Does More, Costs Less
Educators, researchers, and academic institutions in general are under enormous pressure to “Do more with less!” Very often, this translates to: “Do it all with next to nothing!”
But choosing the right autoclave for your lab is an excellent opportunity to do just that: A properly specified research-grade autoclave is affordable, reliable, flexible, and above all, safe to operate, even for students, interns, and new lab assistants.
Affordable Autoclaves for Educators
The majority of steam autoclaves sold in North America are optimized for in-hospital use. These “medical-grade” autoclaves are very expensive to buy, run up high utility and maintenance bills, and a very poor fit for most academic settings.
A 2015 study funded by the Emerging Technology Programs of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric, surveyed 1,650 U.S. researchers and facility managers, and found that most laboratory autoclaves are operated only three hours per day, five days per week. Only 20% of the survey’s respondents ever used any of their sterilizers for more than seven hours per day.
Nonetheless, most of the sterilizers in these facilities are variants on medical-grade autoclaves, optimized for continuous use 10 to 24 hours per day, seven days per week. These long workdays call for complicated designs with high energy and water demands. The end result is a sterilizer costing roughly twice as much as a comparable research-grade model, with a total lifetime operating and maintenance cost that’s three to four times higher than it’s research-grade equivalent. But at Priorclave, we believe in matching the right autoclave to the right customer to avoid this waste.
Additional cost and resource savings come in the form of water and other consumable efficiency. The laboratory installation of a Priorclave autoclave at York university recently reduced water and salt consumption by 90%.
Some institutions are also able to purchase autoclaves via grants and awards, like Bethany College, who received an award for training students in biomedical research.
Reliability and Flexibility
The number one autoclave complaint is always reliability. Frequent downtime, expensive repair bills, and intensive maintenance schedules are all the result of using a device designed for constant use and maintenance in a setting where it is frequently idle. Designing an autoclave specifically to meet the academic workload drastically reduces unscheduled downtime (and a little regular maintenance–largely focused on keeping the chamber clean and the gaskets greased–can prevent the rest).
But this doesn’t mean that a research-grade autoclave must sit idle for one-third of the workday. For example, researchers investigating the durability of prosthetic implants use their Priorclave to run back-to-back cycles that last 15 hours or more.
This highlights the flexibility that comes with owning an autoclave optimized for education: Delayed start, long programmable holding temperatures, customized temperature and pressure ramps, cycle repeat, and more are all possible with a research-caliber control system.
Autoclaves are high-temperature, high-pressure devices–inherently dangerous, especially in an environment where less experienced users are bound to operate them. Nonetheless, not all autoclaves sold to US academic institutions are even listed by an NRTL (such as UL or ETL), let alone built with safe operation as a top priority.
All Priorclave autoclaves comply with current US, Canada, UK, and EU safety regulations. They are manufactured in our UKAS-accredited facility in London, and are ETL listed and EMC certified. Our ASME-stamped pressure vessels are manufactured entirely in-house, tested to 1.5 times their maximum working pressure, and come with a 20-year warranty.
Priorclave is the only company actively promoting safe and effective autoclave use in curriculum. We build safety in at every level, from permission-based door release control systems to “quickseal” doors fitted with mechanical thermal and pressure interlocks. Priorclaves are safe enough to be used by schoolchildren–like the students of High Technology High School, in North Bergen, NJ, who’ve been using their Priorclave 100L since 2014.
Substantial Savings for UC-Riverside
In 2015 the University of California, Riverside moved forward with construction of a new facility for their Department of Environmental Health and Safety. This facility sterilizes large waste loads once or twice per week–but they had committed to buying a large medical-style sterilizer that required 24/7 cooling water feeds and a perpetually hot “on-demand” steam generator. Switching to a similarly sized Priorclave saved them a significant sum–even taking into account the 20% “cancellation penalty” the original manufacturer forced them to pay. More importantly for university operations, switching to a properly specified research-grade autoclave resulted in more than a 57% reduction in energy use and 87% reduction in water consumption.