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What You Should Know Before Buying Your New Medical Lab Refrigerator

  • by Kevin Driggers
  • Dec 18, 2019, 10:35 AM

Selecting the right refrigerator for your hospital or research facility can be tricky. Your workplace needs a reliable unit that has enough space to store your medical supplies at the correct temperature range.


The marketplace already has a wide variety of specialized refrigeration units. Each one has different features and styles, but which one is right for your institution? There are numerous qualities you should consider before buying your brand-new pharmaceutical-grade unit. In today's American Biotech Supply (ABS) guide, you'll learn how to select your next medical refrigerator.


Question 1: How Should You Use Your Medical Refrigerator?

No single purpose built unit is right for every healthcare setting or research institution. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the facility's operational goals. Facilities should determine how they'll use their new medical refrigerators. 


Decision-makers can pick units with specialized features that meet their primary needs.  For example, pharmacies can buy refrigerators designed to store medications. Hospitals can choose units to house plasma or blood donations at the correct temperature range. Research institutions may want units that can store samples in optimal conditions. 


Most purpose-built units fall into five categories: 


Individuals can use specialized medical refrigerators for different purposes so long as their features are suitable for your project. Choose durable units that can withstand daily use and can adequately protect biological supplies. The medical refrigerator's specs should meet federal standards. When storing vaccines, only use units that adhere to CDC-recommendations.


 

Question 2: Where Should I Put Medical Refrigerator?

Where should you house your new medical refrigerator? Select a temperate, well-ventilated room with low foot-traffic. The secluded area should discourage staff members from constantly opening the unit. This step will prevent unauthorized access by staff members who may open the unit, causing temperature fluctuations.


Keep four inches between the refrigerator and surrounding walls to keep air flowing. This area should be free of debris and have enough space around its vents to ensure better air circulation.


 

Question 3: What Size Should I Select for My Facility?

A medical refrigerator should complement your storage needs. Most units vary in size from compact to large-capacity models. Your facility should estimate how many medical supplies you'll need to store in your medical refrigerator during the busiest time of the year.


Facilities should follow the Goldilocks Rule. Don't select models that are too small, which can cause overcrowding and poor airflow within your medical refrigerator.  Avoid models that are too large for your supplies, because it can affect internal temperatures. Select a unit that is the right size for your medical supplies. Additionally, consider how much room you have to house your medical refrigerator. 


Here are four types of purpose-built units available on the market.


  • Large Capacity – These roomy, freestanding units have 50 cubic feet (1.42 cubic meters) of space or more. They can hold a large amount of biological such as annual vaccine supplies for flu season. Large-capacity models can also store other items like medical devices. Many units are upright and cost more than their smaller counterparts. You'll need to have 4" of ventilation around your large-capacity refrigerator.

  • Countertop Models – These compact models are great for offices with limited space or a lab. They don't require special installation. To use them, you'll only need to plug them into an outlet. Countertop refrigerators are ideal for facilities that store small supplies of vaccines and biological samples. Their vents are rear-facing. Freestanding models don't have exterior fans, so don't place them in closed-in spaces. They should also stay on tables or countertops instead of floors.

  • Undercounter/Built-in Models –Are you trying to maximize space in your laboratory or healthcare facility? These compact appliances optimize space in any setting. Manufacturers design these zero-clearance refrigerators to fit in enclosed areas beneath desks or tabletops. These appliances have forward-facing vents that release heat generated by compressors, so the unit cools down. Undercounter units cost more than other models because they require professional installation. ABS produces premium undercounter models that will work in your healthcare setting.

  • Flammable/Explosion-Proof Models –Facilities must store combustible materials at the right temperatures to prevent fires and potential explosions. Explosion-proof refrigerators have features to prevent fires, explosions, and hazards. They also shield biologics from hazardous conditions. ABS offers several medical-grade refrigerators that protect flammable materials.

ABS produces a selection of high-quality, reliable refrigerators that will work well in any laboratory setting. Find out more about our refrigerators on this page.


 

Question 4: What Costs Should I Consider When Purchasing a Refrigerator?

Many hospitals and research institutions seek ways to reduce their administrative costs. Buying lower-priced domestic models may seem more affordable, but they can cause long-term problems. Manufacturers design household refrigerators to store food products. They don't keep a tight temperature range. These domestic models can experience higher fluctuations that may ruin your research samples, vaccines, and transfusions.


According to the CDC, excursion events occur when temperatures exceed the recommended ranges. Several studies have already documented their impacts. The federal agency says American hospitals lost $20 million and 35 percent of vaccines annually due to temperature excursion events. This statistic doesn't include wasted medicines and pharmaceutical drugs. A World Health Organization study found that temperature excursions can affect the viability of transfusions. Life-threatening reactions have occurred due to bacterial infections in blood products. These events can also impact research studies.


Don't cut corners when buying a refrigerator for your institution. Budget enough money to buy units with the right features and functionality. Medical refrigerators will save you time and money. You won't need to repurchase replacement medications or purchase duplicate vials of vaccines. It can reduce your facility's liability by protecting reducing infectious agents in blood transfusions.


 

 

Question 5: Why Should I Choose Models With Temperature Consistency?

Accurate temperature regulation is another feature providers should take into consideration before buying a medical refrigerator.  Medical-grade units have several specialized features to ensure temperature consistency.


These well-made units produce more reliable, consistent temperatures and tighter ranges than their domestic counterparts. Many have microprocessor controllers that display live simulated temperatures. They have compressors that quickly reach and maintain targeted temperature zones and prevent temperature excursions. These events occur when values rise or fall outside of the recommended ranges.


Select medical refrigerators that maintain an ideal range for your biological materials. For example, vaccines, temperatures should be kept in temperatures ranging from 35º to 46º F (or 2º C and 8º C).


Your unit should include automated temperature tracking. The CDC recommends buying medical refrigerators with Temperature Monitoring Devices and Digital Data Loggers (DDL). They allow healthcare workers to track internal temperatures without opening the door. It also records temperature excursion events and minimum/maximum values. Here are some other features your TMD should have:


  • A digital display on the outside of your unit that is easy to read. 

  • An alarm for out-of-range temperature readings

  • Temperature accuracy within +/-1ºC (+/-.5ºC)

  • A low-battery indicators

  • Memories that store 4,000 readings

Units should also have a back-up digital data logger.


 

Question 6: Why Should You Select a Purpose-Grade Unit with Proper Shelving?

Your facility should buy medical-grade units with shelving systems that promote efficient airflow. Choose medical refrigerators with built-in shelves or adjustable shelves. Make sure it can hold your largest annual supply without overcrowding. There should be enough space between each vaccine vial and biological samples, so air circulates properly. According to the CDC, the refrigerators should minimize internal temperature variance to +/-2 C.


Most domestic models use glass shelving that is easy to clean. Unfortunately, these features can impede airflow within medical refrigerators, which rely on fan-forced air circulation systems. When buying a unit, select a medical-grade unit with wire, plastic, or perforated shelves that allow air to circulate throughout the unit.


Some medical refrigerators contain drawers with solid fronts that protect vaccines and biological samples from ambient temperatures. They should have perforated wire or plastic interiors. Each unit must have adequate space to promote better airflow.


 


Question 7: What Additional Features Should I Consider?

Buyers should consider five more features when purchasing a medical refrigerator. They include: 


  • Self-Closing Doors - A busy healthcare worker can inadvertently leave a medical refrigerator's door open. This oversight can ruin supplies when ambient temperatures rise inside the machine. Most pharmaceutical-grade units have self-closing doors that can eliminate this problem.

  • Hospital-Grade Cords - Many household refrigerators only come with a standard, three-pronged cord. Medical units have hospital-grade power cords that meet standards outlined in UL 60601-1 and CAN/CSA C22.2 no. 21. They have solid pins and giant plug bodies that eliminate the risk of wire-to-outer-contour shock. These appliances can also withstand strong pull forces.

  • Open Door Alarms - Medical-grade refrigerators have alarms that alert staff when doors are open for more than a minute.

  • Security Features - Some units have digital locks and keypads, which prevent unauthorized access to medications and vaccines.

  • Defrost Cycle -The CDC recommends refrigerators that have an automatic defrost cycle. Units should stay frost-free to store vaccines safely.

 


Question 8: Why Should You Choose ABS?

When buying a medical refrigerator, you should only purchase one from an established company with a stellar reputation for great products and excellent customer service. ABS has a large variety of purpose-built vaccine storage units. Our units provide consistent temperature performance. We also provide outstanding customer support after you buy a medical refrigerator from us.


Our medical refrigerator also comes with the following features:


  1. Microprocessor Controller with Digital Temperature Display - Our precision controls meet federal standards. The gauges display the simulated temperatures for live samples.

  2. Forced Draft Circulation - Every unit has temperature uniformity and recovery after door openings by using a powerful internal fan to circulate air.

  3. Temperature Alarms - ABS models have audible and visual alarms. ABS devices also provide warnings about high and low-temperature excursion events.

  4. Remote Alarm Contacts - This feature allows machines to connect with a central building alarm system.

  5. Probe Access Port - Our machines have access ports or digital data loggers or central building monitoring system temperature probes.

  6. Quality Insulation - ABS provides 50 percent more installation than household units.

  7. Door Locks - We provide high-security locks to protect your medications and supplies.

ABS has a variety of temperature-controlled medical refrigerators that can serve your needs. We have more than 25 years of experience serving clients in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Contact us today for details on our models.

 

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