Laboratory refrigerators in medical facilities and research centers are intended for long-term, reliable storage of temperature-sensitive samples. Just like any essential lab equipment, failure to follow the best maintenance practices could lead to sub-optimal performance. This could be detrimental to the lab fridge itself as well as your precious sample material.
The main priority of maintaining high-quality standards for refrigeration devices within the laboratory is implementing a self-documenting and automated temperature monitoring system. Sustaining the integrity of organ tissue, plasma, and blood samples relies on this concept. But a robust monitoring system alone is not enough. To maximize the utility of medical refrigerators, the devices have to be operated properly and subjected to the right maintenance practices.
So, how do you keep your unit clean, improve its efficiency, and extend the lifespan? Let us explore.
1. Pay attention to the alarms
Lab refrigerators are fitted with alarms for indicating low or high temperature, prolonged door opening, and power failure. While it is possible to mute all these alerts, you should not ignore them. Instead, you should check it routinely within the maintenance and cleaning schedule. Also, the different refrigerators should be labeled clearly with all the details of points of contact.
2. Store all materials appropriately
Your lab refrigerator can register the best performance for as long as the airflow within them remains unobstructed. The use of racking systems not only ensures optimal use of the available storage space but also helps guarantee the correct flow of air. Furthermore, these systems make it even easier to locate samples, and you can stack containers and boxes neatly. As a result, the period for which the door of the refrigerator stays open will be kept to a minimum.
You should also avoid storing materials on top of your lab fridge, especially if it is a top venting unit. This could trap warm air within the region, forcing the compressor to work more frequently to maintain the proper storage temperature. By avoiding this, you could cut on energy costs and increase the compressor's lifetime.
3. Keep the door gaskets clean
The gasket is usually designed to create a tight seal throughout the edges of the fridge door. It prevents cold air from escaping the chambers and warm air from entering. Notably, ultralow refrigerators are fitted with outer door gaskets as a standard. However, your unit may also have the same for the inner doors. This helps maintain uniform temperatures within the unit's internal components.
You need to check all door gaskets for leaks, and you can easily spot these by accumulations of ice at the weak points. Furthermore, you should wipe them down using a soft cloth to get rid of any dirt or dust that may compromise their overall performance. This way, you can easily avoid the effects of having a faulty gasket.
4. Remove ice or frost build-up regularly
As you open the fridge door repeatedly to remove or keep material, it may result in a build-up of ice or frost. As a result, this may limit the outer door from moving efficiently, and it may not seal properly. Therefore, we recommend that you inspect the gaskets and door seals for an accumulation of frost periodically.
To keep the ice build-up at a minimum, always try to get your samples in and out of the device as quickly as you can. Furthermore, you can scrape the accumulated ice from the door seals regularly and ensure there is no ice build-up on the inner doors. In case you have to clear out old stocks and materials within the unit, you can use this chance to defrost the entire equipment. But always remember not to use the ice pick when defrosting.
5. Taking care of the coils
Another crucial maintenance practice is vacuuming the condenser coils located on the outer parts. But how does one determine the appropriate time to do this? The best time is probably now. The coils have to be kept clean at all times, free from accumulated dust, or any other material that may hinder the intended heat exchange.
Many coils look filthy, and this may be due to the fact that most people do not know that they are supposed to clean them as well.
In terms of refrigeration, one thing you need to do is keep the coil clean to ensure that your cooling unit works as designed. Grime- and dust-prone coils could lead to higher energy costs and a lower life span for the unit. Therefore, an additional effort to clean them could go a long way in the cooling needs of your lab now, and in the long-run.
6. Clean as you go
Cleaning could also prolong the lifespan of your lab fridge. As you work from one shelf to another, inventorying and trashing the useless item, ensure that you keep a cleaning cloth or towel handy to wipe all the shelves down. Also, do the same for the refrigerator racks and walls.
Most preferably, dampen the cloth with warm water to remove crumbs and wipe down spills from the walls and shelves. Also, an all-purpose cleaner could make things easier and take on sticky spills and stains without much effort.
7. Lengthen the life of your unit
If reading this piece leaves you feeling like you have not been doing much in terms of caring for the refrigerator in your lab, then do not fret. All you have to do now is establish a maintenance strategy incorporating upkeep, space management, and sample management. Alternatively, you can hire a service provider if you lack sufficient time for all these maintenance practices. This way, you can be sure that the devices are properly maintained and will remain functional for longer.
Laboratory refrigerators contain costly reagents, irreplaceable samples, and several months or years of research. Therefore, you should treat them with deserved respect and perform simple preventative maintenance practices. This way, you can be sure that these crucial pieces of lab equipment will serve you reliably for years.