Kristen Hicks on August 31, 2016 0 Comments Table of Contents How Is A Medical Freezer Different? Common Uses for Medical Freezers Types of Freezers Available Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands When you’re on the market for a lab freezer, you know that finding a model that meets your needs and provides consistent performance is crucial. Whether it’s the health of your patients, the viability of your research, or the life span of the medications you’re storing, the uses the product will be put to are usually of the utmost importance. The manufacturers of medical freezers know the stakes are high and thus strive to produce products that can meet the more stringent requirements of a medical practice or research laboratory. Naturally, that means medical freezers tend to cost quite a bit more than your typical residential freezers found on the market. However, when you consider what you will be using it for, the extra expense is well worth it. As you likely know, finding the best lab freezer for your unique situation is a bit more complicated than simply buying the first unit you come across. Our guide will cover the main factors you should consider while you browse your options, in hopes of guiding you to making the best buying decision for your lab, pharmacy or research facility. How Is A Medical Freezer Different? Before we dive into how to find the best lab freezer, lets first discuss how these devices differ from their residential counterparts. Like all medical or lab equipment, freezers are designed specifically to meet the stringent safety standards required to be used for medicinal purposes. In a general sense, your conventional residential freezer will not be designed to meet these requirements, and is unlikely to work for medical purposes. Some of these requirements may include: Click Here to Shop for a Medical or Lab Freezer Maintaining a specific temperature with great consistency. Reaching especially cold temperatures for the sake of keeping certain types of medical and laboratory samples fresh. Making it easy for users to know if or when the freezer ever falls out of the temperature range required. Providing reliable durability to avoid the costs and consequences of ruined samples or medications. If you try to use a home freezer for medical purposes, you’re taking a very big risk and, in some cases, you may even be in breach of the law. Obviously, this will be dependent on the situation in which you find yourself in and how you plan on using the freezer. Common Uses for Medical Freezers The main places that are likely to make use of medical freezers are hospitals or other medical practices, including pharmacies and research laboratories. They provide the level of consistency and specialized features that ensure that sensitive items remain viable, such as: Vaccines, which must be stored according to CDC guidelines (PDF). Other medications that require a consistent temperature for storage. Chemicals that may be either ruined or dangerous if not stored within a specific temperature range. Medical laboratory samples and donations, such as blood, plasma and bone marrow. Sensitive research samples and material, such as biological research samples of tissue or cells. While certainly not the most comprehensive list, these are some of the common scenarios in which someone would likely need to consider using a freezer in their laboratory or medical setting. In each of these cases, the performance of the freezer must be of the utmost concern to ensure you can appropriately handle the task at hand. Types of Medical & Lab Freezers While they are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, there are four main types of medical freezers that you will come across during your search for the perfect unit. Upon examining the various options, your facility should have no problem finding a freezer that meets the unique needs. Upright Medical Freezer Upright medical freezers are one of the most common types you will come across. They come in a variety of sizes. You can find small ones that fit easily on a counter, an ideal solution for offices with limited space or only needing to store a small quantity of samples or medications. From there the sizes available will gradually grow larger, with the biggest capacities designed to satisfy the storage requirements of research facilities or hospitals. Like home freezers, upright medical freezers often include some shelving to allow users to take optimal advantage of the space available. The upright design is useful for minimizing the space the freezers take up, particularly for the larger models that don’t take up much floor space for the amount of storage capacity they offer. Undercounter Medical Freezer Undercounter or built-in lab freezers are typically on the smaller side, so they can fit easily into the space allotted to them. They are an ideal solution for labs that don’t want to, or are unable to, give up floor space, instead opting to utilize cabinet space by building in a freezer. In regard to functionality, a built-in freezer is going to be very similar to its upright counterpart, but designed to fit a little more seamlessly into the space and use forward facing vents to allow for proper ventilation required for undercounter refrigeration appliances. Many undercounter medical freezers will have a greater upfront cost for installation, but you can find models that don’t require professional installation. Chest Medical Freezer Medical chest freezers look a lot like other chest or deep freezers. They tend to be large and they open from the top rather than the front. They offer quite a bit of storage space, but without the shelving upright medical freezers have that allow for orderly organization. Chest freezers are especially useful in cases where you need to be able to fit large items within the device. Unlike a deep freezer you’ll see in homes, they often come with some of the same special features found in other types of medical freezers, such as alarm systems to alert users if the temperature changes, digital temperature displays or a lock on the door. Ultra Low Temperature Medical Freezers Some types of materials require especially low temperatures. In these instances, you will likely need an ultra-low temperature freezer. These are designed to reach temperatures as low as -85° or -86°, making them an ideal appliance for any facility that requires a consistent temperature to properly store sensitive materials. Ultra low temperature freezers are typically great for consistency and power, but they may also use a lot of energy to maintain those extra low temperatures. This is important to note, as it is possible that you will see a little extra cost when it comes to your energy bill. Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Lab Freezer Medical freezers are typically purchased by health care professionals or researchers who already have a very specific purpose in mind. You’re probably coming to the purchasing process with some idea already of what your lab freezer should be capable of, in order to meet your specific needs. To make sure you choose the best freezer for your facility, we’ve listed out a few important factors that should be considered while browsing your options. Size You need to balance how much space you have available in your lab, with the level of capacity you need your freezer to possess. Upright medical freezers are good for taking up less floor space, even as larger models can manage a high capacity. They also often make it easier to fit a larger quantity of smaller items in the space due to the shelving provided. Oftentimes, this shelving can be customized and reconfigured to better meet your storage needs. Chest medical freezers will often be best choice for facilities where the items you’re storing are larger in nature, but they do tend to take up more floor space than some of your other options. Keep in mind potential growth in your needs. If you buy a smaller freezer hoping to save money or space today, but find it doesn’t hold enough or is unable to be configured in a way to suit you best, then it’s possible that you’ll have to buy a second unit in the future. This leads to more space and money being allotted to a second device that you likely could’ve avoided with your initial purchase. As you’d expect, larger models will tend to cost more than smaller units with similar features, but that extra cost will be worth it if the larger freezer is better suited for your lab. Temperature As long as you know how you’ll be using your lab freezer before purchase, you should have a clear idea of what temperature range you will likely need. Most medical freezers will offer temperature ranges comparable to what you’d find with home freezers, around -18°,-20° or -25°. However, you will find a few “ultra low” freezers designed to maintain a consistent temperature down in ranges like -40° to -86°. The major benefit of medical freezers, in comparison to your typical residential freezer, is that they’re much more precise about the temperature. You want to be extra careful that you a device that can not only provide you with a precise temperature, but can do so in a manner in which is sustainable and consistent. Most medical freezers also come equipped with a number of safety features to help you ensure your freezer maintains the correct temperature at all times, like digital displays of the current temperature on the outside of the freezer and alarms that alert users when there’s been an unexpected change. Cost All businesses and organizations have to consider budget, and a new freezer for your lab can get pretty expensive. The amount you have to spend could place a limit on what options you have to choose from. It would be wise to get a clear picture of what you need out of the unit, as this will be able to give you a better idea of the price range in which you will need to set budget aside for. As you can imagine, larger lab freezers and those designed to reach ultra low temperatures will generally be more expensive, no matter what features they may or may not offer. Many of the smaller upright freezers, countertop units and built-in models will typically much lower in price, but they won’t always be a good fit or provide the storage capacity required per each facility. Energy Efficiency Keeping the air in a space artificially cold takes some serious energy, especially when you are intentionally plummeting the temperature to extreme levels. To conserve energy and, ultimately, the cost in which it takes to run it, we would typically suggest looking for a lab freezer that is Energy Star rated. However, at the time of this publication, the EPA is currently developing the guidelines for laboratory grade refrigeration, which would include freezers. As of thirteen days ago, the EPA has finalized their 3rd draft to hash out the criteria in which lab equpment would qualify as being Energy Star approved. You can read that draft here (PDF). In the meantime, if energy costs are a concern, you can find some brands that prioritize energy efficiency in the freezers they manufacture. If they have residential freezers available, look to see if they have any that are Energy Star approved. While this is ambiguous and certainly not inclusive to their entire product line, it will give you a better idea of whether that specific brand is keeping energy efficiency in mind as they design and roll-out new products. Features to Look For: External Digital Thermometer: Many medical freezers have a digital thermometer prominently featured on the outside of the unit. This is a popular feature to look for, as it allows you to easily see and monitor the temperature within, eliminating the need to open the door and let cold air out. Lock: For many types of medications or chemicals, security is going to be of utmost importance. A lock will help keep out people whom don’t have authorization to access the contents inside, as well as help minimize the frequency in which the freezer is opened. Glass Doors: A freezer with see-through doors lets you easily stay knowledgeable about what’s inside without having to open the door. Combo Fridge/Freezer: Depending on what all you have to store, it may make sense to get a lab freezer that comes with a refrigerator section in tandem. If you have a need for both, buying a combo could cost you less than buying them separately. Temperature Alarm: If the temperature of your freezer rises above the level required for your samples or medications due to an electrical outage, malfunction or user error, you need to know right away. Many models come with an alarm to help alert users to the change quickly enough to keep the items within from spoiling. Primary Medical Freezer Brands For most of the common uses of lab freezers, the stakes are high. Safety and security is a major priority. If your freezer breaks, it’s not just a little bit of rotten food you have to worry about, it’s the loss of important medical samples, or blood that people have donated, or ruined vaccines that could have saved people’s lives, or all of the research you’ve been working on. Failure isn’t an option here. That means it pays to go with a brand that has a solid reputation. Below are a few of the top brands that are manufacturing lab freezers, as well as a general summary of what people have said about their units within reviews. American BioTech Supply American BioTech is a major player when it comes to lab equipment and medical supplies. They offer a wide range of freezers, including various sizes, types and designs that are suitable for a number of key uses. They have a solid reputation for manufacturing lab equipment. We found a few customer reviews that praised their units for being well-built, reliable, and for having useful extra features, such as door locks and temperature alarms. Their line of freezers typically come with a warranty for parts and labor, which further backs up their reputation for reliability. Between the wide range of options and positive reputation, there’s a good chance that American BioTech Supply is a strong choice for your needs. EdgeStar EdgeStar is another popular brand in the refrigeration space. Like many brands on this list, they specialize in other types of appliances typically for residential purposes. Their line of wine coolers and mini fridges are well-known in this space and are backed with praise from those that left reviews. It is only natural that EdgeStar took their product knowledge into the medical space, with their lab equipment earning the same positive reviews as their other refrigeration products. At this time, you may find a smaller selection of medical equipment, but EdgeStar has done a great job, thus far, at manufacturing reliable devices that garner praise from all around. Nor-Lake Nor-Lake offers a very wide range of medical freezers including models that are designed to reach ultra-low temperatures or specifically to store plasma. While reviews of their products online are minimal, the ones we found were positive and their reputation in the industry appears to be strong. Their line of lab freezers are often energy efficient and provide useful features like audio and visual temperature alarms and digital LED temperature displays. So-Low So-Low also offers a wide range of lab freezers that can be used for various specialized purposes. There aren’t too many reviews of their models online, but they’re a familiar name in the world of lab equipment. So-Low has been around for decades and has offered freezers that get the job done throughout that time. Their freezers go through extensive testing to ensure they meet the exacting requirements of a medical environment, and most come with warranties to back that up. Summit Summit’s medical freezers receive solid ratings from users. Much like EdgeStar, this brand is better known for residential appliances, including a rather large selection of refrigerators and freezers. When it comes to lab equipment, Summit has a decent amount of options and sizes to choose from all designed to offer easy and consistent temperature control. Most of their lab freezers come with handy features, such as locks or temperature displays. Conclusion When you work in healthcare or a medical research field, you know how important your day-to-day work is. The appliances you make use of during your day-to-day tasks will not only help you achieve your goal, they are oftentimes an essential element that can make or break the level of success you ultimately achieve. When it comes to buying a new freezer for your lab, you need a reliable device that you can depend on. With the right appliance, you can focus on your job and not worry about whether the supplies or equipment you use is able to handle the task.