Fume hoods are critical components of the modern laboratory. Not only do they draw and filter harmful contaminants out of the air, but they also prevent lab users from inhaling or otherwise coming in contact with unwanted compounds.
But what if you’ve never purchased fume hoods before? How can you be sure you’re buying the right kind?
If you’re in the market for lab fume hoods, here are just five steps for ensuring that your purchase is safe, effective and functional.
- Know Your Needs
What kind of experiments do you run? What kind of tools and chemicals do you handle on a daily basis? These answers can make all the difference in the type of fume hood that you need. For example, you might require a reinforced hood if you regularly deal with perchloric acid or radioactive materials. You might need a fume hood with special filters or wet scrubbers if your workplace has pollution abatement standards. Before you start considering the fine details of your purchase, sketch out a general idea of what you need.
- Evaluate Ventilation Types
Fume hoods come in two basic types:
– Vented hoods that pump fumes through an external exhaust system
– Recirculating hoods that filter fumes and return clean air to the atmosphere
Traditionally vented hoods are recommended for scientific and industrial work because of the hazard levels associated with their vapors. However, if you only need basic area protection for something like a middle school chemistry lab, it might be more cost-effective to purchase re-circulating fume hoods. Each type comes with its own pros and cons, so do your research and figure out which one is right for you.
- Prioritize Your Extras
Fume hoods are available with a wide variety of functions and features. Some are safety measures like alarms that will alert you to dangerous exhaust levels; others are meant to promote efficiency with control panels for fans, screens and lights. You can also find eco-friendly auxiliary air hoods that reduce your energy consumption and lower your utility costs. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the “extras” that you desire in a fume hood, so compare and contrast products to see what offers are on the table.
- Measure Your Work Station
Fume hoods come in a variety of sizes, including:
They can also vary in everything from cavity depth to overall weight capacity, so keep those numbers in mind as well. The easiest way to determine your sizing requirements is to measure your workstation and see what kind of fume hood will fit in your pre-existing space. If you need a specialty hood for large projects or complicated structures, however, it might behoove you to buy a brand-new fume cupboard with the hoods already installed.
- Plan for Accidents
Anticipate the day that an experiment goes wrong or a clumsy student knocks over a volatile solution. What kind of fume hood will be able to handle it? Look for something with extra or remote blowers that can be accessed during an emergency. Find a hood where all of the electricity-bearing outlets and switches have been moved outside the general hood cavity. Planning for a disaster today might just save your life tomorrow, so don’t take chances when it comes to accident readiness. Perform a risk assessment for your fume hoods.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you shop for fume hoods for your laboratory or research facility. As you can see, it isn’t a purchase decision to be made lightly, so don’t rush it. Take your time and figure out what you truly need in a fume hood before you hand over your credit card.