Santa Monica College on Tuesday received two rebate checks totaling more than $217,000, the result of a 10-month pilot project intended to cut down on electricity usage.

College officials said the pilot project involved retrofitting the control system for 54 fume hoods in the Science Building, a move that is estimated to save the college approximately $1.5 million over the next 10 years.

Fume hoods are box-like devices widely used by high-tech industries, hospitals and universities to help keep workers safe by capturing, containing and carefully dispersing hazardous fumes. They use a considerable amount of energy since they are usually running 24 hours a day.

A typical fume hood, with a sash opening 6 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet high, circulates air through this sash at 100 feet per minute. The energy to filter, move, cool or heat, and in some cases scrub (clean) this air is one of the largest loads in most lab facilities, according to researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which in 2001 developed new technology to reduce energy usage by at least 50 percent.

The checks were issued by Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy (The Gas Co.).

The fume hood project cost the college approximately $175,000 and is expected to pay for itself in about 1.5 years in utility cost savings, college officials said.

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