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Replacing Fume Hood Ducts with Filters Offers Newfound Freedom

Today’s fume hood world features many options, including filtered hoods

Mike May, PhD

Mike May is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas.

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Fume Hood

In my lab days, most fume hoods looked alike—a glass sash that could be raised or lowered, one switch for a light and another to turn air on and off. Today’s fume hood world features many options, including filtered hoods. In brief, a traditional hood vents to the outside, and a filtered one doesn’t. Instead, a filtered hood works where a lab manager can’t get a hood to a duct system, doesn’t want to add one, or wants to stay as energy efficient as possible by not pulling out a lab’s conditioned air. “We’re seeing filtered hoods used more, no doubt,” says Ken Crooks, director, GFH Technology NA at Erlab in Rowley, Massachusetts.

For example, Erlab recently installed 13 filtered hoods at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts. “It’s the first netzero energy lab in Massachusetts,” Crooks says, “and education is our primary sector, but biotech and pharma come in second.”

Related Article: Ductless Fume Hood Maintenance

In addition to the expanding number of installations, lab managers get more choice. As Beth Mankameyer, sales engineer at Labconco in Kansas City, Missouri, says, “There’s more variety in filtered fume hoods due to demand.” She adds, “Some people need the filtered fume hood if a lab is in a basement or a place where they can’t put any more makeup air.”

At AirClean Systems in Creedmoor, North Carolina, inside sales manager Dustin Baskett says that his company offers a variety of filtered solutions. The solutions range from simple ductless workstations for histology, a polypropylene line that won’t rust and provides a deep filtration bed to handle a variety of chemistries, and at the top end, the Independence ductless fume hood that can accommodate multiple applications with one filtration media. He adds, “Our hoods come with different standard safety features, such as electronic gas and airflow monitoring and real-time readings of both airflow and gas levels—all on a user-friendly display.”

In sync with your situation

To get the longest filter life, make sure to get a product with a breakthrough detection system. That means that once the primary filter nears saturation, an alarm sounds. “You’re still safe because of the secondary filter,” Crooks says, “but you want automatic detection.” That way, you keep lab personnel safe, and you get the most out of your filters—replacing them only when needed instead of guessing when it’s required.

Erlab’s Neutrodine filters have such a good reputation that Labconco uses them in its newest filtered hoods. “There are some carbon-filtered hoods meant for minimal use,” Mankameyer explains, “but our hoods that use the Neutrodine filters are the closest thing to a general chemistry ducted fume hood that works with acids, bases, and solvents.”

Related Article: When it Comes to Fume Hoods, Energy Efficiency Often Promises a Quick Return on Investment

“When shopping for a filtered fume hood, it’s very important to perform an assessment of the chemicals that will be used in the hood and to compare them against the list of chemicals that are removed by the filters,” says Alison Farmer, senior engineer II at Californiabased kW Engineering. “While today’s filtration systems can remove a wide range of chemicals, it’s vital to confirm that the selected hood is suitable for each application.” She adds, “Some applications will necessitate a traditional ducted hood.”

Once you find that a filtered hood meets your needs, keep it functioning properly. “It’s important to implement a maintenance plan for the filtered fume hoods—to maintain user safety, filters will require regular replacement,” Farmer explains.

Ultimately, a filtered hood needs to fit your needs. “A misconception is that every ductless or filtered hood is the same,” says Baskett. But they come with different features, he says, such as the three different gas-detection methods in the Independence hoods. Ultimately, safety should top your list when deciding which hood to use.

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For additional resources on fume hoods, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit