Saving Energy in Labs Looks Like This

Did you know that laboratories use 4-5 times more energy than other campus buildings? If you work in a lab, you can significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions right here on campus. Ready? Here are some tips to save energy in labs on campus:

  1. Shut the sash.  Fume hoods draw out warmed or cooled air from labs constantly, even when not in use. This energy loss costs the university up to $6,000 annually per fume hood (and there are hundreds of them on campus). Always keep the sashes (or barriers) closed and free of obstacles (wires, computers, etc.) that will prevent you from lowering the sash. In addition to saving energy, closing the fume hoods keep lab occupants safe.
  2. Hit the switch. Turn off lab equipment that’s not in use, hit the lights when you leave the room (or use task lighting instead of overhead) and utilize sleep mode on all computers and devices.
  3. Freezer management. Ultra-low temperature freezers can use as much energy as an average household every day, so freezer care in the lab is tremendously important. Check freezer door seals, move freezers to cooler locations, share freezers with neighboring labs (if possible) and defrost regularly.
  4. Purchase green lab equipment. Need some help with that? Here are  ten purchasing tips for a greener lab. You can also visit the EPA’s Green Chemistry Expert System, a computer program that can be used to select green chemicals and reactions.
  5. Utilize green chemistry.  Green chemistry is defined by the EPA as “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances” during the entire lifecycle of the chemical. Ask yourself if you can apply the green chemistry principles to each step in your chemical research.
  6. Use timers. If equipment doesn’t need to be left on overnight, or during certain periods of the day, use timers.This will reduce energy use, energy costs, environmental impacts and increase the life of lab equipment.
  7. Turn off the tap. Typical faucets use 2-5 gallons per minute of water. Use rinse buckets to wash equipment and small electric pumps that can recirculate water instead of running water for hours during distillations and drying processes. Use an autoclave? You may be able to have yours retrofitted with water-saving devices. Contact NC State Energy Management for more information.
  8. Turn off ovens. Evaluate if your usage requires continuous heat or if heat can be reduced or turned off at some point.  Minimize the amount of times the oven door is opened and how long it is open.

Quick tip: Even with an abundance of energy savings opportunities, changing old behaviors in research labs can be challenging. Help educate others by leaving post-it notes on equipment with energy-efficient reminders.