Energy Use by Vending Machines Monitored

By Nathan Owens
The Razorback Reporter

Click to enlarge. Nathan Owens / Razorback Reporter

Click to enlarge. Nathan Owens / Razorback Reporter

Vending machines on campus can be overlooked when it comes to energy use. Some buildings house as many as eight machines, so eliminating just a few would reduce electricity consumption, a University of Arkansas Facilities Management official said.

Sales from the Pepsi machines can easily cover the annual electric bill of roughly $450 per machine, according to data from Southern California Edison. Figures for soft-drink sales were not available, according to the UA agreement.

Some vending machines are worth the 24/7 run-time; others, not so much.

Vending Miser occupancy sensors help ease energy use by making machines go into an energy saving mode.

Contract obligations determine what the university can and cannot do with Pepsi vending machines. In 2012, UA officials signed a 10-year agreement that includes a “competitive advantage exemption” that keeps the amount undisclosed. Under the vending machine portion of the Pepsi agreement, the university will get about $2.45 million over 10 years. In a separate contract with Imperial, for snack machines, the university will get $360,000 over 10 years, a UA spokesman said.

Before the Pepsi contract, the university used vending misers on some machines.

The agreement was to rid the beverage machines of occupancy sensors. For example, a refrigerated vending machine operates 24/7 with an average electricity cost of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, roughly the same price Arkansas residents pay for electricity in their homes, according to the Energy Information Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The average annual electrical consumption rate per vending machine pulls up to 5,690 kwh, according to a study done by Southern California Edison. Factors that affect consumption rates were the machine temperatures, size, type and the degree of customer use. That could cost up to $450 a year for each machine, according to the California study.

The Arkansas Union and the HPER (Health, Physical Education and Recreation building) have eight vending machines each, resulting in an annual electrical consumption cost of about $7,200.

Machine Certification

A good way to cut back on a vending machine’s electricity consumption is by using Vending Misers or Energy Star certified machines. Occupancy sensors save money and power by turning off lighting and managing cooling cycles when less needed.

Pepsi is committed to sustainability and recycling and maintains a sustainability vision to improve all aspects of the world, according to the contract language Pepsi signed with the university.

Twice a year Pepsi officials meet with a UA beverage sustainability committee to discuss green goals for the future. Since 2012 they have implemented the “Dream Machine Recycling program” in which customers earn points for every can or plastic bottle recycled.

Plug-load efficiency, a measure of electricity used, however, was not mentioned in the contract.

Two Michigan schools tested the annual energy usage of three vending machines with, and without, a Vending Miser. The annual energy conservation rate of up to 80 percent, depending on whether the machine was in a high- or low-traffic area, according to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

Vending Misers are not flawless, according to a sustainability study from Tufts University. Officials there unwittingly plugged too many Vending Misers into the same circuit, causing an overload. Also, some Vending Misers have malfunctioned and pulled more electricity than the vending machine would without the device.

Lynne Williams, UA director of business services, talked to the UA Pepsi representative about vending misers on campus.

Vending Miser-Energy Star Challenge

“He said, Vending Misers compromised the Pepsi vending machines’ functionality, but the new machines are more energy efficient than the ones in the past,” Williams said.

Recently installed Pepsi machines are Energy Star certified, Pepsi representative Wayne Townsend said. The glass-front vendors on average consume 3.95 kwh per day and the traditional machines without the glass front consume about 4.90 kwh per day. These rates on an annual scale are one-fourth the average vending machine consumption rate.

The university used Vending Misers on a few Coca-Cola machines, when that contract was in place, but officials pulled them when Pepsi took over, said Jeff Siebler, a Facilities Management engineer.

At the time, the university was unsure if the Vending Misers breached the beverage contract signed in 2012, but later determined that the sensors did not go against any regulations, Siebler said.

This semester, the Office for Sustainability and Facilities Management are tracking the electricity consumption for four buildings as part of the Every Kilowatt Counts program. The goal is for students and faculty to find ways to reduce electrical consumption by being mindful of plug loads, cooling and heating and lighting.

Convenience draws people to vending machines. They act as a safety net when someone oversleeps and needs a pick-me-up.

Theater student Zachary Stolz mentioned how he didn’t normally use vending machines, and then he remembered the long nights of rehearsals in Kimpel.

“There are nights in [room] 404 where we need a good pick-me-up, and at that hour Club Red is closed, so in that regard I would miss vending machines if they weren’t on campus,” Stolz said.

Drinks and snacks are cheaper from a vending machine, art student Katheryne Ramirez said.

Other students and faculty see vending machines as unnecessary.

“People don’t have to rely on vending machines for a caffeine fix,” said graduate Connor Malone.

There are alternate ways for people to purchase snacks and drinks, including Club Red, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Starbucks and more. Some people even bring food and drinks from their homes.

“I find it cheaper to buy my sodas at the store and bring them with me,” Siebler said. “To me, vending machines are about convenience only, but in an emergency, I will use it. Generally speaking, if you wanted to take all the vending machines off campus, I’d be OK with that.”

His views do not represent Facilities Management.

“I’m sure faculty members who rely on the machines would be upset, but I only used the machines twice, I think, in my college career,” student Sam Rauh said.