhouse Distributors. “This is usually at night or on the weekends in an empty workplace.”
Cutting power is accomplished using one or both of the following methods – reducing power used for refrigeration and lowering, or not using any, lighting in the machine. “While the temperature of pop in vending machines varies depending on the user’s desire (some want really cold pop), it’s usually 5-6 C,” says Willcox. “A new energy conservation option that became available on some machines about a year ago allows the temperature to rise at night about 4.4 C.” If it rises more than that, Willcox says the energy required to cool it back down would be so much that it would defeat the purpose of using this option.
Coca-Cola Bottling Company has deployed the EMS-55, “a proprietary ‘smart’ temperature control unit that can improve the energy efficiency of our refrigeration equipment by up to 35 per cent,” says Daryn Everett, Coca-Cola Bottling vending channel manager for Canada. “These units can be adjusted according to a store’s opening and closing times and also go on ‘standby’ when stores are closed.”
This technology was first piloted in 2008 and today Coca-Cola Bottling has installed over 2,000 units in Canada. Beginning in 2010, all new equipment purchased is equipped with an EMS-55 system, says Everett.
In terms of cutting power by reducing light usage, new ‘touch-activation’ options are available. That is, the machine stays almost or completely darkened until a button is pressed. However, Willcox says that “If there are no lights at night, potential customers walk away because they think the machine is inoperative.
Operators therefore aren’t keen on this idea, and prefer a bit of light to make sure the machine attracts people.”
He notes that this option, which has been available for a couple of years, is therefore used “pretty much only in an office building that’s closed on the weekends – when there’s no chance of a lost sale.”
One or both methods of reducing power consumption can be used, but if clients want to reduce power consumption, Willcox says they usually opt for both. There is also the possibility of setting up these options on a timer, so that the darkened mode only occurs from 1 to 6 a.m., for example.
While he believes there is more and more demand for energy conservation, and more pressure to use less and less power in the vending machine industry, Willcox says that machines with these options are costlier – a very large obstacle in their adoption. “Cost return is hard to determine,” he observes. “It’s based on average savings, but each case is different.”
The location of the machine, in an air conditioned office for example, or outside in the sun all day, makes the biggest difference in a cost return calculation, but of course factors such as how often the machine goes into a lower power consumption mode and how much profit is generated by sales must also be factored in. “Eventually there will be cost return,” ventures Willcox, “but it will take a long time.”
It is therefore rare that operators ask about power consumption, says Brokerhouse salesperson John Quintieri. “It has only ever come up a few times, and those inquiries have come from operators serving large companies who monitor their power usage and want to cut it wherever they can. It’s always a customer-driven issue.”
Quintieri notes that smaller companies don’t seem to focus on power consumption as much as larger ones. “The small business owner only wants a machine available at the lowest price possible,” he says.
Willcox and Quintieri therefore expect the use of power conservation options will only become widespread in the future if they are government-mandated. “Operators want to attract people and safeguard profits first, and they want the choice to use these options or not use them,” Willcox says. “I don’t expect rising electricity costs to be a factor [in prompting a large percentage of customers to demand machines with power-saving options] because commercial rates will stay relatively low.”
Willcox is sure, however, that new technology developments will continue to boost overall machine efficiency and provide continuing general reductions in energy consumption in the future.