Steam sterilizers, a subcategory of autoclaves, are utilized in three major applications: hospitals,
pharmaceutical manufacturers, and research institutions. They are used to disinfect (1) surgical
instruments in hospitals and (2) instruments and apparatus used in the research and manufacture
of products where sterilization is essential. The purpose of sterilization is to destroy all living
microorganisms that include spores, viruses and bacteria including those that cause infection or
disease (pathogens). Although other types of sterilizers exist, including dry heat, ethylene oxide,
and radiation, steam sterilizers are by a large margin the most widely used form of sterilization.
Sterilizers present a major opportunity for water conservation because water is used in these
units when they are in operation and when they are at idle.
Water is used in sterilizers in two main areas: jacket and chamber trap cooling and in the ejector,
which is used to create the vacuum. Depending upon the unit’s usage pattern and size, water and
sewer rates, operator practices, and other factors, trapway cooling and/or ejector vacuum water
usage may be a candidate for water efficiency.