It ain’t easy being choosy
Choosing an autoclave sterilizer can be a daunting task, especially given the wide range of considerations and sheer number of autoclaves on the market from which to choose. Below are the top 5 things to look for when selecting your next autoclave, especially considering the fact that it’s a large purchase and the autoclave, love it or hate it, is there to stay for a long time…
- Loading Capacity
Size definitely matters, both in terms of how much can fit inside and how much extra bulk there is outside (your autoclave, stay with me folks).
Top-loading autoclaves, in which the cylinder sits vertically, allow for autoclaving baskets to be stacked inside, as opposed to front-loading autoclaves, whose cylinders house a box within to hold trays, wasting tremendous space in the process. By stacking autoclave baskets, you’re essentially doubling or tripling the amount of media that it can hold, essentially raising capacity, even compared to other autoclave types that are the same volume.
With their configuration and the ability to stack, top-loading autoclaves are more bang for your buck for capacity.
2. Compact Size / Use of Space
Another thing to consider other than capacity is the amount of space that your autoclave will occupy. Depending on the configuration (top-loading or front-loading), the autoclave will either take up benchtop or floor-top space.
With a vertical cylinder, top-loading autoclaves are on the floor and hence, allow flexibility in where you place your autoclave, and keep the benchtop clear for other types of valuable equipment that has no other place.
Front-loading autoclaves in all cases either occupy valuable benchtop space, or will use unnecessary floor space due to the cylindrical chamber sitting on the side. Because they are front-loading and must be positioned at a higher spot for users to load/unload media, there will be wasted space below the main cylindrical area.
For reasons mentioned above, top-loading autoclaves are the best choice for flexibility of placement, not taking up valuable bench space and minimizing the floor space that it takes up. Check, check, and check.
3. Easy Installation
In addition to the actual cost of your autoclave, the time and money that it takes to install an autoclave can easily break your budget.
Modern autoclaves require electricity, water, and in some cases ready-to-use steam in order to function. Some autoclaves require installation of water and steam intakes to be installed, which require a plumbing expert to install, requiring huge money costs.
These intakes also place a limitation on where your autoclave would need to be placed, in some cases altogether in a different room, or even different part of the building that is difficult and timely to access.
While many autoclaves are cumbersome to install, others simply need to have water added in the chamber and can self-heat to produce steam, taking away the need for water and steam intakes. With these functions in certain top-loading autoclaves, including the TOMY SX-Series autoclaves, they simply need to be plugged in, allowing you to easily install and place your autoclave anywhere there is a power source.
With the time and cost-savings of autoclaves that do not require difficult installation, not to mention the flexibility of location, it makes it an en easy choice to choose an autoclave that only require a power intake to function.
4. Easy to Use
There are few exceptions when it comes to users preferring items that are easy to use. Several factors come into play when using an autoclave, the most important of which are those that require the human to do the work, including loading, operating, cleaning and storing your autoclave.
The method of loading differs greatly by autoclave; with a front-loading type one must reach and load items all the way into the back of an autoclave, or take great care in balancing and arranging items carefully to ensure that they can be loaded in the back. On the other hand, with the stacking baskets of top-loading / vertical autoclaves, items are easily placed in baskets and stacked on top of one another.
The ability to easily clean your autoclave is important, as damage to autoclaves is often due to dirty water in the autoclave chamber. At high temperature and pressure, impurities can stick and burn to the autoclave heater, causing it to short and break, bringing your sterilizing functions to a halt. For top-loading autoclaves such as TOMY SX-Series autoclaves, water in the autoclave chamber can be drained by removing the white plug and opening the drainage valve (green handle) under the machine and draining this into a container for disposal.
Moving and storing your autoclave play into their ease of use, especially when the time comes to actually move your autoclave. Autoclaves are extremely heavy, and those that sit on benchtops (which are the majority of front-loading autoclaves), require several people and special equipment to move. An option on wheels, including TOMY SX-Series autoclaves allow one person to easily move the autoclave across a flat surface, which becomes extremely convenient when that time comes.
5. The Bottom Line – Costs
Money is not only what makes the world go ’round, it’s also what’s going to be one of the major deciding factors of which autoclave you will choose. Choosing the autoclave that delivers on performance, yet saves you money not only at purchase, even more importantly in the long run should be the top priority for a top laboratory manager and decision maker.
The most major factor to consider is the reliability of the autoclave; this not only has to do with autoclave design, but also the parts sourced and the brand reputation servicing, which often directly correlate with the manufacturing location / country of origin. TOMY autoclaves still have their manufacturing operations in Japan and its products are known to provide quality and long-lasting reliability. TOMY also offers worldwide technical support and parts through distributorships, which means this is a wise decision to purchase through them to ensure your peace of mind.
Maintenance costs are equally as important as product reliability. An autoclave requiring regular upkeep and a paid professional to do so mean a large drain on your overall budget, taking away opportunities for new equipment and additional laboratory personnel. One must also consider the cost of replacing a gasket and how often this needs to be done in order to compare the upkeep costs.
Play the laboratory management smart by looking not only at the initial costs of purchasing an autoclave, but the additional upkeep costs that will either spare you or haunt you for years to come.
To Sum It Up
When looking for an autoclave, take all factors into account including the needs of your operation, the size and configuration of your laboratory / facility, and the time / effort it will take for your install, use and maintain your autoclave.
Think not only of the short term, but the long term as well and play the smart laboratory management game by also looking at additional upkeep costs that will either spare you or haunt you for years to come.
With all of these factors in mind, pay attention to the details, which will be everything in determining your future success.
Best of luck in your search!