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A Guide to Laboratory Cold Storage: Residential vs. Purpose-built

scientist preparing laboratory blood samples

Introduction to Cold Storage Systems

From pharmacies to laboratories, businesses rely on cold storage to keep their products effective and safe. But why invest in purpose-built laboratory cold storage when a common residential fridge will suffice?

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the basics and look at the actual performance metrics of residential cold storage. The downfalls could be costing you much more than you think, both in product quality and resulting waste. Gone are the days when dormitory-style mini fridges will suffice. Purpose-built refrigeration has entered the scene with much-needed upgrades to take scientific and pharmaceutical cold storage to the next level of performance and protection.  


What is Laboratory Cold Storage?

Laboratory cold storage includes refrigerators or freezers that are purposefully designed to store scientific or clinical substances. Cold storage equipment can be anything from ultra low freezers in scientific labs to blood bank refrigerators in medical labs. Laboratory cold storage is important in preserving valuable samples and protecting sensitive substances of all kinds.


Laboratory Cold Storage Temperature Guide

Laboratory storage equipment typically contains countless biological samples, products and solutions that must be properly stored. The ideal storage temperature varies depending on the nature, sensitivity, and volatility of the substance stored.

The following cold storage temperature guide gives general estimates for laboratory cold storage:


Room Temperature Storage (15 to 25°C)

Refrigerator Temperature Range (1 to 4°C)

Freezer Temperature Range (-15 to -25°C)

Ultra Low Freezer Temperature Range (-45 to -86°C)

Cryogenic Freezer Temperature Range (-150 to -273°C)


Depending on the applications of your work, you may use one or all of these cold storage ranges in your lab. 


Choosing the Best Cold Storage Unit

The following sections will guide you through the primary factors to consider when buying cold storage equipment for your lab. While you may be tempted to buy a mini fridge from Home Depot, think again. The following sections will explain why residential refrigeration is actually costing you more than you think, and why purpose-built cold storage will take your laboratory to the next level.

 cryogenic freezer pouring liquid nitrogen


The Truth About Residential Refrigeration

Temperature Fluctuations

First, let’s talk about temperature. Have you ever opened your household fridge and pulled out a half-frozen jug of milk from the back of the shelf? Or perhaps you’ve been dismayed to find a melting box of ice cream on your freezer door. These common occurrences illustrate the simple fact that temperature swings are common in residential refrigeration. This may not be earthshattering if you’re dealing with a head of lettuce, but temperature stability suddenly becomes a lot more important when you’re monitoring clinical, healthcare, or research substances. Ignoring sample integrity will cost you customers, safety, and thousands of dollars of waste.


Inaccurate Readings

Household fridges often give inaccurate temperature readings because of low quality, cheaply produced thermostats. This inaccuracy is further compounded by the fact that readings are only taken at one point in the refrigerator cabinet. These readings don’t give an accurate picture of temperature ranges throughout the entire unit.


Cheap Construction

Residential cold storage units are also less durable in the long run. Cheaper construction, such as the heavy use of plastic and weaker door seals, can give out easier compared to the stainless-steel construction and quality materials of their purpose-built counterparts. The weaker compressors of residential refrigeration are more susceptible to temperature swings as well. This volatility may not seem like much, but when dealing with the precision of pharmaceuticals and laboratory substances, a couple degrees of fluctuation can mean thousands of dollars’ worth of waste.


Not Covered Under Warranty

To top it all off, if your residential unit does give out, your warranty won’t cover a dime. Manufacturers will not cover residential units when they’re being used in commercial settings. If your new refrigerator malfunctions after only one week of use, it’s your loss. All that money—gone.


Why Invest in Purpose-built Refrigeration

Hopefully by now it’s clear that residential cold storage poses a lot of risks. But now let’s talk about the benefits of purpose-built cooling, and why it’s worth the investment.


Temperature Precision

We should start with the most important aspect of any cold storage unit: temperature regulation and control. Purpose-built cold storage uses microprocessor temperature controllers and multi-point temperature probes instead of the inaccurate thermostats of residential refrigeration. Professional cold storage units also strategically place temperature sensors throughout the cooling chamber. This ensures that temperature readings are precise and accurate throughout the whole unit.


Protective Alarm Systems

Alarm systems are another major benefit of professional cold storage. Purpose-built units often include a network of integrated alarms, many of which are automated to heat or cool the unit if temperatures fluctuate outside the set range. Industrial-grade compressors also contribute to this even cooling cycle.


Powerful Compressors

If your application requires frequent door openings, strongly consider purpose-built refrigeration. Frequent door openings can drastically affect the safety of your stored product, especially vaccines and pharmaceuticals. Purpose-built units are equipped with powerful compressors and equalized cooling features designed for these numerous door openings. Residential units simply are not. Furthermore, the efficiency of purpose-built compressors can even reduce operating costs. Not to mention they can help ensure maximum sample protection. Wins all round.


Increased Storage Capacity

Another benefit of going with purpose-built units is increased storage capacity. This benefit alone could convince buyers to invest in professional cold storage. Large chambers and abundant shelving are perks that purpose-built refrigeration provides. Bacteria-resistant, heavy-duty materials further showcase the fact that these units were designed for the long haul in safety, quality, and durability.


Professional Image

Professional image is another aspect to keep in mind when considering cold storage for your establishment. Purpose-built cold storage units are specifically designed for pharmacies and laboratories. Because of their industrial-grade design and features, they lend a professionalism that your average hardware-store fridge cannot. With this equipment, your work environment will be perceived as a professional facility, and as a result—a more trustworthy establishment.


Choosing Specific Equipment for Your Lab

To choose the best cold storage equipment for your needs, take an overview of your lab operations. Medical labs may require ultra low temperature freezers if they’re dealing with plasma, tissues or sensitive body substances. Blood storage requires specific laboratory refrigerators called blood banks. Scientific or research labs may require cryogenic storage with liquid nitrogen to preserve cells or lab samples.

Regardless of this specialized equipment, most labs will require basic lab refrigerators for storing everyday lab materials. Other factors should also be considered in equipment choices such as available floor space and lab layout. Consider the features, reliability, and efficiency of the equipment you want to buy.

How valuable are the substances you’re storing? If you’re storing costly substances in ultra low temperature freezers, you’ll want to make sure you buy equipment with a back up plan so your freezers work in case of a power outage. These simple assessments can save you much time and money, as well as lead you to the specific products and equipment that will work best for you.


clinical blood samples


In the end, is it worth it to go purpose-built? Absolutely. Your business, your professional image, and your resources depend on it. So make the investment.

You’ll be glad you did.  


American Biotech Supply

American Biotech Supply delivers exceptional laboratory and clinical cold storage.


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Munich scientist with sample

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