Why it is important to close fume hood sashes

Most people have little knowledge about fume hoods. Fume hoods are one of the most important tools for doing a variety of chemical reactions, used daily by students and researchers. However, annual fume hood energy consumption and waste generation levels are unbelievably high.

According to research conducted by Sila Hilliard from CalTech, fume hood energy consumption accounts for approximately $4.2 billion dollars across the USA, and at CalTech alone, there are 800 fume hoods across the campus, with the average cost for operating one fume hood costing US$4718 annually. However, these hoods are barely closed 9% of the time. This contributes towards a huge amount of energy wastage. If these hoods are closed when unattended up to at least 75% of the time from current numbers, CalTech can save an estimated US$3412 per fume hood.

Universities all around North America are trying different methods to raise awareness about this incorrect practice by encouraging students and scientists to close fume hoods when not being used. Brock University in Ontario, Canada assigned all their fume hoods in sections, where different groups of students and researchers are responsible for their own sections of fume hoods. Departments hold monthly meetings to award the most responsible group with food and certificates. As a result, users are encouraged to close the sash to win the prize and favorable “competition” helped the average sash height drop dramatically. Harvard conducted a “Shut the Sash” campaign, placing magnets on fume hoods informing users of energy wastage. They were able to reduce the average fume hood sash height from 12’’ to 2.4’’. Distinctive actions are being taken in all universities across North America to help the elimination of energy wastage from open fume hoods.

Not only is taking action to stop fume hood energy wastage essential, but different alarm systems are also needed to be applied in order to keep people alert. Phoenix Controls products currently carried by Belnor Engineering offer a complete system control package for laboratory fume hoods. The Usage Base Controls® is a patented controls method to ensuring users’ safety and energy savings with a response time of merely less than one second. The system determines the usage by sensing the presence of a person in front of the hood. When no one is present the system will automatically lower the flow rate to typically 60 feet per minute (fpm). When the user enters the zone, the system will recognize it and instantly responds to increase the velocity back to 100 fpm.

In terms of energy savings, the energy waste alert featured by Phoenix Fume Hood Controls reminds users to close their sashes with local audible and visual notifications. The alerts are activated when users leaving the laboratory at the end of the day turn off the lights in their research spaces but forgot to close their sashes. Furthermore, the fume hood decommissioning option reduces a fume hood’s minimum exhaust. For example, when no chemicals are present within the hood, less costly conditioned air will be supplied into the space. Also, any sash movement will simultaneously revert the fume hood into normal operation. The ease of use and guaranteed safety has been greatly appreciated and applauded by customers in the past decades.

As energy savings and operational costs have been important elements for a building to be a LEED-certified “green building”, the installation of Phoenix products will be very beneficial for the long-term health of the building, helping to both attain and maintain the prestigious certification. Contact Belnor Engineering today to start saving for your laboratory.

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