Lab freezers are critical pieces of equipment that protect your reagents, pharmaceuticals and samples - basically the culmination of your lab work! Remember this cautionary tale about the freezer failure at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center? Enough said! Promoting the efficient use of your freezer system protects your lab's work, and fits well along side your green lab sustainability goals.
The people at the EPA certainly think so, because they are in midst of updating their Energy STAR data set for lab grade freezers. The new regulations will promote recent freezer innovations like LED lighting, energy efficient cooling compressor sensors, air circulation systems and alternate refrigerant options.
Now, the Energy STAR system is great because it gets us to think about energy efficiency when buying a freezer. But just remember that this system rates freezers among the same types. Whereas you may have options to choose among freezer types….such as chest freezers, upright freezers, walk ins, ultra-low temp, etc... based on your lab's needs. The point is that the most “energy friendly” choice goes beyond the energy star rating.
Whatever lab freezer you use, following "best practice" can ensure the best cryopreservation and the best energy use. Cryopreservation storage slows degradation and keeps your samples sterile. So it's important to know the optimal freezing and thawing parameters. Storing at -80 temp uses more energy, and is not always necessary. Will -70 work just as well? Keep watch in your lab for tell tale signs of trouble. Is the freezer is warming the room, or leaking water? For safety, run redundant temperature monitors with alarms in a separate port. Organize your samples and centralize your records for quick retrieval. Take time once a year to cull unlabeled samples and re-organize those records. You might have more freezer space than you think! These actions will both protect your work, and promote a labconscious work environment.
Let us know your favorite labconscious freezer tips!