Did you know that the ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer market is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 3.7% through 2026?
We can attribute the growth rate to several factors:
- The general increase in funding in the biomedical and life science industries.
- Increased research and work in vaccine production and preservation.
- Increased awareness and need for organ donation.
- The shift toward more economically sustainable technologies.
- Increased genome research.
With the growing need for ULT freezers, you may find yourself overwhelmed with all of the different options available.
To make sure you choose the right equipment for your lab, we’ll cover what ULT freezers are, how to choose the one that will best fit your needs, where you can find them, and other purchase considerations. Here’s everything you should know about ultra-low temp freezers before you invest.
Ultra-Low Temp Freezers—What Are They?
Not to be mixed up with a cryogenic freezer, ULT freezers are a crucial fixture in any lab environment because they ensure various samples are safely stored. ULT freezers are significantly colder than a typical freezer, operating within the -50°C to -86°C temperature range.
At these temperatures, ULT freezers are often used to store everything from blood and blood derivatives.
What exactly can ultra-low temp freezers store?
- Stem cells
- Bone marrow
- Flammable chemicals
- Animal DNA
Most labs store hundreds of thousands of dollars in biological samples, so a ULT freezer is vital to protecting the necessary research samples. Of course, professionals want a reliable freezer, but reliability isn’t the only thing to consider. It’s also important to consider price, storage capacity, energy consumption, noise, space, and flow of the entire lab. Improper storage could lead to significant sample losses, resulting in a substantial negative impact on daily work and operational costs.
Pricing is dependent on voltage, box capacity, and size in cubic feet. A buyer can likely expect to spend anywhere between $8,000 to $20,000 for a ULT freezer. Specific options may fall outside this range based on the manufacturer and whether it’s new or used.
What Type of Ultra-Low Temp Freezer Is Right For Me?
It can be challenging to determine what ULT freezer your lab needs without looking at the available options. The number of varying models and slight differences in features can be overwhelming. ULT freezers come equipped with different finishes, touchscreens, alarm systems, refrigeration cycles, compressors, and much more.
In the case of ULT freezers, it may be best to start by understanding the most common types available. From there, it will become easier to narrow down what specific features you want from the freezer.
Upright ULT freezers are similar to the upright models found in most restaurants or used for long term food storage. They are available in one door and two-door configurations, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your available lab space and workflow.
They are the ideal option when there isn’t a lot of available floor space, but there is plenty of room in the area to allow for the doors to open out. This is especially helpful for labs that utilize many shelves and overhead compartments along walls.
Some upright models offer an automatic defrost option. Many include built-in shelves and racks.
ULT chest freezers are similar to residential or commercial deep freezers. They take up more floor space but open up from the top, with the freezer door on top acting as a lid. Inside the freezer, you can place racks and boxes to make storage and organization easier.
A walk-in freezer is needed in rare situations where an extensive sample collection has to be maintained across a high number of individual ULT freezers. Walk-in freezers allow professionals to walk in and out on an as-needed basis to access the samples. With this approach, the staff is limited to the amount of time they can remain in the freezer.
Some standard operating procedures should be in place to ensure the safety of all professionals who must enter. Access to the freezers themselves should also be limited so the freezers can recover after being exposed to warmer air.
You can also find benchtop freezers designed to sit on a counter. If you don’t need a lot of storage space, you may also consider under-counter models.
Where Can I Find Ultra-Low Temp Freezers?
You can find ultra-low temp freezers directly from the manufacturer, through lab auctions, or you choose to lease one. There are a few popular manufacturers worth researching as you make your choice. Let’s review some of the most common among them.
- Eppendorf: Founded in 1945 in Hamburg, Germany, Eppendorf now serves the global market with locations worldwide. They specialize in developing and selling lab instruments, services for liquid-samples, cell handling, and consumables. They have a wide range of lab equipment, including ultra-low temperature freezers, ranging from an average of $12,000 to $21,000.
- Fisher Scientific/Thermo Fisher Scientific: Thermo Fisher Scientific is a leader in scientific instrumentation, reagents and consumables, and software and services. The brand has a long-standing history of high-quality tools and instruments across several industries. Its refrigeration and freezer units are FDA approved. While pricing averages anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000, you may need to contact the manufacturer for a quote, depending on the specific unit you’re interested in.
- Nuaire: Founded in 1971, this company started by designing the heavy-duty safety cabinet for the National Institute of Health (NIH). The company continues to manufacture equipment for the healthcare industry. Visit their official website to request a price quote.
- Continental Scientific: This Pennsylvania-based company started with healthcare refrigeration and expanded to later include freezers. Each stainless steel unit has to run continuously for 12 hours to test for leaks, temperature issues, and a range of other problems. Contact the manufacturer for a price quote.
What Else Should I Consider When Purchasing an Ultra Low Temp Freezer?
With an idea of the type of freezer you need and the manufacturer you’re interested in, it’s also essential to think critically about:
- Where the unit will be in your lab and its orientation. You can’t put a chest freezer in areas with little floor space. Similarly, you cannot put an upright freezer in a place where an open door would impede the traffic flow through the lab because accessibility is crucial. You want your cold storage to have easy access. If you suspect you may need to move the lab freezer, consider purchasing a unit with casters. If you need long-term storage and sample protection that won’t be accessed often, it’s still important to factor in location and orientation so you can ensure things operate smoothly.
- Volume capacity and storage options. Will there be enough space to store everything you need to keep? How easily will you be able to add shelves and drawers or boxes for storage and organization? Are there compartments with doors inside the unit? How easily can the samples be accessed if they must be accessed frequently?
- Energy usage and sustainability. Is the unit energy efficient? How does the setpoint potentially impact your energy usage and utility bills? Does the lab freezer have temperature control? Is there a backup system in place should the refrigeration system begin to fail? Are the refrigerants used right for the environment? Are they conducive to consistent temperature uniformity throughout the entire unit?
- Maintenance, noise levels, and convenience. How often will you have to service the unit for routine maintenance? Will it run quietly, or is it so loud it will disrupt work in the lab? Is it the most convenient option for your staff? Is there a strong warranty in place to help you if there are ever issues with the freezer?
- Standard operating procedures. How will the equipment fit into your existing operational processes? Are you prepared to adjust them accordingly where needed?
- Employee safety. At such cold temperatures, employees should only spend short periods in the freezer. There should also be adequate equipment available to keep them as protected as possible while they’re exposed.
With so many ULT freezers to choose from on the market today, it can be hard to distinguish between price and value and what your lab needs. To make the most of your budget, consider leasing an ultra-low temperature freezer with us at Excedr.
Contact us today to cover all your lab equipment needs and answer any questions you might have procuring your ultra-low temp freezer.