Total Cost of Ownership Upgrade ULT Freezers

We often get this question posed by lab managers and university researchers – I want to upgrade my ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers to more energy-efficient and sustainable models, but I am only allocated a certain amount of budget or grants for capital equipment purchases. How do I get my organization to see, not just the purchase price, but the other associated costs with owning a ULT freezer? While owning a newer, high-efficiency ULT freezer may cost more in the initial purchase price, some units will cost significantly less or will pay for themselves when you consider the total cost of operation over the lifetime of the freezer.

In this blog post, we will discuss how you can approach different departments in your organization and work together to come to an agreement to satisfy budgets, sustainability goals and keep your samples protected.

Facilities/Maintenance – Energy Savings, Flexible Voltage Input, Lower Upkeep Requirements

Your facilities and maintenance team may already be aware of the high-power consumption of the ULT freezers in your lab. Presenting manufacturers that have the best ULT freezer ENERGY STAR® ratings to your facilities team from can help them see the daily energy consumption and realize the savings based on your electric utility costs. Did you know that energy consumption can account for more than one third of the total lifetime cost of a legacy, compressor-based ULT freezer? (Cost per cu. ft. of storage per year – U.S. market.)

Besides energy savings, the top ENERGY STAR rated ULT freezers will require less backup power and fuel, carry less AC load and some are brown-out tolerant. Selecting a ULT freezer that has universal/flexible voltage input can also save on costly electrical upgrades to accommodate variations in power outlet standards.

ULT freezers typically generate a lot of heat to maintain the ultracold temperatures 24/7. The release of massive amounts of heat means your buildings’ HVAC system is working harder to keep the lab or freezer farms cool. Upgrading to newer, high-efficiency ULT freezers will significantly reduce the amount of heat rejected and lower energy bills even further.

Another key opportunity to build your case is that some high-efficiency ULT freezers require less maintenance. It’s almost guaranteed that a legacy, cascade ULT freezer system will need compressor replacement at least once in the unit’s lifetime, which can be up to 11% of the freezer’s total lifetime cost.

You can also opt for freezers that are compact and maximize the interior cabinet space. For example, Stirling’s upright SU780XLE model offers the most sample storage capacity per square feet/meter of floor space of any ULT freezer in the industry. Not only will your facilities team thank you for saving valuable floor space that could be used for other equipment or storage, but high-density storage options may even allow you to reduce the number of freezers needed to store your sample inventories. That can reduce your capital investment and even more operating cost for every unit you eliminate.

Sustainability Supervisor – Energy Consumption, Natural Refrigerants, Responsible Manufacturing

If you have a sustainability team in your organization, get them involved to be your cheerleaders. Many newer, high-efficiency ULT freezers are ENERGY STAR certified and use natural refrigerants that have minimal global warming potential (GWP) compared to F-Gases. Choosing ULT freezers that use environmentally friendly and U.S. EPA SNAP-accepted foam insulation will also help lessen your organization’s climate impact. And don’t forget the details – there are ULT freezer manufacturers who use recyclable packaging and are committed to waste diversion in their production process. 

Purchasing/Finance – Multi-departmental Savings, Energy Rebates

Purchasing may dictate that you can only spend a certain amount for capital equipment. Demonstrating what you have learned and presenting the savings and benefits from facilities/maintenance, sustainability and diversity spend departments will reveal that the purchase price isn’t the only factor to consider when upgrading to a new ULT freezer. Did you know that some ENERGY STAR certified ULT freezers frequently qualify for local utility energy rebates anywhere from $1,000-$1,500 per unit! Just think of the additional savings and return on investment. Looking at the big picture, aka the total cost of ownership, will save costs in the long run and those savings could be used to fund additional research.

Maximize the Lifetime Value for Your Investment

Networking with the different departments mentioned throughout this blog, and your own team, will help you win buy-in and set a positive example. You will be admired by your entire organization for moving in a more sustainable and fiscally responsible direction. Stirling Ultracold is here to help you with resources and the expertise to present our ULT freezer total cost of ownership advantages to many different departments.

Check out our Financial Savings and Lean Laboratory Design pages, or connect with us to realize the savings.


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