An efficient HVAC system is key to maintaining optimum comfort levels. But facilities like laboratories must adhere to stringent requirements that go beyond simply keeping laboratory staff comfortable. Laboratory designers must take into account personnel safety by not only performing regular maintenance on their HVAC system, but also using high-end equipment to reduce spending and increase efficiency.
For HVAC systems to operate at maximum efficiency, HVAC equipment must be sized accurately for the expected loads and airflows. Not all laboratories are the same, though. Some are expected to have lower airflows than others. Due to the lack of data on equipment usage, it is difficult to derive the equipment loads. Because of this, laboratory designers tend to over-size HVAC systems which lead to higher construction and energy costs over time. A best practice strategy for more accurate HVAC sizing suggests that designers turn to power measurements of actual connected loads in a comparable laboratory space.
Energy-Efficient Lab Equipment
Lab equipment makes up a considerable amount of a laboratory's energy consumption. Most of that energy input disperses as heat which, in turn, has to be removed by an HVAC system. When laboratories use energy-efficient equipment it translates to HVAC system savings, as well.
Fume hoods are safety devices in laboratories meant to reduce the exposure to hazardous gases, vapors, and dusts. When a laboratory's exhaust system draws air in a fume hood at a faster rate than its need to cool the facility, an HVAC system needs to provide more air to a lab, increasing energy use. The solution is high-performance fume hoods. High-performance fume hoods reduce the volume of air that needs to be conditioned and exhausted, thereby, reducing the size of laboratory HVAC equipment.
A High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter is a crucial component in clean benches. These filters have a minimum filtration efficiency of 99.97% against particles 0.3 microns in size. These high efficiency filters provide a safe, particulate-free area for conducting laboratory procedures. The reason these filters work so well is because these flat filter sheets are pleated to increase their overall surface area and remove more particles. A HEPA filter's life expectancy depends on the cleanliness of a facility, equipment usage and the nature of the work performed.
New monitoring systems help regulate air changes per hour (ACH) in a laboratory. Instead of maintaining a consistent flow rate throughout the day, modern systems help laboratories operate at lower levels of ACH. These systems monitor a laboratory's air and automatically turn on the ventilation to remove contaminated air. Depending on how dry or wet a certain environment is, laboratories can set up systems in locations where it is needed most.
Laboratories differ from all other buildings, mainly in the fact that they use chemicals and other potentially hazardous compounds in their day-to-day operations. Because of this, the health and safety of laboratory personnel ranks as a high priority. Laboratories must also deal with maintaining consistent comfort levels, improving energy-efficiency, and ultimately minimizing operating costs when it comes to HVAC systems.