How to Choose a Lab Refrigerator or Freezer

Laboratory refrigerators and laboratory freezers are designed and constructed to meet much stricter standards than typically found in household or commercial units.  Pharmaceuticals, blood and plasma, for example, must be stored within tight temperature ranges to avoid loss of potency or spoilage.  Lab refrigerators and lab freezers such as manufactured by Nor-Lake and available from Tovatech are built to meet the demanding requirements of pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare providers.

Design Options

Laboratory and healthcare provider purchasing agents can choose from a broad menu of sizes and configurations when looking for lab refrigerators and lab freezers.  Common to all are heavy-duty refrigeration systems that work to maintain temperatures within prescribed parameters as programmed into incorporated temperature controls.  Units also feature visual and audio high-low alarm systems to alert personnel if these limits are exceeded.

Then it becomes a question of size and function.  Lab refrigerators, for example, are offered in upright units with choices of single, double or triple glass or solid doors.  Free-standing or undercounter and stackable units are also available. These same options are found in general purpose lab freezers, with the addition of a special low-temperature option to -30˚C (-22˚F).  Or a combination laboratory refrigerator and freezer may be the best solution.

Selecting between an automatic defrost and a manual defrost lab refrigerator or lab freezer is another option that must be addressed.  Automatic defrosting units offer convenience but are more costly to operate and, because they circulate air within the unit, may cause unsealed contents to dry out.  They also introduce what could be unacceptable variations in temperature during the defrosting cycle. Manual defrost units provide lab personnel with 100 percent control of when this will happen.  But this option requires an alternate unit to store product during the defrosting cycle.

Flammable and/or explosion-proof units may be called for to address serious safety issues.  Flammable units are designed so that volatile substances cannot be ignited by an internal stray spark such as from a compressor or lighting.  If the atmosphere in the lab itself is volatile an explosion-proof laboratory refrigerator or freezer must be specified.


What guides your purchasing criteria when looking for a laboratory refrigerator or freezer?  Please share any experiences you may have had with household or commercial units.

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    About Rachel Kohn

    So how did an MIT Ph.D. end up selling refrigerators? When I figured out that a lot more scientists buy lab refrigerators than innovative leading-edge instruments. I hope that my many years of lab experience will help you find the right equipment for your work. Before co-founding Tovatech I worked in business development and project management at Smiths Detection, Photon-X, Cardinal Health, and Hoechst Celanese. And before that I spent 12 years as an R&D chemist at Hoechst Celanese and Aventis working on advanced drug delivery systems, polymer films and membranes, optical disks, and polysaccharides. Some day, eventually, I’ll make enough money to develop an innovative technology that will change the world.