Selecting the Best Refrigerator / Freezer

Refrigeration – It's Not That Simple

Fact: The average value of the contents of the average -86o freezer averages $150,000.

Question: What is the value of the contents of the refrigerator where you store your reagents or specimens?

Fact: Although refrigerators are built to last 10 – 15 years and are the second biggest source of power consumption in the lab (#1 is your fume hood) most labs buy based on the lowest price as the primary consideration.

Question: Is buying cheap refrigeration / freezing equipment really a good decision?

The Manufacturers

The Thermo Scientific Revco and Jewett brand names are most likely the most popular brand names. Thermo has bought up most of the U.S. manufacturers (Barnstead, Labline, Jewett, etc.) and nearly all of these brands are manufactured at their Asheville, NC plant.

Nor-Lake Refrigeration is a Wisconsin based maker of refrigeration equipment. They offer the full line including -86o freezers under their Select brand. Nor-Lake is a big, company, in business since 1947 which is very seldom on the short list. They make both clinical and industrial models.

Eppendorf is now the distributor of New Brunswick freezers.

Bargain hunters often choose So-Low Environmental Equipment. So-Lo is located in Cincinati and makes a full line of products. They have been in business since 1959 and do best in the University market.

Who is the "big dog" in the refrigeration marketplace? A company called Haier. The Haier Group is the world's #1 major appliance brand as ranked by Euromonitor International 2013. Haier employs more than 70,000 people around the world and distributes products in more than 100 countries and regions with global revenues reaching $29.5 billion in 2013. Haier private labels under many brand names. The VWR -86o freezer is made by Haier. Nearly all of their laboratory freezers are made in China.

Of course, there are more (e.g., Panasonic, Sanyo, etc.) which are beyond the scope of this brief newsletter.

Then there are the makers of "food grade" refrigerators. And there are home / dorm room quality refrigerators and then there are foodservice grade products. (If you want something for your break area, Lowes or Home Depot should be considered.)

The "big dog" in the foodservice industry is True manufacturing. True makes most of the private label chromatography refrigerators that VWR and Fisher sell. We can provide True products as a reseller for one of their largest stocking distributors in the U.S. located here in the Knoxville area.

A New Name the Industrial Marketplace – Helmer Scientific

While the name may not be familiar to you, Helmer has been in the business since 1977 and is recognized as one of the top, privately held companies in the U.S.

Some examples of the refrigerators and freezers manufactured by Helmer:

Fact: The market leader in refrigeration products in the healthcare market place is Helmer Scientific.

Question: With all of the competitors in the industrial market, how will Helmer ever sell into this already crowded market?

Here is the short list of how they can and will be successful:

They offer the highest quality product with the longest warranty, the most number of features and the best field service and sales staff in the industry. (A carryover from the very demanding clinical marketplace.)

They are a U.S. manufacturer (Noblesville, Indiana) with a brand new, state of the art plant. They are completely vertically integrated and the only major manufacturer who makes all the components of their products. They are the ONLY U.S. manufacturer who makes the doors for their freezers/refrigerators.

Because of #2, they have a cost standpoint that will allow them to compete against anyone.

Why not buy a Thermo Revco or a Private Labeled Item from a Big Distributor?

Refrigerators and freezers – especially the -86o freezers are mostly plug-and-play. If you can manhandle them to their final resting place, you plug them in and forget about them. But what if something doesn't work right? What happens then? Does the serviceman come right over?

Thermo, like many other vendors, have contracted with local refrigeration repair shops around the U.S. to service their equipment. So your very expensive laboratory freezer is being serviced by a guy who spends most of his time pumping Freon into refrigerators at the local grocery store. Good luck with that.

The single biggest problem with refrigerators is the door. If it does NOT make a good seal, it will leak. And your alarms will go off, your samples will melt and it will be a disaster. What makes it leak? It warps. And it is a very expensive thing to fix. It is not field replaceable. And from personal experience, I have seen firsthand one of my customer have to hire an attorney to get Thermo to replace the unit after months knowing that the problem was a warped door. This is an experience you should do ANYTHING to avoid! This customer had to discard three sets of very valuable reagents worth thousands of dollars as a result. Needless to say, they learned the hard way.

This would never happen with Helmer

Why? Because the first person you would see in your lab would be one of their service engineers. In the rare event that there is an issue, they will FLY a service engineer from their factory to yours to do the repair. No more "Larry the Cable Guy."

Their warranty is top to bottom – 5 years on the standard models and 7 years on the deluxe models.

LPS is Helmer's First Authorized Re-seller

Helmer has selected LPS as the very first outside authorized re-seller for Helmer. We are very proud to have been chosen!

If you are in need of ANY refrigeration product, we ask that you contact us. We can, of course source from any manufacturer for a great price. But more importantly, we can help you select the right product from the right vendor that won't leave you in the lurch if something goes wrong.

Helmer's Technology Advantage

When the job of a refrigerator is to keep blood products that will be going into human beings at a constant temperature and to log all "events" that may happen, you design your systems differently. This doesn't makes sense from a dollars and cents perspective because the value of a fully loaded blood bank refrigerator is a fraction of the dollar value of a fully loaded refrigerator where life science reagents or samples is stored. The difference is, when someone's life depends on it, you design it better.

Helmer's experience in the blood banking field has produced a state of the art software/hardware system that is bullet proof in monitoring conditions in a refrigerator. They develop all their software in-house. I have seen many systems and in my opinion, this is THE BEST by far.

Helmer to Release Ultra-Low Freezer

Helmer is in the final stages of brining their first ultra low, -86° freezer to market. It will feature brand new highly energy efficient 2-stage compressors. If you are in the market for a new -86o freezer, Helmer has asked us to locate industrial customers who would be willing to provide feedback. I am told that the price point of this unit will be well under the competition.

If you are in the market for an ultra-low freezer, contact us for more information.

Energy Consumption

I think most everyone knows about "Energy Star" ratings. They seem to be on everything electrical.

Energy Star Certified Products

As you can see, the Energy Star specification only compares model to model. What this does NOT provide is a metric you can actually use. For example, in normal operation, this freezer/refrigerator would cost you $$_________ per month, year, etc.

The fact is there is no way metric in the industry to make this determination. We were involved with Oak Ridge National Labs a few years ago and we uncovered this. What was determined was that none of the manufacturers provide this information and it was only someone like the D.O.E. who with our help was able to get Thermo/Revco to publish this information for the D.O.E.

The point here is that just because something has an Energy star rating as of today only means that it is 10% more efficient than "non-qualified models that simply meet the federal minimum standard for energy efficiency" means pretty much nothing to you. Which is why you won't find an Energy Star rating on very many of these laboratory and food grade refrigerators and freezers. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be concerned about energy consumption! You should. It only means that you will have to compute this on your own. Or, we can help do this for you when you are ready to buy.


So have I convinced you yet that buying refrigeration or freezers isn't an easy job? As with many things in the lab, it's far more complicated than you would think. LPS has a lot of expertise in this area. Before you purchase any refrigeration or freezer, contact us. We can help determine the most overall cost effective model to fit your requirements taking all of these factors into consideration.

The LPS Store

Lab Procurement Services is proud to be a member of the Independent Laboratory Dealers Association

The LPS web store has commonly used lab supplies in bulk quantities at unbeatable prices!  Buy manufacturer direct and save.  We feature only our best deals.  Case quantities only.

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