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Nine Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Ultralow Freezers

Read on to learn some tips and tricks about ULT care and maintenance

Jamie Steiner

Jamie Steiner is the regional sales manager of DAI Scientific and leads a team of 13 equipment sales consultants. His background includes 20 years of experience working with customers in academic, clinical, industrial, and bio/pharma laboratories. Jamie works with architects, engineers, and lab planners to identify the correct equipment for each user’s specific needs. 

In the world of science and medicine there is an increasingly high demand for personalized medicine and vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out in full force, and with that comes increasing demand for more information on ultralow temperature freezers (ULTs) and how best to use them.

What is an ultralow temperature freezer?

An ULT is a type of freezer that conserves and stores biological samples within a temperature range of -40°C to -86 °C.  Whether it be for vaccine storage, biospecimen samples, enzymes, drugs, and more, it is important to consider how to get the most out of your ULT, no matter the use. 

Read on to learn some tips and tricks about ULTs.

1. ULTs can store a variety of products and samples 

As the COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed across the country, the demand for ULTs is rising. However, these freezers have been around for years. In addition to vaccine storage, ULTs are designed to preserve and store things such as tissue samples, chemicals, bacteria, biological samples, enzymes, and more.

2. Different vaccines, samples, and products require different storage temperatures

Different products require different storage temperatures within your ULT. Know ahead of time what product you are working with so you can ensure you are adjusting the temperature within your freezer accordingly. For example, when talking about the COVID-19 vaccines, the Moderna vaccine has a temperature storage requirement between -25°C and -15°C (-13°F and -5°F), while Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine storage requires a temperature of -70°C (-94°F), which is colder than an Antarctica winter. It is crucial to understand that storage temperatures vary when organizing and setting up your own products within your ULT.

3. Save cost and energy by setting your ULT to -70°C 

Stanford University predicts that ULTs use almost as much energy per year as a single-family home. By making your freezer just a little bit warmer, you can save energy. This also can lengthen the life of your freezer.

It’s also important to remember that some samples may require a specific temperature, so you should only set your freezer to -70°C when you’re sure the samples are safe under that condition.

4. Ensure your freezer’s temperature monitoring system and alarm is functioning correctly

Since you cannot refreeze vaccines and other products, ensure your freezer has a proper alarm and temperature monitoring system. Invest in the right UTLs so you can avoid any issues or complications that come up.

5. Take exceptional care of your freezers and temperature monitoring devices

Like any piece of lab equipment, ULTs need proper care and maintenance. The CDC recommends routine equipment maintenance, which includes:

  • Checking door hinges and the unit for signs of wear and tear
  • Regular cleaning the inside of the freezer to avoid the growth of bacteria and fungus 
  • Cleaning quickly to avoid the temperature going out of range
  • Replacing temperature monitoring devices when needed, as they can “drift over time” and affect accuracy (they should be replaced if the freezer isn’t accurate within +/- 0.5°C (+/-1°F).

6. Plan out where you will place your freezer before the setup process begins

Measure out the dimensions of where you will place your ULT before installing it in a lab. It’s important to take proper measurements of the height, width, and depth of your lab space and match it to the dimensions of your freezer beforehand. This guarantees no unwarranted surprises for when the equipment arrives.

7. Include keyed locks on your ULT

Look for models with keyed door locks for optimal security. Vaccine and sample protection are of utmost importance when handling your products.

8. Have a backup plan in case of emergency

Although you hope you never have a service issue, it can sometimes happen. That’s why it is always important to have an equipment backup plan in the case of ULT mishaps. If you have a backup in place, you won’t risk the loss of samples, vaccines, and other products that need specific temperature storage.

9. Follow best practices from the CDC for proper storage and handling 

The CDC’s Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit provides information on best practices for vaccine storage and handling. The toolkit also contains information and recommendations from key players, including the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, vaccine manufacturers, and scientific studies. 

As you know, ULTs are crucial for all your products that need specific storage temperatures. Make sure you follow the nine tips above for optimal success in using your ULT.