Practitioners who are storing vaccines, participating in a VFC program, or seeking to comply with requirements set out by the CDC, are usually recommended to purchase a medical grade refrigerator rather than just use a household-style refrigerator. You may wonder what is so much better about a medical-grade refrigerator and why this added expense is necessary?
Medical Grade vs Household Refrigerators and Freezers:
Studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have shown that household refrigerators are less able to maintain adequate storage temperatures than commercial or medical grade refrigerators. A "medical grade" fridge is just a commercial grade refrigerator with a few added options. They are manufactured with stronger components that last longer and are less likely to fail. Commercial refrigerators with double compartments housing a fridge and freezer will have two compressors, one for each compartment, whereas a household refrigerator usually cools both compartments with only one compressor. The temperature controls are more accurate than the ones that are used in household units.
Commercial units are also equipped with alarms that indicate when a door is left open or when a loss/gain in temperature is happening. Household units usually have storage areas on the door which cause a risk of fluctuating temperatures for items kept in those areas. Medical refrigerators do not have any door storage.
Medical Grade Refrigerators vs Commercial Refrigerators:
Medical Refrigerators have a few added features which commercial units do not usually have. Glass doors are one of these features, allowing users to locate the item they desire before opening the door. This improves efficiency for less door open time and maintains temperature consistency. Medical refrigerators are designed with grated shelving allowing better airflow and more consistent temperatures throughout the refrigerator. They are also equipped with an alarm which is designed for the storage of vaccines and CDC requirements.
Household and Medical Refrigerators with Battery Backup Power
In general, a household refrigerator has a smaller compressor which runs less, making it more efficient and costly to provide emergency power. Many household refrigerator manufactures like to make products that are “Energy Star” rated, which ensures their consumers that the appliance will not have much impact on the electricity bill. The less energy the appliance uses the cheaper it is to provide emergency battery backup power.
Below is a few Manufacturers of Medical Grade Refrigerators: