Whether you’re retrofitting an existing lab or constructing a new laboratory building, there are a number of elements which must be considered in every laboratory design project. One of these is how much energy the lab will consume, and what can be done to keep costs down without jeopardizing the work being done. Here are some energy-saving lab design tips that can impact the bottom line while allowing any lab to perform perfectly.
Getting a Lab Design Handle on HVAC
By far the most expensive energy guzzler in most labs is the HVAC system. In any lab design, the heating/ventilation/air conditioning system must provide comfortable, clean air to every room in the building at all times. This can mean completely changing out all the air in the entire facility as much as twelve times per hour—as opposed to the standard four times per hour of a more typical office building.
Naturally, doing this takes a lot of energy, but there are ways to decrease the cost. Most lab HVAC systems can be programmed for different volumes at different times, so if your lab doesn’t operate on a 24/7 schedule, you can decrease the air cycling rates when the building is unoccupied. More sophisticated HVAC systems can also perform real-time air quality testing, which allows the system’s computer to increase rates when air contaminants are present and decrease them when the air is testing clean.
Preventing all that Conditioned Air from Escaping
Another energy culprit in many labs is the fume hood. Because this piece of dedicated lab equipment vents air to the outdoors, it also whisks away that carefully cleaned and cooled (or heated) air from the HVAC system. Fume hoods themselves also take energy to operate—as much as three residential home energy systems, in fact. You can therefore save energy on both your HVAC system and your fume hood by training lab workers to always close the sash when the fume hood is not in use.
Factoring in the Human Element
As noted above, tackling energy savings is often related to addressing the attitudes and practices of lab technicians. For example, you can save up to thirty percent on the energy bill for your ultra-low temperature freezer by upping the thermostat by just ten degrees, but you may first have to address your researchers’ fears of sample damage. Teaching techs to use task lighting, and to turn out the lights at the end of the day, may seem insignificant, but it can reap major rewards when the energy bill arrives each month.
It’s also true that you often have to invest in your energy savings up-front, during the laboratory design process. When considering the cost of a lab design or retrofit, you may need to advocate for a more expensive, air-monitoring HVAC system in order to save energy costs in the long run. You should also invest in dedicated lab furniture that fully supports your lab equipment and allows it to run most efficiently. Our MS lab benches filter out vacuum pump noise, making for a quieter and safer lab, take up thirty percent less space and can even help with your HVAC costs in your new lab design. To learn more about integrating our dedicated lab furniture into your new laboratory design, contact us for a free quote today.