April 20, 2018

Vending Machine Audit

It’s basically a refrigerator, disguised as a vending machine. In exchange for your money, it’s supposed to provide cold drinks and it’s pretty reliable at doing just that. Now, if that’s all it did, there would be no need for this page, so if you’re guessing that there’s an energy problem, you’re right.

Let’s go back to looking at this machine as a refrigerator. Besides the obvious difference—that this refrigerator requires you to deposit money—the big difference is that when a refrigerator door is closed, the light goes off. In this case though, the light stays on (the one lighting up the display advertisement on the front of the machine). It stays on 24 hours a day.

Most cold drink machines are lit up from floor to ceiling. The typical lights used in newer machines are 6 feet long fluorescent (two bulbs) with a combined wattage of 170 watts (2-T-12 high output). Add another 20% for the energy required by the ballast and we’re up to 204 watts.

Now the math!

204 watts × 24 hours = 4896 × 365 days/year = 1,787,040 watt hours.
1,787,040 ÷1000 = 1787.04 kWh
(Watts divided by 1,000 = kilowatt hours which is how you are billed)
1787.04 kWh × $0.08 (national average cost per kWh) = $142.96 (Your actual cost depends on your electric rate.)

$143 just to light up the vending machine. Actually the purpose isn’t to provide light but to advertise a product.

Who pays this $143 advertising cost? If the machine is plugged in at your school or any public building, then it’s you, the taxpayer who pays.

How many vending machines are in your school? How much money are we talking about now? How many machines in your district?

What Can You Do?

Get permission from your school principal to have the lights turned off. The next time the machine is filled, have the service person disconnect the ballast and bulbs. There’s a simple plug connection so turning them off costs nothing.