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Technologies - Laboratories and Medical Facilities

Laboratories and Medical Facilities, PhotoMost uses of water in laboratories are relatively small, and generally have limited potential for water conservation. Uses include water for mixing solutions, washing glassware and other equipment, and for sterilizers. The EPA and Department of Energy recommend that laboratories, especially those in large hospitals, look at the potential for generating and collecting non-potable, clean water such as the discharge from once-through cooling systems or reverse osmosis.

For additional information on other water uses in medical facilities see: Kitchen Equipment, Landscape Irrigation, Domestic Plumbing, Laundry Facilities, Heating and Cooling, and the ADWR Laboratories Fact Sheet Acrobat Icon PDFs (166 KB)

Laboratory Equipment
Lab Faucet Aerators Low flow aerators are extremely effective at reducing water use. Aerators can be attached to older, high volume faucets to reduce their flow rate to 2.5 gpm or less. Aerators add air to the flow stream, resulting in a spray-like flow, while maintaining water pressure. Some aerators can reduce water flow to .5 gpm or less, at a fraction of the costs of replacing faucets. The rated flow of an aerator is imprinted on its side.

Dry hood-exhaust systems

Laboratories and Medical Facilities, PhotoTraditional hood exhaust systems use water to create a vacuum. Water-saving dry vacuums use air pressure instead of water to create a vacuum. Exhaust hoods may include fume scrubbers (systems that remove fumes and substances from the exhaust before releasing it to the atmosphere). These use large quantities of water, and therefore should be equipped with recirculating systems.


Imaging Equipment
Laboratories and Medical Facilities, Photo: Microsoft Clip ArtX-ray, MRI and CT equipment that uses film imaging are water- intensive. Water-conserving imaging equipment use digital technologies which allow the images to be displayed on a screen and saved to a hard-drive. Where film imaging cannot be avoided, use a self-contained image-developing unit, called a "mini-lab" to process the film. These units use chemicals instead of water in the development process and dispose of the spent chemicals in a reservoir adjacent to the mini-lab. Recirculating systems should be used for large wet-chemistry and water-rinse x-ray technologies.
Sterilizers, Autoclaves, and other Lab Equipment Laboratories and Medical Facilities, PhotoSterilizers frequently use running streams of water to cool steam from the autoclaves, then discharge the water to the sewer. Sterilizers with recirculation systems (either built in or retrofitted) use the water multiple times before discharging it into the sewer. A water-saving retrofit kit for autoclaves, monitors the temperature of the water coming out of the autoclave and adds cold water only when the temperature is greater than 140ºF. Recirculating chiller units are recommended for cooling lab equipment (such as large dry vacuum systems, sterilizers, automated analyzers, etc.), rather than using a stream of water and once-through cooling systems.