Minimising Energy Consumption in Fume Cupboards

Photograph of scientist working in a fume cupboard

Laboratory fume cupboards are essential for maintaining a safe working environment when dealing with hazardous chemicals and substances. However, they can be energy-intensive pieces of equipment, leading to energy wastage and high costs. As laboratories around the world strive to reduce their environmental footprint and energy costs, finding ways to optimise energy usage while ensuring safety remains a top priority.

Understanding the Energy Challenge

Before delving into energy-saving solutions, it’s crucial to understand why laboratory fume cupboards consume substantial amounts of energy. These units require a consistent inflow of conditioned air to maintain negative pressure inside the enclosure, preventing fumes from escaping into the laboratory environment. This constant airflow, combined with exhaust fans and filtration systems, can contribute significantly to a lab’s energy consumption.

Optimise Sash Position

The sash of a fume cupboard is a moveable barrier that separates the operator from the interior. By adjusting the sash height, you can control the airflow rate. Lowering the sash reduces the volume of air drawn into the fume cupboard, which can lead to substantial energy savings. Encourage lab personnel to keep the sash at the lowest safe position when working inside the cupboard, and keeping the sash down when nobody is actively working in it.

Regular Maintenance of Fume Cupboards

Well-maintained cupboards operate more efficiently. Schedule routine inspections and servicing to ensure that fans, filters, and other components are working optimally. Clogged filters, for instance, can impede airflow, making the system work harder and consume more energy.

Stylised photograph of glassware in a fume cupboard

Implement Scheduling and Controls

Install occupancy sensors or timers to control the operation of fume cupboards. This ensures that they are active only when needed, reducing unnecessary energy consumption during idle periods.

Educate Laboratory Personnel

Proper training and awareness among lab users are crucial. Ensure that personnel understand the importance of energy conservation when working with fume cupboards and encourage responsible usage.

Balancing laboratory safety with energy efficiency is a critical endeavour for modern research facilities. By adopting the strategies mentioned above, laboratories can significantly reduce energy usage when using fume cupboards without compromising safety. Ultimately, this not only contributes to cost savings but also aligns with the broader goal of creating environmentally responsible and sustainable laboratory practices.

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