1. Make safety a top priority.
Ensure you choose an autoclave that’s listed by an OSHA-approved NRTL (nationally recognized testing laboratory), such as UL or ETL. A steam autoclave being used by students should always have an ASME-stamped pressure vessel. Other recommended features for a teaching sterilizer include:
- One-touch activation for pre-programmed cycles
- Permission-based door releases with both thermal and pressure interlocks
- Programs that can be locked-in once properly validated
2. Don’t buy a medical-grade sterilizer for a non-medical application.
Unless your students are training to work in medical offices or hospitals, a medical grade autoclave is, at best, “overkill” (see the water efficiency discussion below). Research-grade autoclaves meet or exceed all lab sterilization requirements for glassware prep and waste disposal, and are optimized for easy and efficient growth media preparation. They can also be programmed for use in food processing, quality control, accelerated curing, destructive testing, and more.
3. Don’t compromise on water efficiency.
Because they are designed for round-the-clock hospital use, medical-grade steam autoclaves run a constant one-gallon-per-minute cold-water bleed. In most cases this cooling system cannot be turned off, even if the sterilizer is idle. That adds up to 1,440 gallons of wasted water each day—the equivalent to 450 cases of bottler water. Stacked up, those 450 cases of water would be taller than the Statue of Liberty (including base and pedestal). Research-grade autoclaves are optimized for efficient use, even when operated at irregular intervals.
4. Make a concerted effort to select an autoclave that will prepare your students for careers in research.
The installation of medical-grade sterilizers in research settings is increasingly frowned upon. It is highly unlikely that today’s students entering biomedical research will ever see a medical-grade sterilizer on the job.