Last month, we examined how federal regulations certify quantifiable energy savings for vending machines. In addition to this, there are other improvements vending operators can make to reduce energy use in their locations. Namely, the use of light-emitting diode technology and energy saving devices.
Light-emitting diode (LED) technology has led to
the production of a comparatively small lighting element that has a long useful life, easy installation, features energy conservation, and no heat diffusion. The brightness of an LED makes them a feasible alternative to fluorescent bulbs.
LED elements, which project a bluish-white light, can be used in combination with reflective materials to provide brighter, superior lighting at a lower cost and with fewer environmental considerations. Equipment suppliers claim LED lighting brings a higher level of presentation to machine contents. Operators must be certain to investigate the power of the LEDs prior to commitment to install. Tests have shown that a supplier may develop an LED strip to provide an enhanced level of brightness without necessarily considering energy efficiency.
LED PANELS SPECIFICALLY FOR VENDING MACHINES
Energy saving LED light strips designed specifically for vending machines are available from several manufacturers. The light panels are configured so that a connector can be attached to the machine’s existing harness mechanism, and since they do not contain a filament, the need for a ballast is eliminated.
LED strips may be packaged in protective, clear acrylic tubing to safeguard the elements by increasing durability. Other LED suppliers do not package the lamps in strips, believing that the mounting fixtures of certain vending machines provide sufficient protection.
LED lights are energy efficient and have an estimated life of more than 10 years of continuous service (100,000 hours). Brightness, however, does diminish over the life of an LED lamp. In addition, LED lights create minimal heat and do not project ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which could negatively affect vended food products.
LED lamps are affected by low temperatures like fluorescent lighting and turn on to full brightness. Heat does degrade LED lifetime, so LED strips must be designed to adequately dissipate the heat generated.
Also, unlike fluorescents, LED lights are not subject to operational fluctuations and flickering that can pose a threat to other electronic components and products within the vending machine.
LIGHTING PRESENTS AN ONGOING COST
The lighting requirements for a vending machine involve more than just the initial expense of its light bulbs. In addition to the direct cost of lighting is the ongoing cost of replacement products, service/installation personnel, and loss of revenue while the machine sits dark.
The initial expense of fluorescent bulbs compared to LED lights varies significantly, as do the life expectancies of each product. Continuously lit fluorescent light bulbs have an average life of 11 to 13 months while an LED element is projected to burn seven to 10 years.
LEDS ARE PREFERABLE TO FLUORESCENT LIGHTS
When a long-life source is selected, the average cost of the fixture leans heavily in favor of an LED installation. Industry experts estimate the cost to replace machine installed fluorescent light bulbs around $60 to $90 each, given the cost of the replacement bulb, technician’s time and travel expenses. This amount when extended over a 5-year period can equate to several hundred dollars.
An LED light strip panel, capable of replacing a fluorescent bulb, is available at a cost of $40 to $60. The LED strip is expected to surpass five years, but for comparison purposes, carries only its initial cost as it should not require replacement as it is expected to surpass five years of service. It is for this reason that some vending equipment suppliers suggest replacing a single fluorescent bulb with multiple LED strips and mirror-like reflectors.