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Operators Perspective: Science Behind Weathering Winter

Science Behind Weathering Winter

June 12, 2008
By Lio Prataviera


School is back, and the leaves have started turning. The Grey Cup
combatants are all but decided, and you know – winter is just around
the corner.

School is back, and the leaves have started turning. The Grey Cup combatants are all but decided, and you know – winter is just around the corner.
But, you also know the vending business: when it gets cold outside, we start worrying about things like “Will the truck start?” and “How bad are the roads?” And then there’s everyone’s favourite – because of the messiness and costliness of such an accident: “Will the pop freeze?”

This is perhaps our biggest winter worry, the chance of pop freezing in our storage units if they are unheated, in our vehicles if they are stored overnight in an unheated space, and in the vending machines themselves if they are outside or in an unheated or poorly insulated space.
Of course, the only solution for both vehicle and product, is to ensure that you have access to heated storage space.

 One interesting aspect
of the pop-freezing problem that I have noticed is that diet pop freezes faster
than regular pop.

For the vending machines, heated space is not always an option. A heater, however, is a necessity to prevent freezing of canned pop in machines that are exposed to the direct effects of the frequently harsh Canadian winter.
    If you’re looking for a quick solution, some people recommend a wired-in light bulb under the pop stacks which may provide just enough heat to prevent freezing in some situations. However, the safety of this measure is debatable and should only be considered as a possible stop-gap when the temperature really dips.
One interesting aspect of the pop-freezing problem I have noticed is diet pop freezes faster than regular pop. To find out why this happens, we need look no further than to science and the Internet.
The laws of chemistry state that the higher the concentration of solutes (dissolved substances), the lower the freezing point of the liquid; the dissolved molecules get in the way of water molecules bonding together to form the crystallized water that is ice.
It makes sense that regular pop contains more dissolved substances (i.e. sugar), which is illustrated by the fact that when placed in water, the regular pop can will sink, while the diet pop can will float. So diet pop freezes faster because its freezing point is higher than that of regular pop.


This situation occurs in another area due to the same principle: adding salt to the roads lowers the temperature at which ice forms, thus addressing one of our other winter problems, namely slippery road surfaces (I am unsure what bearing this principle might have on whether the truck will start, but it probably comes into effect somewhere). But all vendors should remember this important tip: check the diet pop first, because it’s like the canary in the coal mine … if the pop isn’t frozen then everything else is likely fine.
So here’s to the changing of the seasons. It’s time once again to pay attention to your local weather forecast and keep an eye on the thermometer. At this point, it looks like it will be a rematch for the Grey Cup between the Argos and the BC Lions, and hopefully the only thing freezing at the game this year will be the same as every other year – the seats in the stands!

Lio Prataviera is general manager of Real Refreshments, a full-service vending operation in Toronto, ON.ꆱ