Solar Powered Vending Machine – How Many Panels do You Need?

Solar Powered Vending Machine – How Many Panels do You Need

There is no doubt that vending machines are one of the best ways to generate steady business income. It is true that the profits are usually not great, but they do not require much effort from you. So what if there was a better way to reap more profits from your vending machine?

Fortunately, there is a way that will provide you with a set of advantages, as all you need are solar-powered vending machines!

In this article, we will talk about operating vending machines with solar energy as a free, clean, and sustainable energy source. We will also discuss how portable solar panels for vending machines work, the advantages of solar panels as a source of energy for these machines, and how many solar panels you will need to supply vending machines with uninterrupted energy.

How Much Electricity Does a Vending Machine Use?

Before you decide to buy a vending machine, you need to think about the costs involved in such an investment not only the initial cost of purchasing the machine, but also the maintenance expenses and the cost of electricity.

Keep in mind that in order to reach the largest number of consumers, the vending machine must be running all the time and constantly connected to electricity, which is certainly not free.

Solar Powered Vending Machine – How Many Panels do You Need

The quantity of power used by a vending machine is determined by a variety of factors, including the machine's size, features, and technology.

For example, vending machines that employ cooling or heating technology, such as those used to serve cold or hot drinks, consume a significant amount of electricity since the cooling or heating system must be powered.

On the other hand, vending machines for dry food goods, such as candies, chips, and cereals, consume less power because they do not require refrigeration or heating procedures.

On average, a typical vending machine serving cold drinks consumes between 8 and 12 kWh per day.

Whereas non-refrigerated vending machines such as candy, chips, and even coffee machines consume less, approximately 2 - 8 kWh per day. However, the exact consumption may vary from one machine to another due to factors that we mentioned earlier.

How Can Solar-Powered Vending Machines Make More Profit?

Vending machines are an important means of meeting people's needs for drinks and quick snack. As they are placed in public places and vital areas where people spend many hours of the day, such as stations, and parks. they provide people with quick snack or drink that can ease the stress of the day without waiting in line or disrupting their activities.

Although vending machines are found inside buildings or outside, the profits they make are usually not very large. This is due to several factors:

1. Operating costs: Operating vending machines requires high costs, including electricity, maintenance, and consumables.

2. Competition: There are many vending machine companies, which means they are everywhere.

3. Limited Revenue: The amount of profit that can be made depends mainly on the number of customers who use the machines.

However, vending machines can be profitable for their owners if they are operated in an efficient manner and placed in the center of pedestrian traffic and in locations that attract customers. Vending machine owners can also generate additional profits by looking for an advantage in their machines that makes them stand out from competitors.

So what if you could free the vending machine from the electrical outlet and put it in places where people congregate, such as parks and in the heart of pedestrian traffic? This will not only make your vending machine more profitable but also greatly reduce your operating costs.

How Do Portable Solar Panels for Vending Machines Work?

To run a solar powered vending machine, you need four basic components: solar panels, an inverter, batteries, and a charge controller. You also need to choose whether to install the solar panels on the vending machine, on a separate structure that sits on top of the vending machine, or in an adjacent space. It is preferable to build a separate structure to support the solar panels because it will give you more space while also shading the machine.

Solar Powered Vending Machine – How Many Panels do You Need

Portable solar panels for vending machines convert sunlight into electrical energy via photovoltaic cells. They provide free energy in outdoor or remote parks.

Because vending machines run on alternating current, you'll need an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) from the solar panels to alternating current (AC).

To run the machine overnight or on cloudy days, solar vending machines require batteries to store the surplus energy produced by solar panels. Therefore, a space for the batteries must be designated.

Because the vending machines are stationary, the weight of the solar panels and batteries doesn't cause them any problems.

How many solar panels do you need to power your vending machine?

Let's take a vending machine that requires about 200 watts; assume it will run continuously throughout the day. To calculate the power consumption, we will multiply 200-watts by 24 hours:

200 W x 24 h = 4.8kWh (kilowatt-hour) per day.

To calculate how many watts you need from solar panels, you need to find the available solar energy in the location where the machine is located by using the Global Solar Atlas website.
Choosing for example San Francisco, California, as the location, the number of hours of direct sunlight is 5 peak sun hours per day, which is also known as global horizontal irradiation.

To obtain the required size of the solar system, we use the following equation:

We take the daily kWh energy requirement and we divide it by the peak sun hours to get the kW output.

4.8 kWh ÷ 5 hours = 960 W
Let’s say we choose 320-watt panels; this means we need 3x320w solar panels.
The next step is to calculate how many batteries do we need to run the vending machine during the night and early morning.

Battery Calculation for a Solar-Powered Vending Machine

Before calculating the number of batteries you will need, you must first determine the exact type of batteries you will use. Because each type of battery has what's known as a depth of discharge (DOD), which is a percentage of the amount of stored energy it can draw, the closer the DOD of the battery to 100%, the better.

The following table shows some of the best batteries used in solar systems:

Battery Type Depth of Discharge (DOD) Battery Weight Battery Cost
Lead-Acid Batteries 50% - 70% Heavy Low 
Lithium-ion Batteries 80% - 95% Light High
Nickel-Iron Batteries 70% - 90% Medium Medium

As you can see, lithium-ion batteries are the best and lightest in this category, but they are also the most expensive.

For example, we use lithium-ion (90% DOD) batteries in our vending machine.

Battery power storage for night (kWh) = power need (kWh) / DOD

Solar battery capacity = 3 / 0.9 = 3.3 kWh

So to obtain the required daily power consumption, 3.3 kWh of energy must be stored in the batteries.

Battery Bank

Solar Powered Vending Machine – How Many Panels do You Need

Now we will determine the capacity of the batteries that we will use. First, we have to determine the voltage of our solar system. Since the load is less than 1000W, we need a 12V battery bank. So the total battery bank capacity is:

Total battery bank capacity = 3.33 Wh / 12 V = 270AH

So the total needed battery capacity is 270AH at 12V. Let's take the 150AH batteries, then we will need 2 lithium-ion batteries of 150AH/12V connected in parallel.

Battery Backup

Now we have to determine how many days you will have backup batteries to use on cloudy days. Let's take just 2 days as a battery power backup.

So we will multiply the total battery bank capacity by 2 days of autonomy. Therefore, we will add two batteries as a backup. To charge these batteries, we need to add a fourth 280W solar panel.

What Size Inverter Do we Need to Run our Vending Machine?

As we have a 200 watt load, we will need an inverter above 200 watts. Maybe a 400W inverter is enough.

Charge Controller: MPPT or PWM?

Since we are going to use a 320 watt solar panel, which has a voltage greater than 18 volts, and the voltage of our solar system is 12 volts (battery bank voltage), an MPPT charge controller must be used.

Read more: MPPT vs PWM

Benefits of Portable Solar Panels for Vending Machines

Benefits of Portable Solar Panels for Vending Machines

Switching to renewable energy and finding sustainable solutions has never been easier. Solar panels offer a great opportunity for vending machines to become environmentally friendly by using clean energy.

Investing in solar panels is a smart move to save money in the long run by eliminating the need for constant electricity bills.

Portable solar panels provide a solution for powering vending machines to operate in remote park and sand Camp Grounds, this eliminates the need for long electrical connections or use annoying generators.

With solar panels' good reputation for environmental and social responsibility, it will make your business stand out among the competitors. Portable solar panels provide a great opportunity to attract environmentally conscious customers and reach a broader customer base.


Switching to portable solar panels for your vending machines may require some initial outlay, but generating free electricity with a quieter, more eco-friendly operation can definitely boost your vending machine profits.
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