Local vacuum networks save considerable amounts of energy as compared to central vacuum systems. The energy savings will vary from one project to the next, but savings of up to 70-90% are achievable. Even making very conservative assumptions about vacuum system usage, savings of 40% are common. By reducing resource consumption, there are both economic and sustainability benefits. Economically, the facility owner will see reduced operating costs in direct proportion to the reduced energy consumption. In terms of sustainability, there is the corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
A number of factors affect the energy savings on a given project, but if you take the 5 steps below, you’ll maximize the energy savings from your lab vacuum utility.
- Minimize the flow through your system. The more gas or chemical vapor that is pumped through your vacuum system, the harder the vacuum pump has to work. The harder the pump works, the greater the power consumption will be. A great way to minimize the flow through your vacuum system is to take advantage of local vacuum system technology, which are designed with the intent of minimizing flow through the system. Not only does this deliver deeper, more stable vacuum, but it means your pump doesn’t need to work as hard.
- Turn pumps off if you’re not using them. This seems obvious to say, but if you’re not using the vacuum pump, turn it off. The trouble with central vacuum systems is that they need to run almost all the time, just in case someone in the building is using the vacuum system. With local vacuum networks, you only need to turn on the pumps when they’re needed.
- Make use of demand-responsive pumps. Demand-responsive pumps with variable speed motors – like VACUUBRAND’s VARIO® pumps – are able to adjust to variable demand on the system. When a VARIO® pump senses increased demand, the motor speed increases in order to maintain the desired level of vacuum. When demand is low, the motor slows down, still holding the desired vacuum level, but minimizing power consumption. And when no one is using the system, the pump goes into a low power ‘sleep’ state to really minimize energy consumption.
- Use 2 mbar local vacuum networks to eliminate supplemental pumps. Typical central vacuum systems create vacuum of about 100-200 mbar (26-24 in. Hg). For the many researchers and students who need deeper vacuum for their work, this means that supplemental pumps are necessary. Local vacuum networks can operate as low as 2 mbar (29.86 in. Hg) and eliminate the need for all those extra pumps that would be used to support more demanding work. One recent study showed that vacuum pumps comprised about 15% of the plug load in one lab facility, so there’s potential for significant energy savings by eliminating these supplemental pumps.
- Use solvent recovery systems and variable speed pumps to minimize the load on HVAC systems. The largest energy consumer in many lab facilities is the HVAC system. By using a vacuum system equipped with solvent recovery capabilities, you can reduce the amount of chemical vapor that is exhausted from the lab into the HVAC system. That offers the possibility of reducing the air handling volume. And by using variable speed pumps, you’ll also reduce the heat load that needs to be rejected by the HVAC system.