Energy Conservation

Labs use 10 times as much energy as other types of spaces on campus.

Much of this is due to high ventilation rates and energy-intensive research equipment.

To reduce the energy use in your lab, start by identifying what types of equipment are in your lab and follow the best practices outlined below.

Best practices

Laboratory fume hoods use 10% of UBC’s total energy consumption. Each fume hood uses as much energy as 3.5 households.

  • Shut the sash whenever you are not actively working in the fume hood
  • Only open fume hood sashes when setting up or modifying an experiment
  • If your fume hood has an occupancy switch, turn it off when not in use
  • Never use a fume hood for simply storing chemicals. Those belong in a safety cabinet, which doesn’t use huge volumes of air
  • Perform regular spot-checks to monitor and ensure that lab personnel implement proper fume hood sash closing behavior
  • Read more in Shut the Sash

Lab equipment is very energy intensive.

  • Complete a lab equipment inventory to identify energy intensive equipment that can be unplugged or turned off when not in use
  • Identify person to be in charge for turning off each unit
  • Create schedule for shut down/power management
  • Use distilled water only when needed to save both water and energy

Cold storage at UBC is estimated to account for 6% of campus energy use. Each standard -80⁰C freezer consumes as much energy as a single-family home! Here’s how you can tackle the high energy consumption of your fridges and freezers, promote optimal performance and increased lifespans.

  • Chill Up freezers to -70°C to -80°C. Learn more here.
  • Minimize door opening time
  • Consolidate and properly label samples, keep good sample inventories, and discard unnecessary samples
  • Defrost freezers and implement regular maintenance
  • Retire old Ultra-Low Temperature freezers (ULTs) and replace with more energy efficient models
  • See our full Laboratory ULT Freezer Care Guide below

Using full loads greatly enhances energy and water efficiency

  • Use full loads for autoclaves and dishwashers
  • Add full load instructions to autoclave logs where appropriate

Switch off lights and computing equipment when not in use.

  • Activate power management settings on monitors and computers in your lab
  • Implement UBC Energy Policy recommendations: (i) Monitor and computer set to enter Sleep mode after 5-15 minutes;  (ii) Computer set to enter Standby or Hibernate mode after 30 minutes
  • Turn off computers, monitors, printers and other peripherals when not in use
  • Use a power bar or smart strip to make turning off equipment easy
  • For shared computing equipment, discuss with your team when equipment can be turned off and responsible person
  • Turn off lights when not in use and use natural lighting when possible


One new Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) Freezer uses enough energy to power a single family home. Freezers alone account for 2-6% of total campus energy.

A well-maintained freezer can use up to 25% less energy than a freezer that has not been maintained. Moreover, freezer management minimizes operating/energy costs, reduces freezer failure, and ensures optimal freezer performance. Saving your freezer’s energy also extends your freezer’s lifespan. Download and review the Lab ULT Freezer Care Poster. Follow these steps to reduce the energy consumption of your ULT.

Chill up ULT freezers

Join the Chill Up movement by resetting your -80ºC freezer to -70ºC.

  • Read the  Chill Up Info Sheet to learn more
  • Identify contact person in charge of freezer(s)
  • Get approval by PI/Lab Manager to chill up freezer(s)
  • Once your freezer has been Chilled Up, post the "I’m Chilled Up" sticker (available from green.labs@ubc.ca) on the ULT near the temperature display
  • Call your freezer “Ultra Low” not “-80”

Resources and Case Studies

Minimize Open-Door Time

Minimizing door opening will help save energy and protect samples.

  • Think about samples you need before opening the door
  • Minimize door opening by 5 minutes per day to save 3 kWh/day
  • Use Minimize Door Opening Tracking Sheet and apply "Minimize Door Opening" sticker
  • For every 1 minute a ULT door is open, 10 minutes are needed to get back to the starting temperature

Store Smart Samples

Good sample management will minimize the time the freezer door is open, save space, ensure sample security and increase efficiency of lab time.

Defrost & Maintain

Properly maintained freezers help reduce energy and prolong the life of your ULT.

  • Defrost freezers annually or when necessary
  • Fill open spaces with frozen water jugs to reduce the amount of air the freezer cools
  • Create a defrost and maintenance schedule and assign a responsible person

Retire & Replace

An old ULT can consume twice as much energy compared as a new one.

  • Upgrade old ULTs to more energy efficient ones. Energy Star certified models are now on the market!
  • Turn off, remove and dispose of freezers that are not in use


Download and review the Lab Energy Savings Poster  and the Lab ULT Freezer Care Poster.