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Switch if OFF!

Labs are energy intensive places, any work towards reducing this will have a positive overall impact on reducing a lab’s environmental footprint. See section on Freezers and Fume Hoods specifically, as they are the most energy intensive items in the lab. Shutting the sash and raising the temperature of storage are the most effective way to make real energy and cost savings.

The most basic step a lab user can take to reduce energy use in labs is to switch off equipment such as computers, incubators and weighing scales, when they are not use. Almost 40% of UCC’s energy is consumed at night-time, when people are not in the building so this is an often overlooked step.


As much of 50% of a lab’s energy use is in ‘plug-in’ equipment. Using colour coded stickers to inform all lab users of what items can be switched off directly after use, at the end of the day or should not be switched off at all. Compiling a check list for equipment that should be switched off at the end of the day in all labs can help to remind users and place energy savings at the forefront of lab activities. Alternatively using outlet timers can switch equipment off automatically.

Sharing equipment with other labs is another way to make a large impact on your energy bills. This can also help to reduce waste, as often a lab already has a piece of equipment you might need for an experiment, sharing this can help to save money and resources. It also then encourages lab users from different areas to work together and share knowledge as well. This can result in other interesting discoveries and should not be discounted.


Switching from florescent light bulbs to LED bulbs can also reduce your energy use. LED lights have a longer lifespan and do not consume as much energy. This can be especially effective in operational growth cabinets for biological experiments. Putting lights on sensors (either time or motion) can also help impact a lab’s overall energy bill as people can often forget to turn them off when leaving a room unoccupied.

Contact in Building and Estates if you want a detailed run down of your lab’s energy use.


One of the biggest users of energy in any lab is the cold storage equipment. This is especially true for the ultra-low temperature freezers (-80 freezers). One ultra-low temperature freezer can consume as much energy as a family home every year so anything that can be done in this area will significantly reduce energy consumption. In order to reduce their energy usage, storage should be optimised, old samples regularly cleared out and freezers defrosted regularly.

For a comprehensive guide on how to manage your freezers more sustainably please see the Sustainable Lab Guide. Listed below are some quick freezer maintenance tips.

1. Look into storing samples at -70 instead of -80, this can result in 30% less energy required to run your freezer. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest there is little difference to the sample when storing at a 10 degree difference see: minus-70-is-the-new-minus-80_3.pdf ( & Energy Efficiency and Considerations for Upgrades - International Laboratory Freezer Challenge. Not all samples are required to be stored at -80, samples should also be collected and stored with the smallest quantities possible for your study. Before making any changes to temperatures please consult a PI.

2. Regularly defrosting your freezers and cleaning/dusting the fans and coil can make the freezer run more efficiently.

3. Ensure old and no longer useful samples are correctly disposed of to make room for new samples. A freezer inventory is very convenient for keeping on top of what is in the freezer & where as well as what can be removed.

4. Try sharing freezers/back up freezers with other labs. If you have any space offer it to others so they do not need to buy another freezer.

Fume Hoods

Fume hoods are the most expensive and energy intensive pieces of machinery to run in a lab. They can consume twice as much energy as a -80 freezer and as much energy as up to 3 households in a single year. Therefore, managing your fume hoods in a more sustainable way can save operating expensive and reduce the carbon emissions of your lab.

“Shutting the Sash” is the most effective thing you can do to reduce the energy load of your fume hood. Although not all fume hoods have variable air volume, shutting the sash can still benefit the energy usage. Keeping the sash closed when the hood is in operation can, according to a study conducted by the Harvard university, save an average of $20,000 per year of energy savings, while studies in Ireland suggest this action can result in energy savings of 75%. This is a huge saving financially but also has a large impact on the environment. It is a crucial step in making your lab more sustainable. To estimate how much you can save by simply “Shutting the Sash” check out UC Berkeley’s calculator here:

Any and all efforts to reduce the energy impact of fume hoods can make a big difference in universities such as UCC. Think of how many fume hoods are in your lab alone and imagine how many are across campus. Together we can all make a big difference.

See the Shut the Sash stickers – request option to get some for your lab. 



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