The Freezer Challenge is coming to an end, and we are busy compiling the results. While we're working to determine this year's winners, our Platinum Sponsor, Stirling Ultracold, has some thoughts to share on calculating the total cost of ownership for ULT freezers. Enjoy their article below!
What is Your Ultra-Low Freezer Really Costing Your Organization?
By Timothy Root, Stirling Ultracold Director of Marketing
For those involved in the purchase of ultra-low temperature freezers, the process often starts with an annual budget or research grant for funding initial capital procurement. For this reason, ULT freezer buyers are generally focused on getting the best ultra-low storage value for their capital dollars. When research budgets are tight it's only natural that the ULT purchasing process gets fixated on the initial price tag of the unit.
If you step back to look beyond your departmental budget and consider the real cost of a ULT freezer to your organization, it doesn't actually make good dollars and sense to only focus on the initial cost of the freezer. That's because the purchase price of most ULT freezers accounts for a surprisingly small portion of its total cost to own and operate, over the freezer’s lifetime.
ULT Freezer Purchase Price is Typically Less Than 30% of Total Ownership Cost!
To understand the real cost of owning an ultra-low temperature freezer, you need to look beyond the initial purchase and consider the sum of all associated operating costs over its life. This typically includes energy/utility cost, facilities infrastructure/HVAC costs, floor space allocation and maintenance/repair expenses. If you consider all of these expenditures to your organization, you're likely to find that the initial price tag of a ULT freezers accounts for less than 30% of total lifetime cost.
Think Strategically and Dramatically Lower Ultra-Low Temperature Storage Cost
Looking at the bigger picture, it’s possible for your organization to conserve far more ULT storage costs by looking at operating expenses than by just focusing on getting the best price at the point of sale. As an example, the purchase price of high-efficiency ultra-low freezers is typically higher than standard ULTs, however their lower energy consumption costs will more than make up that premium in just a few years of operation, with the added benefit of reducing carbon footprint. If that high-efficiency model also rejects less heat during operation, your facilities team will reap additional savings in HVAC operation and system cost.
Another important ULT freezer budget consideration is ongoing maintenance and repair, and if your freezer has compressors, the cost of the eventual compressor replacement. While there are ongoing costs associated with following your manufacturer's recommended preventative maintenance schedule, even more expenses can result from energy inefficiency and repairs if freezers are not properly maintained. As participants in the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge understand, a well-maintained, regularly defrosted ULT freezer performs better over its life, saves energy costs and promotes laboratory sustainability.
Total Cost of Ownership Not the Same for All ULT Freezers
You should also consider that not all ultra-low freezers require the same level of ongoing maintenance and component replacement. This is another important lifetime cost savings opportunity that is often overlooked by ULT freezer buyers.
Another key value promoted by the Freezer Challenge is consolidation of samples and high-density sample storage. This can ultimately reduce the total number of ULT freezers required by your lab, thereby reducing capital cost, energy cost and overall carbon footprint. This approach rightly places the focus on cost per cubic foot/liter of sample storage capacity and considers floor space. Again, not all freezers are the same when it comes to sample capacity per sq. ft/sq. m footprint.
Considering that researchers depend on reliable 24/7/365 operation of ULT technology to protect the immeasurable value of biological samples, it’s good to know that there are better ways to reduce ULT costs than buying the cheapest freezer! Thinking strategically about your ultra-low temperature storage costs, and how it affects energy, facilities, maintenance and sustainability, will ultimately free up more funds for the important research supported by your organization.