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Trade in that old lab freezer

New freezers save labs money and support the U’s sustainability goals.

Across the University of Utah, laboratory freezers are humming along, keeping their samples chilled to ultra-low temperatures, as low as -112 degrees Fahrenheit (-80 degrees Celsius). It takes a lot of power to keep samples that cold, and with newer technologies able to significantly boost freezers’ power efficiency, it makes sense to switch out old freezers for new ones. But the cost of a new machine, which can exceed $20,000, can be an obstacle.

The U’s research administration says: Let us help with that.

Through a partnership with laboratory equipment provider Thermo Fisher Scientific, the University of Utah’s Vice President for Research office and Senior Vice President for Health Sciences (SVPHS) Research Unit are offering rebates of $2,000 to $4,000, on top of already discounted prices, to help labs trade in old inefficient freezers for new models. In other words, cash for clunker freezers.

University of Utah Health previously offered a freezer trade-in program for health sciences laboratories. Twenty freezers were replaced through the program, says Abby Rooney, research manager for the SVPHS Research Unit. Interest in this round of rebates, now expanded to the entire U campus, has been on par with the previous round, Rooney says. During the previous round of rebates, her office partnered with Rocky Mountain Power to quantify the energy savings of the previous round of rebates. Switching out the freezers saved 112,680 kilowatt-hours per year. That’s enough electricity to run an average American’s home for more than ten years.

Renn Thompson, laboratory equipment representative for Thermo Fisher Scientific, says that the cost of operating an old freezer can reach around $1,000 per year. The new freezers can cut those costs in half, Thompson says.

But the impacts don’t stop there. “Not only do the high efficiency freezers require less energy to operate,” Rooney says, “but they also generate less heat, which adds additional energy savings in terms of building cooling costs.” Thompson adds that the lower energy use reduces the load on building backup generators and other electrical infrastructure.

Thompson says that the U has been a longtime buyer of Thermo Fisher freezers. “As Thermo launched a more energy efficient option,” Thompson says, “our partnership with the University along with their drive to be on the forefront of sustainability efforts among the universities in Utah led to a natural partnership.” The company has also partnered with the University of California system for a similar rebate program, and with other institutions advancing their sustainability priorities.

Find the full details of the program here.