NATIONAL REPORT—Walk the hallway of any hotel and you are likely to find at least one or two cold drink vending machines and possibly a snack machine on each floor. Measure the amount of time a guest is actually standing in front of one of these machines and it probably is less than an hour a day—possibly more in a high-traffic location. Even in employee cafeteria or lunchroom areas, machines can go hours without being used.
If food and beverage vending machines need not be powered up around the clock, why are they? Some hoteliers have tried using timer devices or even unplugged machines during slow periods. The problem with timers is they do not know when a hotel guest is in front of the machine and that the machine needs to be at full power at that moment. Simply unplugging a machine takes time and if you forget to plug it back in, revenue can be lost and product will go back to room temperature or even warmer—frustrating guests.
At least one company has come up with several devices that ensure that beverage and snack machines do not run on full power 24 hours a day but still provide a quality product. USA Technologies Inc.’s VendingMiser monitors occupancy and temperature using a passive infrared sensor. It powers down the machine when the surrounding area is vacant and re-powers the machine automatically when someone is present. During longer periods of time when no guests are around, it powers up the machine at regular intervals to ensure product stays cold.
Barbara Scott, brand manager for the Malvern, Pa.-based company, says the device can be installed in 15 minutes. Versions of the product, which include an occupancy sensing device positioned outside of the machine, are available for indoor and outdoor applications. The VendingMiser helps extend the life of beverage machines and reduces energy consumption by almost 50 percent. Depending on utility rates, energy costs can be reduced approximately $150 per year per machine. Cost savings would be less with machines in high-traffic areas.
“ROI is about a year depending on utility costs,” Scott says. “In some places we have seen six months.”
For cold drink machines in high-traffic areas, USA Technologies developed VM2iQ. Located inside the machine, the device controls the machine’s cooling system, allowing the lighting and controller electronics to stay on while the machine is in energy-saving mode. While the cooling system is powered down, the VM2iQ monitors the room temperature and automatically re-powers the cooling system at up to 2.5-hour intervals—independent of sales—to ensure that the product stays cold.
When equipped with the VendingMiser or VM2iQ, refrigerated beverage vending machines are comparable in daily energy performance to new Energy Star-qualified machines.
Reduce Snack Machine Energy Costs
USA Technologies’ SnackMiser, which uses an occupancy sensor like the Vending Miser, simply turns non-refrigerated machines’ power off whenever there has been no occupancy detected for more than 15 minutes. Power is restored when occupancy is detected to ensure there is never any interruption in service.
More than 20 utility companies around the United States offer rebates to hotels that install the VendingMiser, VM2iQ and SnackMiser. The utility companies are listed at USA Technologies’ Web site. At least one utility company, Austin (Texas) Energy, will pay for the entire cost of the energy-saving devices and even install them.
Hotels representing the following brands, among others, have implemented energy-saving devices from USA Technologies: Marriott, Hilton, Best Western, Doubletree, Four Seasons, Hampton Inn, LaQuinta, Radisson and Omni.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.