Jul 3rd 2018

Medical Refrigerators

So, you’re ready to equip your laboratory or medical facility with a new refrigerator. Medical refrigerators come in a variety of styles, so there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. There are numerous factors you should keep in mind when deciding on a unit, including size, safety, and more. From our experts to yours, here’s what to know when choosing a medical-grade refrigerator.

Consider the use

This is going to be your top priority. If you’re primarily storing vaccines, you’ll need to think about options specially designed for vaccine storage. If you’re storing pharmaceutical contents in your refrigerator, you’ll need a unit built to keep them at precise temperatures. Simply put, if your needs are very specific, you should choose a refrigerator in your medical category. Don’t settle for an unspecialized unit.

Regardless of what you plan to store in your refrigerator, the unit needs to be tough. It should withstand everyday use at your facility and last for years to come.

Consider the type

All medical refrigerators are designed to meet rigorous standards, and a house or dorm-style refrigerator puts you at risk due to temperature inconsistencies.

The key difference in medical and household refrigeration is the freezer. A dorm-style or bar-style freezer can easily freeze your vaccines or medical samples. Therefore, due to clear temperature instability, The CDC discourages combination refrigerator-freezers for vaccines and other laboratory storage.

Consider the size

No doubt, size is a crucial component in the decision process. It can be difficult to maintain internal temperatures if a unit is too large, so you want to find something that complements your storage needs without going overboard. However, units that are too small cause overpacking—and you don’t want to push contents toward the back of the unit unless you wish to compromise the potency of the vaccines or samples inside. In fact, regardless of the unit, refrigerators work best at 30-80% capacity.

Always be realistic with the number of items you intend to store in each medical refrigerator. According to the CDC, you should have enough space for your maximum inventory at your busiest time of year without overcrowding, especially if you’re storing vaccines.

Consider placement

Placement, believe it or not, is actually quite important and will directly influence which unit you purchase. Is your unit going to be free-standing or built-in?

Compact units work well for facilities in small spaces, as they generally fit in or underneath most countertops. If you need storage space without sacrificing too much floor space, a large, upright refrigerator should do.

No matter the refrigerator you choose, be sure there’s an adequate amount of space surrounding the unit for ventilation purposes—about two to four inches on all sides. We also recommend placing your unit in an insulated room because external-facing walls are constantly exposed to varying temperatures.

Don’t forget that you’ll need to plug your refrigerator into an outlet without circuit switches. When selecting your refrigerator, have a dedicated area in mind where you won’t need to use extension cords.

Consider features

Today, medical-grade refrigerators offer numerous features; however, there are a few we believe you should think about before making the big purchase.

You shouldn’t overlook a unit’s defrost system. Manually defrosting your refrigerator will cost you more time, but for certain applications, this type of appliance works better. Auto-defrost units require less maintenance but consume more power than manual units. The type you choose is dependent on the contents you need to store.

In many facilities, security is of great importance. Make sure your refrigerator comes with a keypad or combination lock. We advise staying away from medical refrigerators that require a standard lock and key, as these aren’t all that secure—and no one wants to keep track of the key, especially between rotating staff at the end of each shift.

Refrigerators with see-through glass doors are helpful, especially in situations where a coordinator needs to take a quick glance inside. This will also help you maintain the necessary temperature inside the unit.

Other features we recommend include:

  • Hospital-grade cords – Unlike standard cords, these are much more durable. They’re also less likely to become unplugged from the wall socket, so they’re essential for facility use.
  • Self-closing doors – Self-closing door mechanisms prevent unit temperature disruption. As your staff members become occupied with other tasks, the likelihood of leaving refrigerator doors open increases. Busy facilities should really think about purchasing a unit with this feature.

 Consider temperature requirements

Whether you’re storing vaccines or biological samples, you’re going to need to know and record temperatures at a moment’s notice.

A digital temperature display on the outside of the unit and a reliable alarm system are incredibly helpful. Knowing when your refrigerator goes outside of its designated temperature range can help you salvage the contents inside.

Generally, medical-grade refrigerators need to stay between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (or 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit), but double-check that the unit you want meets your exact requirements.

Consider shelving

All medical-grade refrigerators need proper air flow, so pay attention to the shelving systems within the unit. There needs to be plenty of space around the vaccines or samples.

We don’t recommend glass shelving because, while it’s easy to clean, it disrupts circulation throughout the unit. Typically, a laboratory or medical refrigerator with plastic, perforated, or wire shelves is a safe bet.

Built-in shelves work wonderfully for biological sample storage because they protect your contents from any unexpected temperature fluctuations. Additionally, these shelves promote methodical organization, which is essential for every facility in every industry.

We generally don’t suggest door storage. Opening refrigerator doors exposes contents to outside air. If your unit has door shelves that you’d like to utilize, we recommend filling them with water bottles or freezer packs instead.

Medical refrigerators are an investment, so you definitely don’t want to choose just any unit. If you’re still debating where to purchase your new medical refrigerator, consider K2 Scientific.

Medical professionals across the nation trust our CDC and VFC-compliant medical refrigerators. Our best-in-class units maintain stable temperatures and offer all the features your facility needs for successful storage. Equip your facility with industry-leading units today.

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