I actually found a vending machine last week that provided me with diet caffeine for a mere 25 cents.
But I never realized just how many of those machines are out there until I spoke the next morning with Barbara Scott, a product manager for USA Technologies. According to Scott, there are something like 4 million vendors machines in the United States spitting out everything from beverages to snacks to candy at all hours of the day and night. Of course, these things operate pretty much on demand. Most of the time, they sit around waiting for someone like me to have a craving and they burn a whole of energy in the meantime.
Enter USA Technologies, which has come up with a nifty gadget called the EnergyMiser. The sensors monitor the ambient temperature of the room and also check for “occupancy” (which means nothing more complex than when someone walks up to the machine to make a purchase). For example, VendingMiser works on cold drink vending machines, powering down the system when there’s no one around and when the temperature is cool enough to keep the drinks at a certain temperature. If kicks back on at certain intervals to ensure that the products stay acceptably cold. There are six products in the line, designed to work with everything from snack machines to computer monitors to paper shredders.
USA Technologies figures that companies can save $100 to $150 per machine per year by using an EnergyMiser sensor. The reduction in energy use is 30 percent to 46 percent per machine.
Scott says utility company Austin Energy, for example, has about 6,500 sensors installed throughout its organization, saving about 7.1 million kilowatt-hours per year (or diverting something like 4,600 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere). Another way to look: That’s about the same amount of energy it takes to power 716 Austin homes for a year, according to Austin Energy’s estimates.
If your company is thinking about buying an EnergyMiser, USA Technologies provides a calculator so you can figure out the energy savings.
Here’s another reason I choose to write about these guys now: They’re working with 29 different utility companies around the country to offer rebates ranging from $15 to $180 per unit. And, they’ve signed another utility company, Gainesville Regional Utilities in Florida, which will offer the devices to its customers at no costs. So far, 100 utilities around the United States have participated in this effort.