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How to Choose the Right Fume Hood for Your Lab

If you’re designing a lab, chances are you’re going to need a fume hood. Laboratory fume hoods play a huge role in keeping staff healthy, safe and productive in your facility. However, just as there are many different types of labs out there, there’s an equally huge variety of fume hoods to choose from - Balanced Air, Auxiliary Air, Radio Isotope, etc.

How do you know which type of fume hood is right for your lab? Start by asking yourself the following questions. You’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. Then give us a call and we’ll figure out the rest!

1. Do you need to protect yourself from the product, or do you need to protect the product?

In simpler terms, this means: Is the product your lab handles hazardous to human health? And, does contact with air, water, and the environment damage this product? The answer can be “yes” to both. An example of that might be biological matter - cells from a viral pathogen. In this case, you need to protect yourself from the pathogen, but you also need to protect the cells from contamination.

In the case of something non-hazardous to humans, like dirt samples, you don’t necessarily need to protect yourself from it, but you still need to protect the samples from contamination.

2. How do you need to dispose of the vapours or gases your lab will be working with?

There are a few options for controlling and expelling hazardous fumes from your lab. Of course, that’s what fume hoods are all about! In some cases, you will want to expel the hazardous fumes outside. This would be appropriate for gases and vapours that you do not want to fill your laboratory with, but that are not toxic to our outside air environment. An example of this would be carbon dioxide.

In cases where you cannot exhaust the fumes outside, you will need an enclosed fume hood. These types of fume hoods trap the hazardous materials inside, keeping them out of the outside environment and out of your lab environment, ensuring a safe workspace. Examples of highly toxic gases that would need to be dealt with in this way are hydrogen cyanide, chlorine, and ammonia.

3. What are the main contaminants in your lab?
Fume hoods can be made with a variety of liner materials, which is the coating on the inside of the hood. It’s very important to pick an appropriate liner material because your product is constantly going to be coming into contact with the inside of your fume hood.

Different materials hold up better than others under various conditions. Examples of common lab concerns that would affect your liner material choice are stains, moisture, chemicals, heat and flame. If your lab works exclusively with highly corrosive chemicals for example, you will not want to choose a metal material such as stainless steel.

At H. H. Hawkins, we have the expertise necessary to help our clients choose the best options for their laboratory fume hoods. If you let us know what materials your lab will be working with, we are happy to recommend a suitable liner material.

4. Do you need to be explosion-proof?

It might sound silly, of course you want to be explosion-proof, right? That sounds like a good thing to be!

However, just because you’re working with flammable items doesn’t mean you necessary need an explosion-proof (EP) fume hood. Only a small percentage of customers actually need one.

Working with a flammable chemical is usually not enough of a reason to justify an EP hood, as a lab environment is already designed to contain potential danger. But the use of an explosion-proof fume hood would be justified in a case where there would be an unusual hazard. An unusual hazard would be that the amount of a flammable chemical in the lab environment exceeded a safe threshold.

It would be best to give us a call and describe your lab to us so that we can determine if you really need an explosion-proof fume hood. Although they sound pretty cool and James Bond-like, don’t they?

5. What do you expect from your fume hood supplier?

This might strike you as an odd question, but it’s important. You might say, “I expect a good quality fume hood, and for the provider to install it for me.” That’s a great place to start. H. H. Hawkins provides high quality fume hoods and installation. But we also provide more than that.

We pride ourselves on being service-oriented, personable and excellent at what we do. We stand behind our products and our level of after-purchase care shows that. We support our products, and we always make sure your needs are looked after.

We even have real live humans answering the phone. So let’s talk about your project! Contact us today.

H. H. Hawkins Ltd. is a leader in the fume hood and laboratory casework industry in Western Canada. Interested in our custom casework projects? Check out the Products page to see them in action.