Stirling Ultracold Freezers Now Available on GSA Advantage

SDVOSB & GSA Advantage
Stirling Ultracold products are available on GSA Advantage through, Pulcir, Inc., a CVE VetBiz Certified Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business – Contract GS-07F-0360W

We are excited to announce that all Stirling Ultracold ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers and accessories are now available for purchase through the U.S. General Services Administration and the GSA Advantage website. Through our distributer Pulcir, Inc., U.S. government agencies may now benefit from the ease and efficiency of the GSA preapproved procurement process when buying our ULT freezer products.

Procurement of Sustainable and Responsible, U.S. Manufactured Products

With the availability of Stirling freezers on the GSA Advantage website, it is now easier for government agencies and research laboratories to support federal sustainability initiatives with the purchase of our energy efficient ULT freezers that use 100% natural refrigerant in place of ozone-depleting HFCs. Because Stirling Ultracold products are made in in Athens, Ohio, the purchase of our ULT freezers supports U.S. manufacturing jobs in a historically underserved Appalachian business zone. In addition, our products are available on GSA Advantage exclusively through our new distributor, Pulcir, Inc., a CVE VetBiz Certified Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (Contract GS-07F-0360W). At Stirling, our goal is to provide ultra-low temperature freezers to the research community in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible.

Easy Ordering Online

Ordering a Stirling Ultracold ULT freezer or accessory through the GSA Advantage website is quick and easy:

  1. Visit www.gsaadvantage.gov
  2. Type “Stirling Ultracold” within the product search box
  3. Browse our product line of ULT freezers and accessories
  4. Purchase with ease and confidence

For more information about U.S. government agency purchasing of Stirling Ultracold products through GSA Advantage, you can contact Pulcir at 865-272-5338 or send an email message to Nick Pezzuolo at npezzuolo@stirlingultracold.com.

Staying Ahead of the Curve Regarding HFC Concerns

drip-339940_960_720Recently, the parties to the Montreal Protocol met in Vienna, Austria to discuss a multi-national agreement to further reduce global warming. Diplomats and leading foreign ministers from around the globe are closer than ever to an agreement that would ban the use of refrigerant hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s). HFC’s are more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, and a ban could avoid billions of tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions.

Scientists and international leaders on climate change have referred to this agreement as the single most important 2016 initiative to combat greenhouse-destroying gasses. In fact, United States Secretary of State John Kerry noted at the conference that climate initiatives such as this are as important as defeating terrorism, “because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself.”

As a result of climate change initiatives like those already agreed-upon in the Montreal Protocol, nearly 100 of the most ozone-depleting substances have been phased out of use. The international eradication of HFC’s could save the equivalent of emissions from nearly 300 coal-fired power plants each year.

The final 2016 meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol is set to take place in Rwanda in November. During that time, parties hope to finalize an action plan to phase down and eventually eliminate HFC usage.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

We are pleased to see global initiatives that support the ban of HFC’s and see this as a very important step toward environment sustainability and reduction of ozone depletion. As I pointed out last year’s blog post, Pioneering the Long Journey to U.S. Hydrocarbon Refrigerant Approval, Stirling Ultracold offered the first freezer in the United States to use 100% natural refrigerants – providing an ozone-friendly alternative to HFC refrigerants that emit harmful greenhouse gasses.

We embarked upon a rigorous 3-year approval process in 2012 through the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program and we were granted approval to launch our all-hydrocarbon-based refrigerant cooling system in 2014. We’re proud to have led the U.S. market toward the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants and are pleased to see others moving in this direction.

With pending global initiatives driving toward a future reduction and phase out of HFC, leaders in research organizations and institutions should be looking toward the adoption of alternatives. For the sustainability-minded, this is about more than just being prepared for compliance with future initiatives, but is a priority for protecting our atmosphere. Either way, it should be noted that Stirling Ultracold has been successfully offering a 100% natural refrigerant solution for over 2 years. So there’s really no reason to delay plans to phase out HFCs when buying and replacing ULT freezers.

We will continue to keep a close eye on the discussions in Rwanda this coming November and we look forward to more stringent global regulations against harmful HFC’s.

Sources:

Remarks at the Montreal Protocol High-level Segment (US Department of State)

The world is poised to take the strongest action of this year against climate change (Washington Post)

What Do Freezer Users Want in a Perfect Door Handle?

After introducing our revolutionary Stirling engine, the most significant ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer innovation in decades, we knew that our goal of innovating ULT technology was far from complete. Continuous improvement has always been a part of our DNA at Stirling Ultracold, and we strive to be “best in class” in every ULT freezer category.  For this reason, we have continued to listen and gather feedback from freezer users, which is helping us learn how to make a great freezer even better.

A theme that we have heard throughout the researcher community is that there is a less-than-favorable perception of freezer door handles across our industry.  To us, this presented an opportunity to provide our customers with a “best in class” door handle through our continuous improvement process.  This led our engineering team to begin exploring an improved handle design, guided by key attributes that would define a “perfect” door handle.

We determined that a perfect ULT freezer door
handle should . . .

  • Enable one-hand door opening and closing (allowing the handling of samples with the other hand)
  • Provide an easier and quicker way to open frozen, vacuum-sealed doors
  • Assure an easy, reliable and effective gasket compression seal upon door closure
  • Provide built-in door locking security

A New Door Handle for the SU780UEhandle-blog-image

Having completed our design exploration, prototyping and reliability testing over 35,000 open/close cycles (equivalent to 20 years of normal use), all Stirling Ultracold SU780UE upright freezers will now come equipped with a brand new door handle that fulfills the above design goals.

Just like our other freezer innovations, this new handle has unique patent pending features that are not available on any other ULT door handle. This includes our new Kickout-Release™ feature with cam-actuated, 90° rotation that applies a mechanical advantage to quickly open frozen and vacuum sealed doors.

Upgrade Handles on Stirling Freezers You Already Have

We also designed our improved handle to be field-installable on all existing Stirling Ultracold SU780U/UE model upright freezers. A handle “upgrade kit” is now available for freezers in the field, at a price that compares favorably to industry aftermarket pricing for replacement door handles.  Contact your Stirling Ultracold account manager, email us at upgrade@stirlingultracold.com or call us at 1-740-274-7980 for handle upgrade pricing and details.

Video shows open/close mechanical testing of the new SU780UE freezer door handle over 35,000 cycles

My Green Lab Working with Utilities to Standardize ULT Freezer Energy Rebates

The historical absence of independent, objective, third-party data has made it difficult for ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer buyers to make valid energy use comparisons. The significant importance of this was suggested in last year’s My Green Lab study, Market Assessment of Energy Efficiency Opportunities in Laboratories, which projected up to 648 million kWh of electricity is being used each year to power -80° C freezers in California, alone! With the EPA’s release of the ENERGY® STAR Final Test Method for Laboratory Grade Refrigerators and Freezers, the test methods are now in place to develop energy efficiency standards for ULT freezers.  Ultimately this will help ULT buyers choose products that truly deliver significant energy savings, and enable research organizations to take full advantage of the energy and cost savings opportunities now available to them.

Seizing The Utility Rebate Opportunity

My Green Labs Rebate OpportunityThanks to the utility companies who sponsored the My Green Lab study and the excellent leadership of Executive Director, Allison Paradise, I’m pleased to report that an effort is underway to seize this significant energy savings opportunity. As a non-profit organization and part of The Center for Energy Efficient Laboratories (CEEL), My Green Lab is bringing together the industry’s manufacturers to gather the data needed for offering standardized utility rebate programs to ULT freezer users across the state of California.  Allison’s team is working with the three California utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) and has engaged an ENERGY STAR-certified independent laboratory to perform standardized testing across a range of ULT models, using the ENERGY STAR Final Test Method.

Significant Potential Benefits

As I’ve recently posted, many Stirling freezer buyers have already performed their own energy comparison tests and received custom rebates for purchasing our SU780UE upright model. With the cooperation of ULT freezer manufacturers, independently-certified results will create a considerably streamlined process for California labs to apply for rebates when replacing their inefficient ULT freezers.

This program has the potential to spread benefits well beyond the state of California, as other utilities across the country choose to adopt these ULT freezer energy use standards.  The EPA is fully engaged in this effort as well, and the data collected is intended to provide the EPA with the information it needs to complete its ENERGY STAR rating program for ultra-low freezers, giving ULT buyers a standard that is similar to the “MPG” fuel consumption rating used by car buyers.

Looking Forward to Test Results

We’re pleased to report that third-party testing has already been completed for our SU780UE ULT freezer. We look forward to sharing these certified results when all model testing has been completed and published. Having seen our test data, I am confident that these results will independently confirm our continued commitment to delivering sustainability advantages, as compared to compressor-based systems.

Again, we applaud the efforts of My Green Lab and its utility partners for leading the way toward a more sustainable and energy-efficient future for California research laboratories!

Why We’re Becoming a “Zero Waste” Manufacturer… Not Just “Zero Landfill”

We Pledge Zero WasteAt Stirling Ultracold, we’re very proud to offer products that are known for helping research organizations achieve their corporate sustainability initiatives.  Of course, we realize that the claim of being “green” is made by virtually everyone in our industry. It’s unfortunate that “greenwashing” has become more of a marketing tactic than a real commitment to reduce environmental impact. For us, the call to sustainability has been at the heart of our belief system from the very beginning.  This is reflected throughout our entire product line, as well as our corporate culture. That is also why we have embarked on an aggressive “Zero Waste” program throughout our business.

“Zero Waste” vs. “Zero Landfill”

As has been pointed out in an article by Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, Inc., a focus on “Zero Landfill” implies that burning waste is acceptable. While diverting waste from our expanding landfills is a very good idea, the common practice of converting this waste through incineration generates high levels of greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants, which makes no sense environmentally, economically or socially.

At Stirling, we are transitioning our Athens, OH operation into a “Zero Waste” facility.  This means that we are diverting waste from landfills through the processes of recycling, reuse or composting–not incineration.  As part of this effort, we have also initiated a waste reduction program that targets inefficient consumption of materials in the first place.

Our Zero Waste Process

To assist in our transition to Zero Waste, Stirling Ultracold has established a local partnership with Rural Action, a community based sustainable development organization located in Southeast Ohio. Rural Action has been nationally recognized for its programs, and has worked with many partners in our region to deliver training, resources and support for enabling Zero Waste initiatives.

After ongoing consultation and training with Rural Action, we began establishing new practices and behaviors within our organization to fulfill guidelines of their “Zero Waste Pledge”. One example of this included recycling a significant volume of discarded plastic films, which were used by a nearby Marietta, OH manufacturer to make polyethylene guardrail offset blocks for highway safety.

To review our progress, the Rural Action team conducted a comprehensive “waste management assessment” of our Athens operation last fall.  This report indicated that our Zero Waste initiative had achieved an impressive diversion rate of 98%! According to Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program Manager, Andrea Reany . . .

“Stirling Ultracold is already well on their way to becoming a Zero Waste Manufacturer and I have been impressed with their dedication to decreasing the amount of waste created throughout the organization.”

We feel very fortunate to have benefited from Rural Action’s excellent guidance and expertise throughout this transition.  The next step in our process will be seeking Zero Waste Business Certification from an authorized agency later this year.  When we are officially certified, I plan to follow up with another blog post. So stay tuned!

Fred Hutch Research Reports Earning $20K Rebate with Stirling Freezers

In my last blog post, I highlighted how electric utilities and Stirling Ultracold customers are increasingly benefiting from rebates tied to replacing their legacy, compressor-based models with energy-efficient SU780UE ultra-low freezers. In this post, I’m happy to commend one world-renowned research institution who has reported earning rebates for their Stirling freezer replacement program.

In their newsletter “Hutch News”, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently posted Ultra-low freezers earn cool $20K rebate from Seattle City Light. The second newsletter article reports how Fred Hutchinson (Fred Hutch) began the process of replacing its fleet of conventional compressor-driven ULT freezers with Stirling models in 2013. As a result, the facilities team was able to contract with their local electric utility, Seattle City Light, to receive rebates of $600 per new freezer. The Fred Hutch team has calculated that replacing their current freezers with Stirling units can save them 481,664 kilowatt hours per year, which equates to a savings of $27,937 annually in electricity alone.

In this newsletter post, Critical-Systems Supervisor, James Mead states . . .

“We did some operational and energy-use studies over a six-month period and were shocked because the energy consumption was so much lower compared to what we were using. Our studies found all claims by the company to be true, if not conservative. We were sold on it.”

Fred Hutch’s Material Director, Mark Burch, also commented, “To me, this is a great example of what happens when we all work together to support the science and save the environment.”

I’m thrilled to see another example of how our products are having a positive financial and sustainable impact . . . and how our users are just as thrilled to talk about it to their communities and stakeholders.

It’s possible that your research organization could also benefit from a utility rebate program for ULT freezer replacement with Stirling Ultracold models. Contact your Stirling Ultracold representative who can help with setting up the rebate process.

Stirling Users Increasingly Rewarded with Energy Rebates and Incentives

Plug and SparksAs the significant energy savings made possible by Stirling Ultracold freezers are now universally confirmed through independent testing and EPA ENERGY STAR® Final Test Method results, it’s not surprising that several major U.S. electric utility companies are offering rebates to research organizations who adopt our ULT freezers.  Many sustainability-conscious research institutions are also now incentivizing the purchase of our freezers by offering their own internal rebate programs.

Below is the growing list of utilities and research organizations that have implemented ULT energy rebate/incentive programs for buying our freezers so far . . .

  • Duke University
  • Eversource Energy (formerly NStar) rebate for:
    • Harvard University Faculty of Arts & Sciences
  • Pacific Gas and Electric Company rebates for:
    • Bay area commercial biotech and biopharma users
    • University of California San Francisco
  • San Diego Gas and Electric rebate for:
    • University of California San Diego
  • Seattle City Light rebates for:
    • University of Washington
    • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Stanford University
  • University of California Riverside
  • University of Pennsylvania

It’s quite possible that your research organization could also benefit from a utility or internal energy rebate program for ULT freezer replacement with Stirling Ultracold models.  Contact your utility or Stirling Ultracold representative to help with setting up the rebate process.

The Real Life Cycle Cost of an Ultra-Low Freezer

Did you know that initial purchase price is a relatively small part of the actual cost to own an ultra-low temperature freezer? That’s because the real cost of a ULT is the sum of the purchase price, plus costs for energy, HVAC, floor space and the usual compressor replacement.  With the typical cascade-compressor freezer consuming the equivalent electric power of an average U.S. household, all that energy is rejected as heat in your building, which adds a substantial cost for your HVAC system.

What is your compressor-based ultra-low freezer really costing your organization?
Using manufacturers’ published energy use data at 16c/kWh electric costs, with typical floor space and compressor replacement cost estimates from independent sources, the table on the right estimates cost of ownership percentages per cubic foot of storage per year for a typical compressor-based ULT.

Reduce Total Cost of Ownership by Thinking Strategically

Considering that initial purchase price accounts for less than a third of ULT storage cost, you can see how energy consumption and operating costs have a surprising impact on lowering overall life cycle cost.  Of course, this is counter to the traditional way of thinking about buying freezers.  More research organizations are now looking at that their ULT purchases strategically and replacing traditional models with Stirling Ultracold units.  Using less than half the energy, the SU780UE can typically lower total cost of ownership by about 40%—even with a higher initial purchase price.

In fact, even a free cascade-compressor ULT freezer typically costs more to own than the SU780UE! Watch this video to see how that’s possible . . .

Cooling Performance Integrity Should Not Come with an “Off” Switch

I have good news and bad news.  First, the good news . . .on-off-Switch

With a history of driving up lab utility bills more than their share, it’s good to see compressor-based ultra-low freezer manufacturers aspiring to develop more energy-efficient ULTs.  We applaud this effort and are encouraged to see the lab sustainability imperative gaining a foothold within the research community. In a relatively short time, I believe that Stirling Ultracold has played a positive role in helping to change the industry mindset. By introducing an innovative, energy-efficient cooling technology to the ULT marketplace, we have proven that dramatic sustainability improvements are possible without compromising cooling performance or system reliability.

And now for the bad news . . .

They Want You to Forget that Compromise is Unnecessary

The industry’s move toward energy efficiency has led some to perpetuate the disproven myth that cooling integrity must be compromised to save energy.  In a world that assumes all ultra-low freezers are powered by inherently inefficient compressor technology, this myth actually appears to be true.  However, it’s not true in today’s world, where the Stirling engine is a proven alternative to compressors. That’s why cascade freezer manufacturers would like you to forget that the myth of “necessary compromise” has been disproven by the Stirling SU780UE, through years of third-party data, an independent DOE study and EPA industry-standard test results.

More Bad News: ULT Freezers with Compromise “Built In”

The false axiom that cooling performance must be traded for energy savings and economy has been designed into some compressor-based ULTs.  By offering two operation modes, these freezers either prioritize energy efficiency or cooling performance (i.e. temperature stability) based on operating conditions and/or user selection. However, they can’t have both at the same time!

Is it realistic to ask a researcher, who has years of work depending on the preservation of precious biological samples, to make a choice that reduces cooling performance integrity . . . for any reason . . .at any time?  Energy managers, who have little control over day-to-day ULT storage operation, might well assume that energy efficiency will be turned “off” if there is even the slightest perceived risk to sample security or piece of mind.

Why make this false choice when you don’t have to?  With the Stirling SU780UE, you’ll use less energy than any comparable ULT freezer, while preserving biological samples with the industry’s best cooling performance integrity . . . all at the same time.

What’s the Difference Between “Typical”, “Specification” and “Final Test Method”?

Typical vs Spec vs EPA Final Test MethodFor anyone out there who is confused about which upright ultra-low freezer has the lowest energy consumption in real world conditions, let me make it simple for you . . .

According to test data, publically submitted using the EPA ENERGY STAR® Final Test Method, the Stirling Ultracold SU780UE freezer uses 9.24 kWh/day. No other comparable ULT freezer on the market can substantiate energy consumption this low, using the industry standard test method. By the way, we would be more than happy to send you our test data in the required EPA format.

Reporting a single overall number, this test method was created by the industry and the EPA to provide a simple way for customers to compare ULT freezer’s energy use. This is analogous to the combined city/highway MPG reported for passenger vehicles by the EPA. For example, a 2015 Subaru Outback has a combined city/highway mileage of 28 mpg (www.fueleconomy.gov). It is well understood by drivers that their actual mileage depends upon a number of factors, including how they drive. Also note that mileage will differ somewhat between one vehicle and another because of manufacturing variability.

While this should be simple, there are different ways to test a freezer and there is confusion out there about what is meant by “typical” versus “specifications” published in sales literature. So let’s look at some definitions . . .

What is the Definition of “Typical”?

The dictionary definition of the word “typical” is, “representative characteristic of a person or thing.” Some within our industry have chosen to represent ULT freezer energy use as “typical” in their published literature. If a number of identical model freezers are tested, this suggests that some units will be more energy efficient while others will be less energy efficient than stated. Given the lack of a clear definition here, it would be reasonable to assume that “typical” is the average, suggesting that about half the freezers will perform worse than typical. This terminology is even less clear, and even less useful, if the manufacturer uses a proprietary test method, which may bear no resemblance to actual operating conditions.

What is the Definition of “Specification”?

The dictionary definition of the word “specification” is, “an act of describing or identifying something precisely or of stating a precise requirement . . . a standard of workmanship, materials, etc. required to be met in a piece of work.” In other words, a specification indicates specific performance that must always be met under the test condition. Our published specification for energy use is “< 9 kWh/day at -80°C setpoint” for the SU780UE in steady state operation with the door closed. (While not as comprehensive as the EPA Standard Test Method, our end-of-line testing procedure balances the industry’s highest energy efficiency standards with the practical time constraints of the production environment.)

To summarize and contrast these two definitions . . . A “specification” is a promise. “Typical” performance is not.

Ask for Test Results Data using the EPA ENERGY STAR Final Test Method

We’re proud of our energy use specification and we test every freezer we manufacture to this standard. Because test methods vary, you should not rely on sales literature when making a ULT buying decision, and you should always ask the freezer manufacturer to provide test data using the published EPA ENERGY STAR® Final Test Method. If they cannot provide this data, you should question the integrity of their marketing material.

The fact that our published spec varies only slightly from the EPA test, which prescribes door openings in the procedure, only proves my point. Integrity and transparency are important in an industry where numbers are thrown around so casually.

By the way the typical energy consumption of our freezers shipped during September was 7.9 kWh/day! This compares to a specification of 9 kWh/day. In the interest of transparency, I am defining “typical” here to mean the average at a -80°C set point in steady state operation―with the door closed.