Most of the autoclaves for sale in the United States are medical-grade autoclaves—regardless of whether or not the buyer is practicing medicine. And most of these units are sold with a service plan—regardless of whether or not it makes sense for a one-room testing lab to have the same quarterly maintenance schedule as a major metropolitan medical campus.
Getting Sold on an Autoclave Service Plan
Medical-grade autoclaves are optimized for 24/7/365 life-and-death hospital use. They are expensive to own and operate, and troublesome to maintain. As a “courtesy to the customer,” medical-grade autoclave salesmen are only too happy to sell their clients long-term service contracts—often at a steep premium. If you forgo the service plan and have a non-certified technician repair your medical-grade autoclave, you’ll almost certainly void the warranty—an expensive gamble.
But is it an immutable fact of nature that every autoclave needs a service plan? At its core, an autoclave is a relatively simple appliance; many home heating systems meet roughly the same operational demands. Nonetheless, very few homeowners have a service plan for their boilers. Maybe you don’t need one on your autoclave.
Why Medical-Grade Autoclaves Need a Service Plan
It seems to stand to reason that a medical-grade autoclave sale should include a service plan. This is a very pricey piece of potentially dangerous lab equipment, a pressurized steam vessel whose uninterrupted operation is a matter of life and death, as well as public safety. Most medical-grade sterilizers are built using proprietary parts that could easily be damaged by a non-certified technician. Maybe this makes for a better autoclave overall—these units do need to run infallibly all day and night. But it’s awfully nice for the autoclave manufacturer to be assured that every customer is locked in to a 10-year service plan, creating an ongoing revenue stream on top of the one-time boon of closing a big autoclave sale.
Selling Autoclaves without Service Plans
Despite being the industry standard, the medical-grade autoclaves for sale today are really highly specialized units, truly only appropriate for hospitals. An increasing portion of autoclaves will never be used for anything remotely medical. They’ll spend their years of service in university research labs, factory quality control departments, or test kitchens and microbreweries. Those facilities need standard research-grade autoclaves.
Research-grade autoclaves don’t require independent steam generators and have half the number of moving parts—and those parts are standard fittings, gaskets, fuses, and solenoids, available from many competing manufacturers. Any competent technician can service such an autoclave—and those service calls will be fewer and farther between.
Don’t get sold on an autoclave with a hefty service plan attached. Provide a research-grade autoclave with cold soft water, make sure the new guy doesn’t spill anything in the chamber, and you can look forward to a lifetime of service with nothing more onerous than scheduled door-gasket replacements every few years.