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Best Practices In Energy Conservation

Close Fume Hood sashes—ALWAYS

Problem: Fume hoods draw out warmed or cooled air from your lab 24/7.

Solution: Some hoods are “smart” (a.k.a. variable air volume) and they slow down 60-80% when you close the sash. Even constant volume hoods draw less air when closed, and the sash is safest in its lowest position.

Benefits: You can save anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year by keeping the sash closed.
Cost: There is no impact on lab operations other than making it safer. This is the easiest and biggest payback item in any lab.

Recycle old freezers and buy Energy Star™

Problem: Old refrigerators and large freezers may use 4-5 kWh per day, while new models only use 1-2 kWh. At 12 cents per kWh that’s about $100-200 per year difference in energy costs.

Solution: Southern California Edison will pick it up, give the UC Regents* a $30-50 rebate (a.k.a. bounty) for old appliances, and a $50 rebate if you buy an energy star model.

Benefits: You may save the university up to 50 cents per day per freezer, thus reducing pressure on overhead costs.

Freezer picture
Cost: You need to clean out the old beast and arrange a pick-up: refreigerator and freezer recycling.

You may want to coordinate with other members of your department and pool several UCSB account numbers to take advantage of the “2 appliances per account” rule. The Energy Star Website (link to:http://www.energystar.gov/ ) is a great place to start looking. Aim to purchase an appliance at least 20% more efficient.

Ask for Energy Star appliances and instrumentation

Problem: Most laboratory equipment is not supplied with energy efficient features because scientists rarely ask for them.

Solution: Academic laboratories comprise ~40% of the scientific market, so universities have some power to change the market. When purchasing equipment ask for efficient features, such as installed timers on autoclave heaters or ovens. Have the sales rep hunt for you. If they find something near your price range, buy it.

Benefits: Demand will shift the market.
Cost: EE models will likely have higher first costs. Your campus energy manager or Southern California Edison may give you a rebate.

Turn off chilled centrifuges, ovens and GC’s when not in use

Problem: Many scientists consider their equipment too unstable or slow to warm or cool to turn off, thus wasting a lot of electricity.

Solution: Most ovens, GC and centrifuges reach their temperature in 30-45 minutes. Keep centrifuge rotors refrigerated so they are ready immediately, and not the whole centrifuge.

Benefits: You will save 5-10 kWh per day per oven or centrifuge that you leave off.
Cost: With minor planning there will be no inconvenience to your work.

When in doubt, measure the power consumption yourself

Problem: You think some appliances might be inefficient, but we just don’t know.

Solution: Borrow a Watt meter from LabRATS to find out. For 120 Volt equipment it’s “plug and play” where the meter goes in series with your appliance. We have alternate meters for 208V equipment.

Benefits: You may find out your machine really isn’t as bad as you thought, or you may find out it’s not working correctly and needs repair. Your data may become part of our growing data file on instruments and power efficiency.
Cost: None. We’re happy to loan you our tools.

Defrost and clean refrigerator/freezer coils

Problem: Both ice and dust insulate heat dissipation and make the compressor work harder.

Solution: Defrost freezers when ice reaches >2 cm thick and vacuum the condenser coils outside when dust collects.

Benefits: You will save electricity and have more space. Mississippi State University offers more advice.
Cost: It takes two half-hour shifts to defrost a freezer, and five minutes to vacuum the coils. Don’t be afraid to stick the vacuum nozzle right up to the coils.

Turn off overhead lights if daylight is adequate

Problem: Lighting energy uses about 10-20% of laboratory energy. With 20 overhead lamps per lab at 50 W each, that adds up to 1 kW per hour. On a bright day there maybe plenty of light.

Solution: Comfortable lighting levels are a matter of preference and acclimation. If you can work safely and relaxed using natural lighting you will save about 1 kWh in lighting energy, and about the same in cooling energy.

Benefits: Over an eight hour day you may save 8 x 2 kWh x 12 cents = $2, which may not sound like much, but with 700 labs on campus, it starts to add up.
Cost: Be sure to discuss comfortable lighting levels in your research group to find out individual preference. Be safe and courteous to your coworkers, of course.

Use a task light if alone in the lab

Problem: It may be too dark in the lab to work without artificial light.

Solution: If only one or two people are in the lab, task lights over your work area may save 95% of the overhead lighting electricity. CFL bulbs only use about 15 W.

Benefits: Savings as above.
Cost: Task lamps cost $10 and are available at most department and hardware stores. Compact fluorescent bulbs are often available for free. Some inconvenience of moving or setting up a light.


Use multi-level light switches appropriately

Problem: Some rooms have switches with multiple settings and occupants don’t know how to use them. If you don’t, it’s likely others don’t as well.

Solution: Ask someone for instructions and invite others to learn with you.

Benefits: 0.5-1 kW per hour. See above.
Cost: Minor inconvenience and an opportunity to get to know your neighbor lab partners.

Have fume hood turned off if safe and practical

Problem: Fume hoods draw out warmed or cooled air from your lab 24/7 and you may rarely or never need it. A constant volume hood drawing 100 fpm consumes up to 3 kW in electricity and heating energy.

Solution: If 1) a single fan draws air from your hood 2) the exhaust and supply air can be rebalanced AND 3) you prominently post the hood as non-operational, you may request maintenance staff to turn off its circuit breaker. You must notify EH&S as well.

Benefits: The University will save up to $3,000 per year in energy costs, and you will prevent over four tons of CO2 emissions from power plants.
Cost: You will need to share hood use with another lab if you need vapor or dust control.

Leave hall lights off if standby lights are adequate

Hallway lights in standby mode.

Problem: Hallways often need only moderate lighting for most walking and standby lighting may fulfill that role.

Solution: Do not automatically turn on the hall lights. Wait to see if someone really wants them. Discuss with hallmates whether it is necessary for their comfort or safety.

Benefits: This will save about 50 W per fixture, or several kWh per day. Over the course of a year this can add up to $200 per year per hallway.
Cost: Make sure lighting is adequate for passage. Make sure users feel safe and comfortable

Choose the right size appliance

Problem: Using an oversize autoclave can consume ten times as much energy as using a counter top version if you only have a small amount to autoclave.

Solution: Either combine loads with other labs if small autoclaves are not available, or use a countertop version.

Benefits: Right-sized autoclaves, incubators and ovens can save 50-80% energy, sometimes 10-80 kWh per day. This can add up to $300-2,000 in energy costs for that one appliance. (250 days per year, $0.12 /kWh)
Cost: You may save 3-5 kWh per cycle if you use a small autoclave.

Rightsized    Oversized

Do not use incubators as refrigerators

Problem: While chilling incubators look like refrigerators, they use 5-10 times more electricity to maintain a narrow temperature range, even close to room temperature.

Solution: Find ways to organize your existing chilled storage such as walk-in rooms, or buy a dedicated freezer or refrigerator.

Benefits: You may save 5-10 kWh per day, equaling $200-400 per year in electricity alone. Reduced heating load put on the HVAC system is an additional hidden savings.
Cost: There may be some investment in time or funds.

Eliminate water stills

Problem: Water stills purify water by boiling and condensing it with running tap water. Boiling takes a lot of energy, and electricity is the least efficient energy source for the task. Constant running water uses up thousands of gallons over a year.

Solution: Use reverse osmosis or ion exchange methods when possible.

Benefits: This saves many kWh and gallons of water per liter of purified water. The bypass water for RO could potentially be used for other purposes such as toilets or even irrigation if it is not too hard.
Cost: Some quality standards require ultra-purity water delivered with distillation, (e.g. tissue culturing) and there is no feasible alternative.

Remove space heaters

Problem: Typical space heaters use around 1.5 kW of energy. This is around 10 times more energy than the average refrigerator. If you run a space heater for only 2 hours a day 5 days a week you will be contributing over 300 lbs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is the equivalent of burning over 16 gallons of gas. Moreover the costs of running space heaters can be up to $1000 dollars a year in electricity costs alone. Moreover building air conditioning systems may have to work harder to compensate for the additional heat building up in the office which can lead to higher cooling costs. Energy FAQs.

Solution: Speak with Facilities and Maintenance (x-2661,4) to check on your building heating. There may be a stuck ventilation controller that dumps cold air into your office, and you may alert staff to a bigger problem. On the other hand, some buildings have poor ventilation design and it may be difficult to adjust the temperature in your office without adversely impacting the rest of the building. If possible wear a sweater or layers on cold days, and keep a comfy fleece jacket nearby. Finally a new type of heater is available that uses about one tenth the electricity and are much safer. See below.

From the UCSB Energy Website:

I know electric strip heaters use a lot of electricity, is there another way to keep my legs warm in winter?

Absolutely. Strip heaters typically use 1.5 kW of electricity, cost $600-1000 per year, are a fire risk, and play havoc with the building climate control system. Please do not use electric strip heaters! There are infrared heater that use a fraction of electricity and do not pose any of the other hazards. See http://www.infraredheaters.com/qmark2.htm for information on how to order one for your office. Also, if you have a problem with temperature control of your office, please call Physical Facilities at x2661.

Benefits: Significant cost savings and CO2 emissions.
Cost: It may take a few phone calls to iron out heating issues. Working in a cool environment may challenge your notion of comfort, and try to adapt if reasonable. If the temperature is not acceptable, you have to do what you have to do, eh?

Harvest alternate energy sources

Problem: Traditional energy sources cost money and have an extensive infrastructure and delivery system.

Solution: Collect your own fossil fuels. Santa Barbara is blessed with tar that washes up on the beach, and just off shore the world’s largest gas seeps vent unused hydrocarbons. There is one underwater tent that captures the largest seep’s gas, and there is more for the taking. You can just bring it home in a large bag as in the picture.

Benefits: Like the oil company that operates the tent, you can get hydrocarbon pollution abatement credits.
Cost: Be careful about smoking.

Eliminate old samples in your freezer

Problem: Researchers are reluctant and too busy to discard old samples. hey may reside in freezers and walk-in environmental rooms for years or decades, taking up space and requiring additional freezing.

Solution: Perform regular cleanouts.

Benefits: If one or two freezers can be eliminated, this saves 2-4 kWh per day, or 700-1400 kWh per year, equaling $85-170 per year. This keeps samples from getting lost by being better organized.
Cost: It takes good management and about 3-5 hours per year, or one half hour per month.

Use appropriate size containers for ice, dry ice, and liquid nitrogen

Problem: Oversized containers may not be necessary to fill for chilling samples. It creates about one pound of CO2 to make one pound of ice, and likely much more per pound of dry ice.

Solution: Use discretion when dispensing ice, dry ice or liquid nitrogen.

Benefits: Reduced CO2 emissions.
Cost: None

Use heating and cooling systems correctly

Problem: Occupants may be ignorant of optimal heating or cooling settings in their labs or offices, and set up the HVAC system to fight itself.

Solution: Check out UCSB Energy Tips. Ask a maintenance engineer from your campus zoneif you have persistent questions.

Benefits: You may be more comfortable and save hundreds of dollars and kg of CO2 just by twisting a dial. By getting to know your maintenance staff they can serve you better.
Cost: Free. It may take 5 minutes to make a service call and another 15 minutes to speak with the zone engineer.