Green digest // Saving energy on vending

Saving energy on vending

Chances are you have one humming away right now in your school or office, cooling the Cokes or coddling Snickers bars in its spiral grip.

Vending machines are everywhere, and many of them draw a steady stream of electricity from the grid even when the lunchroom is empty. The average vending machine uses 7 to 13 kilowatt-hours of energy per day, to the tune of about $300 per year.

Those figures come from Clean Energy Resource Teams, or CERTs, a public-private partnership that promotes energy-saving projects across the state. In February, CERTs launched a campaign that aims to reduce the amount of electricity used by vending machines, while at the same time lowering the energy bills for the businesses and organizations where those machines are located.

CERTs was organizing a statewide bulk-buy program to acquire a new vending machine add-on that cuts the machines’ energy use. Those who sign up by May 1 can get a VendingMiser for $164, a discount from its normal price of $179.

The VendingMiser plugs in between a vending machine and a wall outlet and includes a motion sensor that will turn off the machine for one to three hours when no one is around. The VendingMiser also has internal and external temperature monitors, so that a machine will turn back on to keep drinks and snacks cooled to the appropriate temperature.

At full price, the $179 VendingMiser could be expected to pay for itself through energy savings in less than 17 months. Purchasing the VendingMiser through CERTs shortens that payback period.

Those who purchase multiple VendingMisers for use on adjacent machines pay only $156 per unit.

Estimates from CERTs indicated a VendingMiser could cut energy costs by about $130 per year. They can cut energy consumption nearly in half when installed on a vending machine.

The folks behind VendingMiser also say their product may extend the life of some machines by limiting how often their compressors run. National vending machine companies endorse the devices, CERTs reported.

Find more information, and a place to sign up for the bulk-buy program, on the CERTs website: cleanenergyresourceteams.org.

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Neighborhood sustainability conference this month

Anyone interested in organizing a neighborhood improvement project this summer may want to check out the fifth annual Neighborhood Sustainability Conference March 13 at Central Lutheran Church, 333 12th St. S.

Organized by the nonprofit Alliance for Sustainability, the free event is a chance to meet fellow volunteers and learn about projects that have been successful in their neighborhoods. There will also be project “tool kits” and information on funding sources.

Alliance Program Director Sean Gosiewski suggested Southwest residents might be most interested in workshops on emerald ash borer and tree planting, block club outreach and rain gardens, but those were just a few of the topics to be covered during the day-long event.

Keynote speaker Mark Lakeman of the City Repair Project will discuss that nonprofit’s work to reclaim and rejuvenate urban spaces in Portland, Ore.

The event runs 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and is free, but an optional lunch costs $5. Attendees were asked to pre-register for the event online at afors.org or by calling 331-1099.

Gosiewski said attendees should consider carpooling or taking public transportation to the conference. The annual auto show taking place across the street at the Minneapolis Convention Center means parking will be pricey.

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More home energy workshops scheduled

LINDEN HILLS — The Center for Energy and Environment plans to bring its home energy workshops to yet another Southwest neighborhood.

Linden Hills residents have two opportunities in May to attend a workshop and learn about improving the energy efficiency of their homes. As was reported in this column last issue, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit is holding workshops in Kingfield and Fulton in March.

Neighborhood residents who attend the workshops have a chance to sign up for a professional home energy assessment, including a blower door test to locate air leaks. Homeowners also will learn about loans, rebates and other incentives that can be used to finance household energy-efficiency projects.

Ashley Robertson, a community organizer at the Center, said the home energy assessments last about 90 minutes have a value of $400. The cost to Linden Hills residents will be only a $30 co-pay, Robertson said.

Nearly 400 people attended first round of workshops held last year in Kingfield and Fulton.

The Linden Hills workshops were scheduled tentatively for 10 a.m. May 22 and 7 p.m. May 25 at Lake Harriet Community School Upper Campus, 4912 Vincent Ave. S.

To reserve a spot in one of the workshops contact Robertson at 335-5869 or arobertson@mncee.org.

To learn more about the Community Energy Services Program, visit the Center’s website: mncee.org.