The vending/OCS industry represents a relatively untapped opportunity for energy conservation through efficient practices. However, recent government standards have resulted in more energy efficient machines that vending operators can present to customers as environment enhancing benefits.
In January, I reviewed the scope of actions that vending operators can consider to introduce a “green” initiative. This month, we will look specifically at how government standards have impacted energy efficiency in beverage vending machines.
HOW THE GOVERNMENT CLASSIFIES BEVERAGE VENDERS
The Department of Energy (DOE) classifies beverage vending machines into two distinct classifications: class A machine (fully-cooled machine) and class B machine (any beverage vending machine not considered class A). The DOE recognizes that fully-cooled beverage vending machines generally have glass fronts, therefore designates these machines ‘‘Class A.’’ By doing so, ‘‘Class B’’ machines, by default, are any beverage vending machine not considered class A.
Class A — fully-cooled machines — is comprised of machines that cool the entire internal volume in a refrigerated unit. Class A machines generally use ‘‘shelf-style’’ vending mechanisms and tend to utilize a transparent (glass or transparent polymer) front.
Since the next-to-be-vended product is visible to the consumer and any product can be selected off the shelf, all bottled or canned beverage containers are enclosed within the refrigerated space.
Class B — zone-cooled machines — is generally composed of machines that have an opaque front (which provides better insulation from ambient conditions) and utilize a ‘‘stack-style’’ vending mechanism. These machines are installed either indoors or outdoors. The energy consumption of an outdoor machine may vary given changes in ambient conditions. The average energy consumption of these machines is very similar to that of machines installed indoors.
Typically, unlike the class A machines, only a fraction, or a zone of the volumes of a class B machine (usually the bottom third of the machine) is cooled. Hence, the use of the term “zone-cooled.”
COMPONENTS OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN DRINK VENDERS
Technological components within a beverage vending machine that may impact its energy efficiency include the sealed cooling unit, evaporator/circulating fan, lighting, insulation, thermostatic and electronic expansion valves, and door-sealing systems. In addition, T8 lamps with electronic ballasts, T5 fluorescent lamps, dimmable light emitting diodes (LED), electronically-commutated fan motors with engineered impeller and venturi rings, and capillary tube systems with liquid-suction heat exchangers often are considered.
Some manufacturers are researching other technologies such as Stirling refrigeration, which uses temperature differential to provide electrical power. Also, the inclusion of an energy-management device that restricts energy use based on motion detection can also be important.
In developing industry energy standards, DOE considers the following nine technologies as viable design options for improving energy efficiency of beverage vending machines:
- More-efficient lighting;
- More-efficient evaporator fan motors;
- Evaporator fan motor controllers;
- Improved evaporator design;
- Insulation increases or improvements;
- Improved glass pack (for Class A machines);
- Higher efficiency condenser fan motors;
- Improved condenser design;
- More-efficient compressors.
GOVERNMENT DEVELOPS PERFORMANCE STANDARDS
While the DOE classifications help differentiate green vending potential, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed energy performance criteria for beverage vending machines as part of its Energy Star certification program.
Energy Star is basically a 2-tiered set of specifications for refrigerated beverage machines. Tier 1 has been in effect for new machines since 2004, and for refurbished machines since 2006 while Tier 2 criteria went into effect in 2007 for new machines.