Fume hoods provide localized filtration/ventilation and are designed to remove potentially hazardous or harmful fumes, vapors, and droplets away from lab personnel.
Research, manufacturing, and medical labs handle a vast range of corrosive chemicals, biological/viral agents, materials that may cause respiratory irritation, and substances with highly flammable fumes. Fume hoods allow researchers and lab personnel to handle these materials without the risk of inhaling toxic fumes or exposing themselves and the facility to infectious/viral contamination.
In addition to protecting personnel from the potentially harmful effects of toxic chemicals and viral agents, fume hoods also create an isolated environment in which to perform experiments without the risk of contamination. Within a fume hood, air circulation is carefully controlled, and researchers can work without worrying about results being altered or product being contaminated.
Finally, fume hoods protect the environment at large by filtering the air and removing toxins, dust, and harmful fumes before expelling it from the facility and into the atmosphere.
How Do Fume Hoods Work?
Fume hoods come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties, but all fume hoods work in basically the same way. Most typical fume hoods look like enclosed workbenches, featuring fully enclosed workspaces that act as an isolated environment for lab techs and researchers to perform testing.
Fume hoods draw air in but do not let any air out, preventing fumes and dust from escaping into the lab or outside environment.
Fume hoods feature a built-in ventilation system that draws the air away from lab personnel, moving it through a series of filters to remove toxins before expelling the air back into the lab, or outside of the facility. The front ‘sash’ can be lifted to accommodate items and tools, and can remain slightly open during testing to allow researchers to reach into the fume hood.
Typically, fume hoods feature fairly simple controls to switch internal exhaust fans on and off and include built-in lighting to increase visibility for the researcher/technician. Additionally, many fume hoods will automatically alert users to low airflow or warn them to close the sash to prevent contaminated air from escaping.
Types of Fume Hoods
There are two basic types of fume hoods: ducted and ductless. Most labs and research facilities choose ducted fume hoods, since these work with the facility’s existing HVAC system, though smaller facilities and those wanting to save on conditioned air may opt for the ductless version. Here’s what you need to know about each type:
Ducted fume hoods are the standard for most commercial and industrial facilities and provide the most protection from dangerous fumes, vapors, and droplets. Ducted fume hoods are connected directly to a facility’s ventilation system, and a precisely controlled route is created to carry contaminated air away from the facility and out into the atmosphere.
Ducted fume hoods draw conditioned air in through the front “sash” which opens either horizontally or vertically, depending on the design. Once drawn in, the air is pulled through the fume hood’s built-in ventilation system before releasing the air into the atmosphere.
Ducted hoods are ideal for chemically dangerous fumes and reducing the risk of cross-contamination in the lab.
Ducted fume hoods provide the highest degree of protection, completely removing contaminated air from the facility. Additionally, ducted fume hoods are low maintenance, and operate quietly since they utilize the facility’s existing ductwork.
If a lab does not already have ductwork designed to be hooked up to a fume hood, it may be expensive to have additional ductwork added. Similarly, ducted fume hoods can increase heating and cooling costs, since they draw conditioned air away from the facility.
Ductless fume hoods are not connected to a facility and are their own standalone ventilation system. Like ducted fume hoods, ductless fume hoods pull air in from the open front sash, drawing the air up and through a top-mounted fan built into the body of the fume hood.
The air is filtered through the fume hood’s own filters, which remove contaminants before expelling the air back into the lab.
Ductless fume hoods can be outfitted with a variety of filter types, depending on which chemicals or substances are being used. Different filters remove different types of contaminants, so it is important to know what kind of filter is needed before using a ductless fume hood.
Though ductless fume hoods require a little more upkeep, ductless fume hoods are easy to install, affordable, and super easy to use.
Using a ductless rather than a ducted fume hood can help to make your facility more environmentally friendly since ductless fume hoods treat contaminated air rather than releasing it directly into the atmosphere. Ductless fume hoods can also be more affordable since ductwork is not required and the unit won’t interfere with air heating or cooling. Despite the environmental and economic benefits, ductless fume hoods may not be best for high-risk applications, since the air is returned to the lab rather than removed entirely.
Fume Hood Use & Safety
Using a fume hood can drastically reduce the risks associated with using corrosive chemicals, and helps to preserve the quality of test results by preventing cross-contamination. Techs and researchers should be encouraged to use facility fume hoods whenever necessary, and all relevant staff must receive proper training to increase workplace safety.
Here are a few basic tips and guidelines for safe, effective fume hood use:
- Do not use fume hoods for permanent chemical or tool storage
- Do not put head or body into fume hoods while being operated or while hazardous chemicals are inside
- Use caution when removing and adding chemicals, tools, and testing apparatus to and from fume hoods
- Keep sash as closed as possible while still accommodating a comfortable range of motion for work
- Double-check filters on ductless fume hoods to ensure they are the proper type
- Replace filters regularly
- Clean fume hoods regularly
- Do not dispose of chemicals in a fume hood
- Have fume hood installed properly
Choosing a Fume Hood
Depending on the nature of the work being performed in your facility, there are a variety of fume hoods to fit your particular needs. At OnePointe Solutions, we specialize in helping our clients choose high-quality lab furniture based on their specific requirements, which includes a range of fume hoods built for labs in virtually every industry.
Our design and consulting team assess our clients’ unique needs, then makes suggestions for custom solutions to create safe, efficient workspaces.
- Ductless filtered hoods utilize carbon and HEPA filters to clean contaminated air before releasing it back into the lab environment
- Educational hoods feature fully glass enclosures, designed to increase visibility from all sides, allowing students to closely observe demonstrations from multiple angles
- Floor mounted hoods are larger than typical hoods and can accommodate large-scale equipment
- General chemistry hoods make it easy for lab personnel to avoid inhaling toxic fumes and noxious vapors produced throughout the process of testing certain chemicals
- Small footprint enclosures are ideal for labs with limited space, offering the same protection as full-sized ducted hoods in a smaller package
- Snorkel arms can be mounted on workstations for easy access to ventilation to remove sparks, dust, smoke, and fumes. Not contained by an enclosure, snorkel arms are best for low-risk applications
Need a fume hood?
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