There are some key opportunities for laboratories to improve or optimize energy performance. Lighting and space heating account for approximately 74 percent of total energy use (making these systems the best targets for energy savings. The basic energy challenge confronting laboratories is the high cost of conditioning the large volume of ventilation air needed to meet safety requirements and building codes. Opportunities to regulate temperature and lighting offer simple ways to optimize energy use. Lighting energy use typically accounts for between 8% and 25% of total electricity use, depending on the percent- age of lab area. While not a significant percentage compared to HVAC systems, it nonetheless provides several opportunities for energy efficiency.  Source: labs21


  • Simply having lab users become more aware of energy-saving practices will reduce costs.
  • Optimizing the function of existing HVAC systems can often save a considerable percentage of energy consumption.
  • Instituting economical ways to save laboratory electricity could save about three-quarters of the electricity consumed in the United States at an average cost of about one cent per kilowatt-hour.*
  • Savings in laboratory energy costs can allow for more budget for science research. *Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute (

Who Can Help

CBI Telecommunications Consultants
CBI Telecommunications Consultants is a telecom/utility expense management and consulting firm located in Grand Rapids, MI with over 20+ years of experience of helping companies with cost reduction/cost avoidance practices in vendor billing. CBI is a companies first line of defense in sustainability. CBI’s comprehensive bill audit helps companies review their contracts, invoices, and services to identify billing errors, refund opportunities, and/or optimization opportunities without any capital expense up front.

Control Solutions
At Control Solutions, we’re experts who listen first, evaluate needs, and then devise a thorough, well-thought-out plan. The foundation for that plan is Tridium, the only open source solution for building and energy system control. The Niagara Framework® software platform adds functionality and a user-friendly interface, so your Control Solutions building management system will significantly reduce energy costs as it maximizes efficiencies in everything from lighting to HVAC and energy monitoring and commissioning.

Hurst Mechanical
Hurst Mechanical is a locally owned and operated for over 30 years, Hurst Mechanical partners with West Michigan companies to provide energy reduction services. Hurst offers energy benchmarking, energy audits, mechanical & electrical upgrades and a completely open web-based building management system. Hurst is an EPA Energy Star Partner, a trade ally of all utility providers in West Michigan and active in the local US Green Building Council.

LED Green Light
LED Green Light International is pleased to offer you a comprehensive and financially compelling LED lighting retrofit solution for your company’s space. LED GreenLight is prepared to provide you the industry’s finest LED lighting package option in a single turn-key solution.

Midwest Energy Group
Initial investment costs are a common detractor for implementing energy efficiency projects. At Midwest Energy Group, we help our customers finance projects through:

  • Utility rebate programs
  • Federal tax incentives
  • Shared savings agreements
  • Bank loans and leases
  • Performance contracts
  • Energy efficiency grants

Retired Engineer Technical Assistance Program
Retired professionals are available through the Retired Engineer Technical Assistance Program (RETAP) to assist Michigan businesses and institutions with pollution prevention. Each assessor has thirty to forty years of experience with Michigan industries. Businesses of 500 employees or fewer and institutions of any size are eligible.

Tools and Resources

Tools are provided to help you match resources to your laboratory needs. Resources below will help to facilitate:

  • Setting lighting options to maximize energy efficiency.
  • Replacing incandescent light bulbs.
  • Regulating both air-conditioned and thermostat-controlled environments.
  • Removing space heaters or fans.
  • Regularly reviewing and tracking energy consumption.

Setting lighting options to maximize energy efficiency
The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, as a part of the Labs21 program, released a PDF( (below) that covers many energy efficient lighting options as well as lights in unoccupied areas being turned off automatically. The issue is that many people see lighting in an area as a part of the room and do not realize when they could be turned off. The best practice lighting fixtures in rooms are automatically controlled to detect when there is no motion or heat in the room.

The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories Labs21 toolkit

Replacing incandescent light bulbs
The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, as a part of the Labs21 program, released a PDF( that shows a variety of lighting options beyond just replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED. The PDF describes the efficiencies of each lighting option based upon the lumens per watt. The document will show proof of other alternatives besides incandescent light bulbs and when and where to implement them.

The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories Labs21 toolkit

Regulating both air-conditioned and thermostat controlled environments
UC San Diego’s Sustainability section offers a Room Temperature Settings page which includes office/administrative spaces and Lab spaces. While their lab heating and cooling minimums and maximums may not directly align with the numbers provided in this assessment, the outline of occupied vs unoccupied temperature control settings is a great example of how to save energy when employees are in labs vs when they are not. Establishing a thermostat or system that can make these changes based upon activity or time will help reduce energy usage through heating and cooling.

UC San Diego Room Temperature Settings

Regulating room temperature with regard to space heaters and windows
Harvard has published a Lab Sustainability Guide that includes best practices and has sections that mention what one should do if they find themselves to be either too cold or too hot. Many times the problem can be fixed simply by talking to the building manager or moving equipment away from ventilation so the airflow is unobstructed in the laboratory. Also remember that opening/closing the blinds will also increase/reduce the temperature inside of the lab.

Harvard University Sustainability Guide

    • Space heaters are banned in many buildings due to their tendency to get very hot and start fires. Check your local policies. Space heaters are one of the least efficient and most expensive ways to produce heat and use 10 times more energy than the average refrigerator (U.S. DOE,
    • Don’t open the windows – even if the breeze feels better, it will be adding humidity to the space and if you have hoods, it may compromise their effectiveness.
    • Don’t trick thermostats by putting a heat source under them. This may lead to ineffective temperature control in the rest of the lab/zone.

Regularly reviewing energy consumption
Regularly benchmarking, reviewing and reporting energy performance is recommended. Reviewing utility bills is the first step to improve energy efficiency. This is one of the simplest methods of benchmarking to see potential dollar savings. EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager is an interactive resource management tool that can be used to compile the data from your utility bills to help track energy usage, set benchmarks and even receive recognition from the EPA. This is an easy first step to organizing your bills into an interactive tracking tool that will save money.

Energy Star Portfolio Manager

Case Studies

      • Laboratories for the 21st Century partner (Labs21) US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory added a new research facility to its Golden, Colorado campus in 2006. This case study is one in a series produced by Labs21, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) geared toward laboratory buildings. It has extensive data, including payback calculations. The S&TF incorporates many energy-efficient and sustainable design features, such as VAV, exhaust fans in sequence, fan coil units, energy recovery, efficient heating and cooling, underfloor air distribution in offices, daylighting, water-saving strategies for irrigation, and process cooling. The S&TF saves significant amounts of energy and water and provides a superior work environment for employees.

Works Cited and More Resources

Harvard Lab Sustainability Guide. Cambridge: Harvard University, n.d. Pdf

Labs 21 Toolkit: Lighting. N.p.: International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, Aug. 2006. Pdf.

“Learn How Portfolio Manager Helps You save.” Learn How Portfolio Manager Helps You save. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. <;.

“Office of Environmental Health and Safety.” Heating Devices. Princeton University, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. <;.

“Room Temperature Settings at UCSD.” Room Temperature Settings. University of California, San Diego, n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. <;.