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What Is the Purpose of a Fume Hood?

Are you working in a role that could potentially expose you to harmful gases and chemical fumes? If so, a fume hood must be present within the workspace to ensure your safety and the safety of all surrounding personnel. But just what is the purpose of a fume hood?

Searose Environmental are Brisbane’s leading fume extraction experts, hosting a wide range of necessary equipment to achieve successful and safe fume extraction. We provide everything from spare parts to full supply and installation, as well as maintenance services.

In this article, we’ll touch on just “what is the purpose of a fume hood?”, whilst making sure you understand how to use a fume cupboard safely and effectively.

What Is the Use of a Fume Cupboard, and How Does it Work?

In a nutshell, a well-designed fume hood or cupboard reduces one’s exposure to hazardous vapours, fumes, dusts, and gases by containing the airborne particles within the ventilated enclosure before diluting the material with large amounts of air. This mixture of harmful gases and ventilated air is then drawn through an exhaust system and removed from the area (ducted) or cleaned and recirculated back into the room (ductless).

A fume cupboard is typically a large piece of equipment. Depending on the size and shape of the machine, the front hood may move vertically, horizontally, or both, protecting the user by acting as a makeshift barrier between worker and experiment. Fume hoods are typically made from PVC or polypropylene.

What Is the Purpose of a Fume Hood?

Fume hoods were initially invented to protect scientists and lab workers from being exposed to dangerous materials. However, in modern times, this use has been expanded into industrial fields, commonly around those who engage in welding. Fume hoods are NOT designed for use with biological material such as micro-organisms. In this instance, a biological safety cabinet should be used instead.

When asking, “what is the purpose of a fume hood?”, it is important to note that breathing in harmful chemicals can cause toxins to affect your lungs or enter your bloodstream. Inhaling damaging vapour has both short and long-term repercussions, spanning from dizziness to permanent liver damage, for example.

Fume hoods are also capable of protecting from small explosions and fires when appropriately installed. The front sash should permanently be shut when the hood is not in use. Otherwise, if an explosion occurs when the sash is open, the glass will spray out into the work area.

Modern fume hoods have spill containment measures to prevent leakages. Most fume hoods will have ‘lips’, which act as a basin to catch liquids. If your machine is older, it is possible to obtain lips that you can add to the side of your machine.

Fume hood use and efficiency vary depending on:

  • The design of the fume cabinet
  • Number of people present within the workspace
  • The relevant safety standards and guidelines
  • The number of chemicals and equipment that are stored in the fume hood
  • Upkeep and maintenance of the fume cupboard
  • The location of the fume cupboard concerning other equipment in the workspace, local airflows
  • The type of experiments and research performed inside the fume hood

Recirculating fume hood use and efficiency depends on:

  • The appropriate and safe disposal of filter
  • The selection of the correct type of filter for the fume hood
  • The amount of harmful substance being dealt with
  • Regular replacement of the filter using safe methods

Although fume hoods are necessary for relevant industries such as industrial manufacturing and laboratory work, they cannot protect against every hazard. More hazardous work may require specifically designed equipment or additional safety measures.

What Is a Fume Hood Used for In Chemistry?

In laboratory spaces, a fume hood is used to dilute and divert many kinds of substances, such as harmful gases, odour, moisture, explosive and corrosive substances, and flammable liquids.

What Is a Fume Hood Used for In A Workshop?

In workshop spaces, a fume hood is used to dilute and divert away any harmful particles such as gases, fragments of material, metal, or coolant, for example, away from the user and surrounding personnel. The extraction hood should not restrict the working space.

How Do You Use a Fume Cupboard?

Have you been wondering, “how do you use a fume cupboard safely?”. Make sure that you’re fully aware of the following procedures to ensure continued safety within your workplace. It may be helpful to make a list of these measures and place them somewhere in the vision for colleagues to see.

  • Ensure that the fume cupboard is working as required before start
  • Take note of the appropriate sash height and set as required
  • All work involving volatile or dangerous materials should be done within a fume hood
  • Fume hoods in laboratories should be located away from high traffic areas, air supply diffusers, doors, and windows. If this is not done, air turbulence will affect the ability of fume hoods to remove contaminated air
  • Use the sash as a safety shield when experimenting with reactive chemicals
  • Keep the sash as low as possible
  • When the fume hood is not in use, ensure that all materials are in sealed containers.
  • Connect all electrical devices outside of the hood to avoid sparking a flammable or explosive reaction
  • Prepare an emergency plan

A user should not:

  • Place their head or face inside the hood. Try to limit the amount of time your hands spend inside the hood.
  • Use the fume hood as a storage area
  • Use the fume hood to vent or dispose of hazardous material through air dilution
  • Modify fume hood
  • Place power boards or other spark-producing sources inside the fume hood
  • Overcrowd the fume hood. This creates dead spots where hazardous material can flow back out of the fume hood.

Following these guidelines is a sure way to prove you know how to use a dust cupboard safely.

Benefits of Ductless vs. Benefits of Ducted Fume Hoods

Ducted fume hoods remove air from a laboratory, diverting it into the outside atmosphere. While most ducted hoods employ constant air volume (CAV) systems, variable air volume (VAV) systems are a new version of the hood that reduce energy costs. They operate within the framework of your building structure and use an HVAC system. HVAC engineers must determine whether the area has enough air to deliver the correct ventilation to the hood.

Ducted fume hoods are:

  • Safer for lab workers
  • Easy to maintain and operate
  • Can handle a wide range of chemicals

However, they’re also:

  • More expensive
  • Difficult to install
  • Hard to relocate
  • Use more energy than ductless hoods

Ductless fume hoods recirculate air by filtering it before redistributing it back into the laboratory. Different filters are required for other materials. As such, ductless hoods should only be used when the material is known and hasn’t changed. Ductless fume hoods are ideal for labs that need mobility.

Ductless fume hoods are:

  • Less expensive
  • Easy to install
  • Mobile in the lab
  • Easily relocatable
  • Use less energy

However, they also:

  • Can only handle limited chemicals
  • Need consistent replacing of filters
  • Are not as effective at removing chemical fumes
  • It cannot be constantly used

Overall, the best fume hood for you is dependent entirely on your workspace, industry, priorities, and financial capability. Consider “what is the purpose of a fume hood?” when deciding between the two – and where your needs fit in with that sentiment. As always, safety should be the number one priority.

Need a Fume Hood?

Hopefully, by now, you understand what is the purpose of a fume hood.

If your company needs a fume cupboard, Searose Environmental offers entire customised systems to meet a wide variety of environments and requirements. We will design a customised fume extraction arm solution for your fume and welding unit environment, ensuring that your equipment and personnel are kept safe from the hazard of harmful fuels.

Providing everything from full supply and installation of fuel extraction systems, to spare parts, various components, and maintenance service, we’re the leading experts in fume extraction Brisbane. Shop our full welding and fume range today or give us a call on 1300 48 48 49 to learn more.