Did you know that laboratories are one of the largest energy-consuming sectors in the country? In fact, after data centers, labs are widely recognized as consuming more energy per square foot than any other sector. However, taking the proper actions can greatly reduce the amount of energy your lab uses.
Below, we’ve outlined 9 actions you can take (starting today!) to improve energy efficiency in the lab.
1. Close fume hood sashes when not in use.
Closing your fume hood sash is one of the most impactful things you can do to save energy in the laboratory. Variable air velocity fume hoods can consume around 3.5 homes worth of energy per day. Whereas constant air velocity fume hoods use the same amount of energy whether they're open or closed, variable air velocity fume hoods, when open, use a whopping 110 kWh/day.
Fume hoods have fans within their exhaust systems that help air flow through the lab and the fume hood itself. When a sash is open, these fans suck in and exhaust a lot of the lab's heated or cooled air. The constant reheating and recooling of air that will only get sucked in again by the fume hood consumes a lot of energy. By shutting the sash, you'll reduce the amount of air being wasted, thus saving great deal of energy.
2. Put autoclaves in standby mode when not in use & only run them when full
Autoclaves consume 84 kWh per day. Specifically, large, steam-jacketed or medical grade autoclaves are massive energy consumers. Ensure you’re putting them into an energy conserving or stand-by mode when not in use, and only run them when they are full.
3. Set ultra-low temperature freezers to -70 C instead of -80 C
Ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers, particularly older models, can consume about 25-30 kWh of energy per day, which is as much energy an American home uses in a day. Setting ULT freezers, particularly those that are 10-15 years old, to -70°C instead of -80°C will save 30% of this energy.
To learn more about how to optimize sustainability of freezer management in laboratories, visit our Freezer Challenge.
4. Turn off equipment when not in use
There is a lot of variability on how much energy your lab equipment consumes. Equipment that has big fan components (like biosafety cabinets), equipment that has heating or cooling elements (like drying ovens, incubators, or water baths), and equipment that pulls a vacuum (like vacuum pumps) tend to be the highest energy consumers in the lab. Turning this equipment off when it’s not in use, or on nights and weekends, can have a big impact on energy usage. Plug load makes up about 20% of energy consumption in a lab. For U.S. labs, reducing plug load by just 10% is the equivalent of taking around 650,000 cars off the road.
There are various ways to ensure equipment is turned off. You can simply unplug it, or invest in power strips to make it easy to turn multiple small pieces of equipment off all at once. If you need certain equipment to be ready for use when you walk into the lab, use outlet timers; this will ensure equipment auto-turns off at night and auto-turns on at the beginning of the day so that it’s ready to be used as soon as you walk in the door.
5. Properly maintain cold storage
Preventative maintenance can help keep cold storage running efficiently. Here are a few tips:
6. Share equipment among labs and turn off or unplug duplicate equipment
Equipment sharing has a similar energy saving impact as turning off equipment when it’s not in use. “Sharing” equipment can be useful even for labs that are using their own equipment. Here’s where scheduling comes in handy. Figuring out how often your lab is using equipment can allow you to optimize the time that it’s in use. Say your lab has two HPLCs that are only used, on average, 40% of the time. Through simple scheduling, you can consolidate use on the first and unplug the second. You’ll save energy and have the second HPLC ready to bring back online if the first one breaks.
Shared resource or instrumentation facilities are particularly useful for universities, where bigger pieces of high energy consuming equipment are in a shared lab and everyone has access, reducing the need for multiple labs to have to buy their own.
7. Turn off the lights when the last person leaves the lab
Lighting makes up around 15% of energy in the lab. Simply turning off the lights when you leave the lab or support rooms can have a significant impact. Turning off the lights during the day when ambient light is sufficient can even further reduce energy consumption. A small LED task light can provide additional illumination if needed and uses much less energy than overhead lights.
8. Utilize green chemistry techniques
The ACS Green Chemistry Institute is a great resource for learning about green chemistry techniques. Their guide on designing for energy efficiency offers two main points that can help improve efficiency in your lab:
Additionally, along with Beyond Benign and MilliporeSigma, we have updated our comprehensive teaching guide for undergraduate laboratories featuring green chemistry alternatives to traditional organic chemistry experiments. You can download the guide here.
9. Share your sustainability efforts with others in your lab, building, department, or organization. Encourage others to change their behavior!
Sharing your successes and best practices in the lab is a crucial element to improving efficiency. Be sure to share how you are reducing energy as often, and as broadly, as you can!
Let us know how you’re saving energy by sharing with us on our LinkedIn or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.