What is the difference between a laboratory and domestic refrigerator/freezer?


Fridges and freezers are a vital piece of laboratory equipment. They work for 24 hours a day, seven days a week storing samples, reagents, kits, chemicals, and poisons in the required optimum cold environmental conditions. How can the everyday researcher be confident that they are getting the right fridge or freezer? With pressures on finances, researchers may default to selecting domestic fridges and freezers to achieve cost savings, however, you should consider the following before making your decision.


There are many additional options that are available to be purchased with the laboratory fridge/freezer such as Door Jar Alarms, Automatic Diallers, Datalogging, Battery Backup, Port entries, Stainless Interior/Exterior and much more. With a domestic fridge/freezer, you get what you buy as they are designed and built in high volume without the ability to add optional laboratory specific features as mentioned above.

Temperature Monitoring

Temperature monitoring on domestic units is generally not useful because it varies a lot, and it is quite difficult and costly to retrofit non-frost-free versions with alarm systems. Domestic models should therefore not be used for highly prized samples and sensitive/costly kits and media. Laboratory grade refrigerators and freezers are the correct substitutes. Lab fridges and freezers can not only be alarmed, but are also fitted with digital displays allowing you to visually sight temperature fluctuations and limit access to regain a safe running temperature.


It is important to consider the total life cost of a refrigerator/freezer as it can be uneconomical to purchase a domestic unit even though the upfront cost may be lower. The interior covering of domestic refrigerators/freezers are not built to endure the typical humidity and chemical exposures found within laboratories and can substantially reduce their lifespan if used in a laboratory application. Domestic units are not designed to be opened and closed to the extent that they are within a laboratory; this further contributes to poor temperature maintainability, as well as longevity of the unit.


A Laboratory refrigerator or freezer normally come with a fixed or extended warranty. From the experience at Westlab Group, 96% of issues can be sorted over the phone. With the remaining 4% that can’t be fixed over the phone, we have service agents in each province ready to get to action if need be.  As soon as a domestic refrigerator/freezer is used for non-domestic purposes, it normally voids the normal warranty of that unit. Additionally, repairs are difficult to coordinate and usually costly as most technicians will not repair units outside of normal household circumstances.

Storage of solvents

A Laboratory refrigerator or freezer normally have their wiring located on the outside and are well-sealed, so that accumulation of volatile / possibly caustic chemical fumes in a closed space and the possibility of an electrical spark leading to an explosion, is highly unlikely. They are also spark proof options available to assist with minimising the chance of an ignition.


A Laboratory refrigerator/freezer is normally lockable so that the contents can be protected, especially in larger more open laboratories. This is important for legislated requirements such as scheduled drugs or hazardous products such as venom etc… A domestic fridge or freezer doesn’t come with locks as they are designed for the domestic market where a lock can be a safety breech for children.


In summary, the selection of suitable cold storage in the laboratory can unintentionally impact research continuity and lead onto financial losses. It is essential to carefully consider refrigeration and freezer choices according to the level of risk you can accept according to your research needs. Fridges and freezers manufactured especially for the laboratory markets are designed with many important features that are not found in general domestic fridges and freezers. When looking at the long-term ROI, a laboratory refrigerator or freezer is normally by far a more valuable and cost-effective choice.

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