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Ways to Green Your Vending Machines

Ways To Green Your Vending Machines

It's probably pretty difficult to picture an environmentally-friendly vending machine. By their very nature, they vend disposable products and require energy to operate -- in some cases, for 24 hours a day. That doesn't mean that facility managers can't find ways to help lower energy consumption, offering convenience to their customers, reducing their facility's carbon footprint, and helping to save money in the process. There are a couple of ways to go about this: 

1. Look for the Energy Star label.

Appliances that are Energy Star approved either meet or exceed the energy efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Much like consumer household appliances, this designation can be applied to vending machines as well. In fact, vending machines that are Energy Star approved consume up to 40% less energy than their old-fashioned counterparts -- courtesy of more efficient cooling systems and upgraded lighting, among other energy-saving features. 

If the unit in a facility is not Energy Star rated, upgrading it may be as simple as getting in touch with the vendor representative and asking to make the switch. They'll often happily upgrade at no charge. 

2. Shut them down during slow times of the day.

When it comes to energy efficiency for machines vending non-perishable items, plug load control devices can be a dream come true. These devices use sophisticated sensors to drastically lower power needs after fifteen minutes of inactivity by reducing the compressor activity. In this mode, the contents of the machines will incur only slight increases in temperature -- not enough to harm non-perishable items -- while reducing energy consumption by up to 30%. 

3. Change the lighting.

New, green lighting options offer another way to save energy. In older vending machines, lighting can use up to 150-180 watts to continuously keep things lit -- to the tune of an extra $100 per year. Electronic ballasts and newer, energy-efficient lamps can drastically reduce this consumption. 

It should be noted that lighting is pretty much cosmetic, serving only to highlight products and let customers know the machine is on. So, if energy-efficient lighting systems are not an option, it may be possible to simply turn the lights off entirely during nights, weekends, or even full-time in order to drop energy use by up to 35%. (Just make sure to let customers know that the machine is still in service.) 

4. Pick natural refrigerants.

Hydrofluorocarbons are organofluorine compounds known to be potent greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, many older vending machines still use them in their insulation and cooling mechanisms. Now, there are naturally-produced alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons that work just as well, without the risk of additional contributions to climate change. Many vendors are part of the "Refrigerants Naturally!" program, which encourages the use of these natural refrigerants. Facility managers with older vending machines can upgrade by contacting their vendors and requesting newer models, or even converter options for older ones. 

5. Explore "smart" vending options.

Inventors with Coca-Cola Japan have created a means of improving energy efficiency by not only adjusting energy consumption during off hours but also based on season and the load on the power grid. Smart "Peak Shift" vending machines allow facility managers to remotely monitor and change how the machine's power is allocated. They can alter power use from day to night, cooling beverages at night and keeping them cool during the day, and reduce their energy needs during cold winter months. 

For an increasing percentage of the population, being environmentally-friendly is important. The average customer is aware of their impact on the environment, and many of them make an effort to patronize businesses that exercise environmental responsibility. In most states in the U.S., energy use is still tied strongly to carbon emissions. Facilities that make an effort to go green not only help their bottom line by saving money on their power bill, but they can also control their carbon footprint and make a favorable impression on guests.

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