How to Choose a Biomedical Refrigerator

Every medical and pharmaceutical lab and office will have unique storage needs, depending upon what kind of work is done and what materials are needed. For some centers, a “medical refrigerator” is really just a place to store cold packs to have on hand for certain injuries. At the other end of the spectrum, some will need a specially designed biomedical refrigerator or pharmaceutical freezer to store vaccines or to hold biological samples at a particular steady temperature. The market offers many types of biomedical refrigerator and vaccine storage refrigerators, to name just a few. Here are some of the questions to ask when choosing a medical grade freezer or biomedical refrigerator.

What Size and Capacity Do You Need?

The size of your biomedical refrigerator will depend on where it is to be placed and how much you need to put in it. Overstocking or understocking any refrigerator can compromise the performance, and while a little temperature fluctuation won’t matter to the vegetables in your kitchen fridge crisper, they could mean the difference between keeping a life-saving vaccine and having to throw it away. All refrigeration units work best when they are stored at 30% to 80% capacity. More than this and air doesn’t circulate well and hot spots can develop. Less than this and there will be large temperature fluctuations.

Where Does it Go?

Typically, a biomedical refrigerator or other pharmaceutical grade refrigerator will be designed either to stand alone or to be stored under a counter. Either way, it’s important to get the refrigerator that is designed for the space you have. Putting a freestanding refrigerator under a counter will make it overheat, so if you need to put one under a counter, get one made for that job.

Refrigerator, Freezer, or Both?

The CDC does discourage using combination refrigerator/freezers when it comes to vaccine storage, as these have a great deal of trouble remaining temperature stable. They can, according to studies done by the CDC, experience fluctuations in temperature as large as five degrees Celcius. Most units are either all refrigerator or all freezer, but there are some dual units on the market that are fine for storing cold packs or staff personal items and beverages. For vaccines or other important medical and pharmaceutical applications, it is best to buy separate refrigerator and freezer units.

What Temperature Monitoring Do You Need?

All biomedical refrigerator and scientific refrigerator units should have an outside temperature gauge, which is separate from the temperature control. The control merely tells the unit what temperature you want it to be. A thermometer is necessary to make sure temperatures inside remain safe and stable. For vaccines, the thermometer should be calibrated and include a certificate of traceability. Some units will also include a temperature data logger, and this may help some labs with compliance regulations.

What Temperatures Do You Need?

It is vital to know what temperatures you will need to store your items before buying a biomedical refrigerator or freezer. There are units that can go as low as -85 degrees Celcius, but less expensive temperature classes include -25 and -35 degrees. A biomedical refrigerator should have a swing of no more than 2 degrees Celcius.

A biomedical refrigerator is a crucial item and should be chosen, installed, and used with care and according to all best practices. This is the only way to ensure the safety and integrity of vaccines and other crucial medical items.

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