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The Biggest Mistakes of Buying a Medical Freezer… and How to Avoid Them

Selecting the med freezer that is right for your facility depends on your unique needs. Not all freezers are created equally. Or, more accurately, not all freezers are created for the same needs. When it comes time to buy yours, here are a few common mistakes that our customers have made and how you can avoid them.

Buying a Used Freezer

Let’s say you’re in the market for a med freezer and you happen to come across a facility or lab that is upgrading theirs. They offer to sell you their old one at a cheaper price than you will pay for a new one. Why not jump on a good deal? There are a number of reasons why not, including:

  • You don’t know how well a used freezer has been maintained. Has it been overloaded in the past, which may affect its ability to keep a consistent temperature? Was the freezer defrosted at least once annually? Has it been regularly calibrated? Does the unit have a rear condenser, and has that condenser been kept clean throughout the use of the unit?

  • You don’t know where the freezer has been stored. The life expectancy of a freezer is greatly shortened if the unit has been stored in a warm room, as the warmth makes the compressors work harder. Another thing that can limit the lifespan of a freezer is being stored in a place where there is not the proper ventilation for the unit.

  • The freezer may have been used for a different purpose. Pharmacy models and lab models require different temperatures that are based on the type of item being stored in them. A lab freezer requires a lower temperature for storing items such as biological samples, reagents, and enzymes. Pharmacy units are designed for the safe storage of vaccines and other medications, and meet the compliance standards provided by the CDC. If you don’t know what the purpose of the freezer is or how the previous owner used it, you cannot be completely ensured that it will suit your needs or be safe in the situation in which you plan to use it.

  • Lack of service and customer support after the sale is complete.

Tip: While buying a used med freezer may seem like a financially responsible choice, it could end up costing you more in the long run if it is unable to store your products in a consistent temperature and operate according to your specific needs. It is better to budget for a new freezer that no one else has owned and (perhaps improperly) cared for.

Buying a Household Freezer for Medical Use

Many people are tempted to grab a household or dorm-sized unit from their local store. However, these units not only don’t provide accurate and consistent temperatures — which is extremely important for maintaining the integrity and safety of the product you’re storing within it — but they also aren’t designed for green dot receptacles that are required for hospital grade use. Further, domestic units contain elements such as bulbs, motors, or switches that could be sources of ignition if you’re storing hazardous chemicals in your freezer. If your freezer were to ignite, you’d likely have little recourse, as your warranty would be voided due to the use of a household unit in a lab setting.

VCF guidelines forbid the use of a household or dormitory-style freezer/ refrigerator for vaccine storage for several reasons, including the inability to keep a controlled temperature as needed for vaccines, as well as the fact that these units generally vent air from the freezer to the refrigerator or are cooled by a evaporator plate or cooling coil — both of which increase the chance of your vaccines freezing. 

Tip: Leave the household freezer at home (or in the staff lounge so that your staff isn’t tempted to use your medical freezer or refrigerator to store their meals) and let us help you find a med freezer that is safe to use in your facility.

Selecting a Freezer Based Solely on Price

While we understand that med freezers are a big investment, we also understand that what you store inside of them can be an even bigger investment. There are so many other criteria that need to be met when shopping for a medical freezer, including:

  • The size of the space you have for your unit, as well as whether the freezer will be kept in a high traffic area or if you need an under-the-counter model in order to conserve space.

  • Whether you need a standalone freezer or a refrigerator and freezer combo unit with separate doors and separate temperature settings for each part of the unit.

  • Whether an upright freezer or a chest is needed. Upright freezers tend to have more shelves available for additional storage, but it can be more difficult to maintain a steady temperature throughout the unit. Chest freezers are harder to organize, but they offer the ability to store larger materials as well as to provide long-term freezer storage. Additionally, it is easier to maintain a consistent temperature with a chest freezer.

  • What type of materials are you storing? Do you need shelves for organization so as to avoid a lab mix-up? Do you need a place to store large materials? Do you need precise temperature control on your unit?

Tip: As you can see, there are so many other things to consider besides price. However, budget constraints are a reality for most facilities. When shopping for a med freezer, it is important to first get an idea of what you need, research the prices of the units that best meet your needs, and determine the best way to afford the investment.

Choosing a Freezer that is Too Big or Too Small

Size isn’t just about how much space you have for your unit. The other important consideration with size is that — if you buy a freezer that is too big or too small — you risk overloading or under-loading the unit. Refrigeration units work best when they’re between 30-80 percent full. If you don’t have enough inside your freezer, the temperature between the top and the bottom of the unit will fluctuate wildly. If you have too much in it, air will not circulate as it should, creating hot or cold spots that can damage your contents.

Tip: When choosing the perfect med freezer for your facility, it is important to have a realistic estimate as to the amount of contents you wish to store inside it. That, along with ensuring you have the space to house the unit in a room that is not too warm or too overloaded with components that can increase the temperature in the room, is one of the most important considerations.

With 25 years of experience, we are experts at providing our customers with solutions to fit their individual needs, as well as competitive pricing and industry-leading service. Contact us for more information. 


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