The traditional approach to supply of lab vacuum to lab benches and fume hoods in labs was to outfit the lab building with a central vacuum system. Also known as “house vacuum,” these systems used one or more large pumps to send vacuum through copper or stainless tubing throughout the building from their location in a basement or penthouse. Depending on the size of the building and the number of labs supported, the tubing may be 4 inches in diameter near the pump, tapering to less than an inch in the labs.
The central vacuum pump, tubing and installation represent a very substantial capital commitment, in particular for a multitenant research building in which the total demand for vacuum is unknown at the time of construction. Property developers are reasonably reluctant to incur the costs of a building-wide utility without the assurance that future tenants will value (that is, be willing to pay for) the service.
The alternative: VACUU·LAN® local vacuum networks.
With a VACUU•LAN network, a single, dry vacuum pump supports numerous vacuum ports within a lab. Since the technology is modular, each lab is outfitted separately, when and where needed. This eliminates the need to tie up capital in a building-wide vacuum utility installation. In-lab vacuum networks are plumbed with small diameter, corrosion-resistant PTFE (fluoropolymer) tubing that can be installed with simple tools in a day or two per lab.
Local vacuum networks have the added advantage of producing vacuum on demand rather than around the clock, as with central systems. This dramatically reduces energy and maintenance costs. Further, disputes about allocation of costs for unutilized utilities are avoided, as is the risk of cross-contamination between two tenants’ labs through building vacuum lines. Local vacuum networks can be expanded as needs grow, and even priced into lease rates and taken with the tenant on departure. The quality of the vacuum supplied is significantly better – deeper and more stable – than that available from a central vacuum system, so an approach that offers adaptability and conserves capital also provides scientific advantages to the tenant.
If you build or manage multi-tenant lab facilities, consider opting for a local vacuum network over a house system. To learn more about how local vacuum networks can make your lab more agile, sustainable and effective, contact us today.