Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lab angst

Since I've been in my lab, I've had a low temp (-80C) freezer which has been nothing but a pain in my tookus. For the past three to four months it has been hovering at around -62C. We finally scratched up enough end-of-year funds to purchase a new one, and after canceling one order (it was confiscated by pirates I believe, because it appears to have been "lost at sea") the new one arrived last month. We have this new puppy fired up and at temperature and I began transferring shelves (one per day) yesterday. Well, I did the bottom shelf yesterday, went home, came back this morning and the old freezer is up to -71C. I don't know whether the threat of termination was enough to get its butt back in gear, or if the thing was just filled past capacity (which doesn't seem like it should happen). Anyone around here a low temp freezer guru who might know what's going on here? I mean, I can use this older freezer for temp storage (though nothing around here is ever temporary for long) and holding a secondary backup stash of clones/strains without using 25% to 50% of the freezer for storage. But talk about inefficient.


Ivan Privaci said...

Definitely not a freezer guru myself, but I wonder - did the new freezer displace the old one (that is, did you end up moving the old one at all to make room for the new one)? Perhaps it's in a spot now that slightly better ventilated, or a bunch of dust got knocked off of the heat exchanger or something of the sort?

All I really know about -80°C freezers is that A)I want one but B)I dread actually having one and having to pay for the electricity they demand.

Tom said...

Interesting thoughts but we've routinely kept up with cleaning the freezer ventilation areas and making sure it's free of dust. Also, we haven't moved the old freezer yet to make room for the new one. Since both rely on a 220V plug, they're currently located next to the only two we have in the lab, which are situated on opposite ends (I had to have the second installed earlier this year to run our new RT PCR machine). We had planned on moving the new one into place only after we made the inventory swap.

Nevermind the fact that I need to find a place to store (or setup) the old freezer once it's been demoted. I'm hoping to commandeer an old conference room and turn it into an equipment bay. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right? Only problem is, I'll need approval to place 220V line into that room.

My home electric bill is routinely extremely low (we're talking on a few dozen dollars a month) because I've eliminated all the vampiric energy sources in my house, and I have about twenty trees on my property which provide me an abundance of shade in the summer which cuts down on AC costs. I can only imagine how bad things would be with a -80C freezer! My low electrical bill is why I have yet to purchase a box freezer!

Genomic Repairman said...

You finally got it, man how long did that take?

Your experience with your old unit runs counter to the prevailing wisdom that units run better. This happened to us once before, we froze plastic jugs of water and stored some plasmids or secondary backup in it but the freezer eventually failed within a year.

Is it an upright or a chest?

Tom said...

It took a darn long time. After we canceled our order though, and ordered the new one ... the 2nd company got it to us in under a week.

It's an upright and it's not all that old (certainly under 10 years) so I don't know why it sucks. The last guy out here to look at it said that certain models get a sort of "vapor lock" which decreases its ability to reach low temps, but his fix didn't exactly work out as well as we had liked. Of course, the darn thing has been maintaining -70C now for the past couple of days. It's not quite -80C but it's also not -60C. We'll probably thaw the mofo, turn her back on, and see what temp she settles at. Any costly repair really means we'd be better off buying a small -80C for backup storage of important strains/stocks, so I'll need to weigh my options.

I'm really hoping to move back into the microarray field though this year, and I'd love to get my hands on a Agilent hyb station AND array scanner ... so I'd like to avoid any other large purchases which will siphon off funds.

Genomic Repairman said...

There may be a restriction. Try shutting it down and letting warm up to room temp over the weekend and then fire it back up on Monday. Sometime this can remedy the restriction and solve the problem.

Tom said...

Yeah, that's what we'll most likely do. Prior to getting this new freezer the problem was, when that puppy is full, shutting it down can be quite the hassle. Now, if all we have is some backup stocks in there (less than 1 shelf), doing this a couple times a year won't be an issue (that is of course, if it'll hold temp for 6 months without the slow creep to warmer temps).