Going Green

Commercial Electricity Cost

The cost of electricity is on the rise in the United States. While renewable energy sources have expanded to 17% of energy produced, the majority of energy is still produced by fossil fuels.1

As carbon footprints have become increasingly important, companies and laboratories have begun to see a push towards minimizing energy consumption.

By analyzing the statistics of electricity’s rising cost, HVAC’s increasing burden on energy bills, and the balance between ducted and ductless fume hoods, both the environmental and economic potential of ductless fume hoods can be understood.

Many believe the use of renewable energy sources will minimize the cost of electricity in the near future, however, infrastructure repairs and distribution are projected to keep the cost increasing.

The average cost of electricity in the United States increased by 35% between 2001 and 2018.1 The projected price is expected to increase by an additional 30% over the next 10 years according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As the need for cooling increases with shifting weather patterns, the cost of a temperature controlled laboratory environment is higher than ever. But exactly how much of an electric bill is due to HVAC costs?

Estimating HVAC Cost

Modern labs use electricity for nearly every activity conducted. Bunsen burners, for example, are being replaced with hot plates. With these changes comes an increase in cost for day-to-day operations. While equipment can add additional electric cost, maintaining a stable environment requires vast amounts of energy.

The price of heating and cooling to maintain a laboratory at an appropriate temperature is difficult to quantify. According to one estimate by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average HVAC system for a commercial building accounts for 44% of its electricity consumption2.

The average electric bill per month for commercial businesses in 2018 was $660.22.1 That puts HVAC attributed cost at just under $3,500 dollars a year, an extremely conservative estimate for a laboratory.

To better understand the actual cost for a laboratory, we should first consider the recommended operating conditions for a fume hood. OSHA recommends a face velocity of 60-100 linear feet per minute and a sash opening height of 12-18 inches.

Under these conditions, a 4' fume hood would exhaust a volume of air larger than an Olympic-size swimming pool in under six hours. Operating 7 days a week, for 24 hours a day, this 4' fume hood would exhaust 126,477,000 cubic feet of air, a greater volume than three empire state buildings, over the course of a year.

Cost of Total Exhaust

While predicting the volume of air exhausted is simple, determining the cost of a total exhaust fume hood can be difficult. Variables including HVAC system, frequency of use, ductwork layout, and room layout can all play a role.

Studies suggest a single 6' fume hood consumes 3.5 times the electricity of an average house3. Compared to our conservative previous estimate, this would put the operation cost for a single fume hood at $5,096 per year. With an estimated 750,000 total exhaust fume hoods being used in the United States, the estimated cost per year would be $3.75 billion dollars just for operation.3

The cost is likely more, with increasing electricity prices and expansion of the science and technology sectors within America. With modern pushes to create "green" technologies, how can this technology adapt and evolve to meet energy efficiency standards?

Ducted Advancements

Technology has helped provide options for ducted fume hoods to help minimize HVAC cost, including energy recovery exhaust systems and automated sashes.

Automatic exhaust systems are secondary systems that run in tandem with ductwork and use heat transfer to aid air entering from HVAC in cooling and heating. One 120,000 square foot facility reported the cost of the system at $300,000 to install with estimated yearly savings of $73,000.4

The addition of automated sashes can be used when purchasing a ducted unit. These devices adjust the height of the sash when no one is detected behind the sash. Using smart sensors, these devices ensure no one forgets and leaves the sash up for a weekend.

Multiple technologies help decrease the amount of energy consumed by ducted systems, but the cost and engineering considerations limit feasibility.

Going Ductless

AirClean Systems’ virgin coconut shell bonded carbon filters use adsorption to capture vapors and fumes produced by solvents and reactions. Our trade secret manufacturing process allow our filters to maximize effectiveness and remain dust free, keeping your clean rooms and laboratories spotless.

If we consider the 6' total exhaust fume hood average operating cost, we can begin to compare to a similar ductless system. AirClean Systems' 6' Endeavor™ ductless fume hood running 24 hours a day, 365 days per year would save $2,613 in net energy cost, including price of filters.

This does not include additional costs including obtaining permits, ductwork installation, annual duct maintenance, general HVAC costs, and yearly certification costs associated with total exhaust units. In under 5 years, the Endeavor™ unit would more than pay for itself including filter costs.

Aside from electricity and HVAC savings, ductless fume hoods offer simple portability, which is ideal for growing companies and startups. With carbon impregnation technology, our broad line of ductless fume hoods ensure operator safety, minimize costs, and provide a portable option for lab safety.

The move towards ductless technology, while ideal for some, is not universally applicable. Ductless systems should be avoided in organic reactions with unknown intermediates and products, in addition to certain applications using extremely high risk chemicals.

  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Electric Power Annual. July 2019. Washington, DC 20585.

  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration.2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. March 2012. Washington, DC 20585.

  3. Mills, E. and Sartor, D. Energy Use and Savings Potential for Laboratory Fume Hoods. April 2006. Berkeley, CA 94720.

  4. U.S Department of Energy. Energy Recovery for Ventilation Air in Laboratories. October 2003. Washington, DC 20585.