If you are putting together your company's first biological laboratory, there are many pieces of equipment you will need. But if your experiments will involve those that require controlled, cold temperatures, then you will need at least one, but probably several, chilling incubators. You want to make sure you select the right model with the features that best fit what you hope to accomplish with your lab experiments. The following are a few things to look for when shopping.
The capability of the programmable controls for temperature
Any good chilling incubator will have programmable controls, but you need to pay attention to the specifications for how tight these controls are. Your requirements for your initial needs along with your future requirements should be compared to what the incubator offers. How large will the fluctuation in temperature be, and will this be compatible with what you are looking to accomplish? In addition to temperature, make sure the chamber has specifications for controls on both humidity and carbon dioxide. Sometimes these are overlooked, as buyers focus on temperature controls.
The surface of the interior of the chamber
Although stainless steel is the most common material used inside these incubators, not all stainless steel is the same. You need to look at the specifications for the surface to make sure that it will be good enough for your laboratory work. The most important attributes are corrosion and acid resistance.
Even if you are only looking to purchase a single incubator, there may come a time when you have a larger batch or larger containers that will not fit in the chamber. But if the issue is with the height of the containers, rather than buy a second chamber, you may be able to adjust the shelves. Some shelving offers more options for configuration, and you may be able to adapt a single chamber for many experiments. This allows you to forgo buying a second incubator.
Many chilling incubators will have various electronic interfaces so the temperatures and other data can be recorded at specific time intervals. Having a record of these temperatures, even with only minor, inconsequential fluctuations, can help rule out a temperature issue when the experiment did not turn out as predicted. This data can also document your experiments to give them greater credibility to the outside world.
Your first chilling incubator should be one that is a smart purchase. Your technicians may be using it extensively. Make sure you understand how tight the specifications are for temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide. The stainless steel should be resistant to corrosion and acids, and the interior shelving should be adjustable. You should also be able to electronically interface with the chamber to record the temperatures at regular time intervals.