Key Considerations when Buying a Laboratory Fridge or Freezer


Selecting and buying the right fridge or freezer for your laboratory is an important aspect in modern lab management. You might think it’s as simple as choosing the fridge that looks good and can hold all the samples, but believe it or not, there are many things to weigh up before picking one out.

Selecting the correct laboratory fridge or freezer could be the fine line between a retaining and losing your temperature sensitive samples. If you are replacing old equipment or setting up a new facility, we have outlined some key considerations to help you determine which fridge or freezer is best for your laboratory.

What Temperature range do you require?

One of the most important factors to consider whilst purchasing a fridge is the temperature range. Here are some common ranges for laboratory fridges and freezers.

  • General purpose laboratory refrigerator temperature range (approx) 0 to 10 oC (32 to 5 oF), Freezer 0 to -30  oC  (-22 to 32 oF)
  • Ultra low temperature freezers (ULT’s)  -40 to -86 oC (-40 to -122 oF)
  • Cryogenic Freezers go down to -125 oC (-193 oF)

Life science laboratories require a freezer temperature range of -20 to -40 oC to provide safe and stable storage conditions for many different types of cells and reagents. Most of today’s fridges or freezers also provide the option of a digital setpoint and temperature display. Medical, biological and general laboratory samples have unique temperature needs and thus it is best to know your exact requirements prior to making a decision.

What Capacity do you need?

The refrigerator or freezer capacity depends directly on the amount of samples or tests required for storage. It’s a great idea to check the external dimensions once you have defined your needs to ensure that the new fridge or freezer fits into its designated location. Larger research facilities, institutes, hospitals, laboratories may require larger units or multiple smaller unit to fulfill their storage requirements. Multiple smaller units in some casses can offer a lean layout resulting in less downtime. Consider future requirements whilst purchasing your new fridge or freezer. This could save you additional costs in the long term.

Access – How will I get the new fridge/freezer into the room?

Before deciding where to place a fridge or freezer in your laboratory, it is important to ensure that there is appropriate access keeping it mind all spatial restrains. It is a great idea to walk the route and ensure all doors are wide enough and tall enough(Including elevators). While there are variations and add-ons, it is beneficial to be familiar with the basic styles of fridges (Double door, Side-by-side, Top freezer and Bottom freezer).

What are the ventilation requirements?

Ventilation requirements can vary from model to model. This is a great questions to ask your supplier prior to a purchase to ensure that you have considered this in the device location.  Depending on the type of fridge or freezer, air is mostly sourced from the back and top of the fridge/freezer. In most cases, the larger the ventilation cross-section area, the more energy efficient the fridge or freezer will be. The air inlet and outlet must not be covered or blocked in any way and should be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. If you have ventilation restrictions in you proposed space, ask your supplier about custom ventilation. This is often configured to forced air to the font of the unit so no additional clearance space is needed.

Do I need a monitoring system?

Do you work with temperature sensitive samples? In GLP and GMP research activities and in many other labs, recording of temperature data and alarms are an essential feature which comes standard with many of today’s laboratory refrigerators or freezers. A data-logger and temperature alarm helps keep your samples safe by tracking  temperature  variations inside the cabinet and sounding some type of notification if the temperature exceeds the preset threshold.

There are many other bells and whistles that can be ordered with your new device. Temperature alarm (may be visual, audible or both), temperature chart recorder, digital key lock on unit doors, backup battery system to ensure your unit doesn’t stop working through power outages and even a microprocessor control which will give you greater consistency and greater precision in temperature control.

In summary, there are many questions that could be asked to narrow down the perfect fridge or freezer for your laboratory, but these five will assist in narrowing down the key factors to ensure a great long term investment.

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