Although easy to install (Buckholz estimates it takes the service technicians about 15 minutes) and good for sales, Buckholz doesn’t see himself replacing all machines’ bulbs with LEDs. One roadblock is the upfront cost of $150 for the deluxe VEII kit. He also believes that making the products “pop” works better at a public location. His machines located at hospitals and the YMCA get better turns with LEDs. At accounts like factories where the people are there every day, the LEDs don’t seem to have as much effect on sales.
“I would buy machines without them (LEDs),” said Buckholz, “but add them as a kit to certain transient locations.”
InOne Technologies developed LEDs for vending machines to provide energy conservation, said Gene Ostendorf, president.
“We first approached snack machines, because we knew USA Technologies had a product called the Energy Miser that managed energy consumption inside (beverage) machines by turning on and off the compressor,” said Ostendorf. While very effective, there was also an opportunity for energy savings in snack machines by removing the fluorescent bulb.
According to Ostendorf, the fluorescent bulb is the largest consumer of electricity in a non-refrigerated machine. After two years, InOne came up with an LED light replacement that saves 40 percent of the energy. “We recognized that energy conservation is not something that operators are as concerned about as are the facilities their machines are located in, so we worked hard to provide a ROI (return on investment) for the operator; and that is long life,” said Ostendorf.
“By using super efficient, long lasting LEDs, we are able to provide a life of at least 10 years for the lamp,” he said. Ostendorf also points out that fluorescent bulbs contain mercury. Since they are located in food machines, regulations call for special handing of their disposal.
Green Marketing A Plus
The positive environmental benefit of LEDs is something Have A Vend, Croydon, Pa., is promoting. At many of its locations, Have A Vend is advertising its “green touch” environmental practices via stickers that tell customers about the energy savings it is responsible for by converting vending machine light to LEDs.
Have A Vend originally investigated LEDs to cure a widespread electrical problem the company was having with fluorescent bulbs, said Michael Schultz, president, Have A Vend.
“With the malfunction of fluorescent bulbs, or flickering, there were electrical spikes back to the control board which produced unexpected things to happen in the machine,” said Schultz.
The affected machines (usually older models) would “jackpot” the money, emptying the changers into the coin return, continued Schultz. The motor would sporadically start to free vend, dispensing product without payment. When a service technician would troubleshoot the machine, he would find nothing wrong, because the light was not malfunctioning at that moment.
“LEDs guarantee we won’t have these problems,” said Schultz.
Although no longer having machines spontaneously giving away money or product is an enormous benefit, Have A Vend wasn’t content. It wanted to offer customers something more.
“We wanted to do something for consumption that salesmen could sell with,” said Schultz, “They can now say, we’re not here to suck money from you, but are a way for you to get money.”
The transformer, starter and bulb of traditional lighting draws a lot of power; the higher the voltage, the more amperage, and amperage is what costs money.
Employees at Have A Vend have done a number of comparisons with the company’s LED kit and found that after installing the LEDs, a food machine with a compressor drew 2 to 2.5 fewer amps and a snack machine drew 1 to 2 fewer amps. Depending on the fluorescent bulbs previously in the vending machines, this can be a savings of $13.22 a month.
The Have A Vend light management system includes not only the LED lights to replace a fluorescent, but also a sensor that turns the lights off when the machine is inactive. The lights will instantly come on again when a customer is present. Turning a fluorescent on and off like this will decrease the life of the bulb, but it prolongs the life of an LED, confirms Schultz. Have A Vend uses a cling on the outside of the machine to notify customers the machine is working, and saving the environment.
Research shows consumers will not purchase solely based on environmental causes, but like to know they are supporting such initiatives.