Lab Ventilation Energy Use and COVID

In summary, many labs are running at very inefficient levels and wasting a lot of energy. Scientists can save energy by being champions for ventilation efficiency in their own lab.
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russ_watters
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Rooner1 said:
I'm a basic chemist and sustainability champion trying to use essential principles in ventilation safety to provide optimum ventilation for vapors, gases, and even infectious aerosols (e.g. SARS Co-V). Laboratories have 5x the energy demand per M2 as offices, so conservation there makes a big difference. Scientists need to be advocates for conservation in their workplace--the lab! And you can still do great science! See http://mygreenlab.org; University of Colorado Green Lab program has been going for 10 years!
Welcome to PF! I'm an HVAC engineer and I actually gave a talk/round-table with the founder of your organization a few years ago:
https://www.westchesterbiotechproject.org/innovation-in-research-2017

One factoid I give on labs that speaks to what people know is that a single 8' constant volume fume hood requires more energy to operate than the average house.

Ventilation safety is clearly an important issue during COVID, if a bit tangential to lab ventilation safety. And unfortunately/ironically a lot of the changes/optimizations being made for COVID transmission mitigation increase energy usage (such as increasing outdoor air fractions and increasing filtration levels).
 
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thanks for the greetings Russ.
You are in great company if you spoke with my good friend Allison. She is amazing, and brought much of the early work in Green Labs to a professional level. The movement continues to mature and blend with core mission of research and operations, as it must. Is there a recording or transcript of your talk?
Some of the efforts to get ventilation to protect from the virus are misguided, some well founded. The basics to prevent near-field transmission of aerosols, like masks and social distancing, are quantitatively the best approach, as no examples of infection from recirculated air have been documented. During infectious times the laboratory is probably the safest place to be if it is run with 100% exhaust and 4+ air changes per hour (ACH).
As you likely know, many labs are way out of tune, and running at 8-12 ACH. Thus, one of the biggest quantitative things a scientist can do in their career to save energy and associated GHG is to be a champion for ventilation efficiency in their own laboratory.
 
  • #3
To be more accurate, an 8' fume hood blows 1200+ cubic feet per minute when open, and 400 CFM when closed (if the HVAC modulates). The amount of energy it takes to condition that air from outdoor ambient is quite astounding, and more likely equivalent to 3 houses.
If you work in a building with a modulating HVAC, be sure to have a "close the sash" campaign to have a quantitative impact on energy use. Some intuitive and compelling sticker-stripes that go on the side jamb of fume hoods can be purchased at cost from the University of California, Davis Reprographics on-line store. Thousands of colleagues around the world have already done so. Contact me if you cannot find the link through a search.
 
  • #4
Rooner1 said:
Is there a recording or transcript of your talk?
I know it was recorded, but unfortunately I don't know where one could access it -- it's not on the website.
Some of the efforts to get ventilation to protect from the virus are misguided, some well founded. The basics to prevent near-field transmission of aerosols, like masks and social distancing, are quantitatively the best approach, as no examples of infection from recirculated air have been documented. During infectious times the laboratory is probably the safest place to be if it is run with 100% exhaust and 4+ air changes per hour (ACH).
Agreed; there is no need for more than that in a lab for COVID mitigation. It's offices where the ventilation rate is being increased for COVID. Typically they run <1 ACH (ventilation) and maybe 6 re-circulated (10%-20% ventilation). For some systems it is possible to do up to 100% ventilation, weather permitting. I have a client that re-programmed their systems to do that.
As you likely know, many labs are way out of tune, and running at 8-12 ACH. Thus, one of the biggest quantitative things a scientist can do in their career to save energy and associated GHG is to be a champion for ventilation efficiency in their own laboratory.
Yes, I've done a considerable amount of work on this issue.
Rooner1 said:
To be more accurate, an 8' fume hood blows 1200+ cubic feet per minute when open, and 400 CFM when closed (if the HVAC modulates). The amount of energy it takes to condition that air from outdoor ambient is quite astounding, and more likely equivalent to 3 houses.
The rule of thumb I use for my region is $5 / CFM / year ($6,000 / yr) and google tells me the average house spends about $2,200 a year in energy costs, so yes, it would be closer to 3.
If you work in a building with a modulating HVAC, be sure to have a "close the sash" campaign to have a quantitative impact on energy use. Some intuitive and compelling sticker-stripes that go on the side jamb of fume hoods...
What I've seen is that it takes a disheartening amount of effort to change behaviors. I've been part of studies where the sash positions are are noted by security at night and then shared with lab managers; almost like a competition/scorekeeping. It does work, but as soon as you relax your effort the scientists go right back to leaving them open. I much prefer automatic sash closures.
 
  • #5
russ_watters said:
I know it was recorded, but unfortunately I don't know where one could access it -- it's not on the website.

Agreed; there is no need for more than that in a lab for COVID mitigation. It's offices where the ventilation rate is being increased for COVID. Typically they run <1 ACH (ventilation) and maybe 6 re-circulated (10%-20% ventilation). For some systems it is possible to do up to 100% ventilation, weather permitting. I have a client that re-programmed their systems to do that.

Yes, I've done a considerable amount of work on this issue.

The rule of thumb I use for my region is $5 / CFM / year ($6,000 / yr) and google tells me the average house spends about $2,200 a year in energy costs, so yes, it would be closer to 3.

What I've seen is that it takes a disheartening amount of effort to change behaviors. I've been part of studies where the sash positions are are noted by security at night and then shared with lab managers; almost like a competition/scorekeeping. It does work, but as soon as you relax your effort the scientists go right back to leaving them open. I much prefer automatic sash closures.
\

Yes, behavior is very difficult to change, and the stickers work pretty well over the long term. Some students at MIT developed a "MASH" alarm which had excellent compliance (under 10% open), and cost about $15 to make. The University of Alabama Birmingham is also using them. INstallation is under $50 per hood, I believe. At our work we are generally against auto sash closers because of complexity, first cost, and maintenance costs. Still searching!
 
  • #6
Rooner1 said:
During infectious times the laboratory is probably the safest place to be if it is run with 100% exhaust and 4+ air changes per hour (ACH).
Which makes conditions on public transport pretty laughable, imo. There are many more passenger changes per hour than air changes and so many of them either don't wear masks or have their own interpretation of what 'wearing' means.

As far as I can see, any running cost would be acceptable from now until the R number is very low. The real cost of the totality of infected people and the economic impact of lockdowns would be less than moderate improvements in ventilation.
 

Related to Lab Ventilation Energy Use and COVID

1. How does lab ventilation impact energy use during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Lab ventilation is a crucial factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in laboratory settings. However, increased ventilation rates can also lead to higher energy consumption, as more air needs to be heated, cooled, and circulated. This can result in higher energy bills for labs.

2. What are some strategies for reducing lab ventilation energy use during COVID-19?

There are several strategies that labs can implement to reduce their ventilation energy use during the pandemic. These include adjusting the ventilation rates based on occupancy levels, using energy-efficient ventilation systems, and implementing air recirculation and filtration systems to reduce the amount of outside air that needs to be brought in.

3. Are there any safety concerns associated with reducing lab ventilation during COVID-19?

Yes, there are potential safety concerns associated with reducing lab ventilation rates. Lower ventilation rates can lead to a buildup of hazardous chemicals or biological agents in the air, which can pose a risk to lab workers. It is important to carefully monitor and maintain safe indoor air quality levels while also reducing energy use.

4. How can labs balance the need for increased ventilation with the need to reduce energy use during COVID-19?

Labs can balance these competing needs by implementing a combination of strategies. This may include adjusting ventilation rates based on occupancy levels, using energy-efficient ventilation systems, and implementing air recirculation and filtration systems. It is also important to regularly monitor indoor air quality levels to ensure the safety of lab workers.

5. Are there any long-term benefits to reducing lab ventilation energy use during COVID-19?

Yes, there are potential long-term benefits to reducing lab ventilation energy use during the pandemic. By implementing energy-efficient ventilation systems and strategies, labs can not only save on energy costs, but also reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future. Additionally, these strategies can be carried over to post-pandemic times to continue reducing energy use and costs in the lab.

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