2020 NIH Freezer Challenge Results

Four labs participated in the 2020 NIH Freezer Challenge to improve freezer management, increase freezer reliability, and reduce energy consumption. 

The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) hosts an annual freezer challenge where thousands of labs from private companies, universities and government organizations compete to see who can reduce the most energy consumed by the freezers in their labs. The NIH Freezer Challenge Results were submitted to the I2SL Freezer Challenge. The NIH won the 2020 I2SL Freezer Challenge in the government organization category. Also, the NCI Laboratory of Cell Biology won the 2020 I2SL Freezer Challenge in the individual government laboratory category. A big congratulations to our NIH participants.

The challenge was held from January 1 to July 1 of 2020. Challenge initiatives ranged from maintenance options, such as defrosting freezers, to laboratory best-management practices, such as changing the temperature setting of Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezers from -80°C to -70°C. Changing the temperature setting of an ULT freezer from -80°C to -70°C reduces the amount of work that the compressor does, which increases freezer reliability and reduces energy consumption by about 20%. These results show the power each lab has to incrase freezer reliabilty while also protecting the environment. These savings are from only four labs; imagine what we could do if the entire NIH joined in! Participate in the 2021 Freezer Challenge to help out!

2020 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants

NCI​Laboratory of Cell Biology
NCILaboratory of Human Carcinogenesis
Reproductive Cancer Genetics Section
​NIDDK​Genetics and Metabolism Section of LDB

A summary of the energy savings, costs savings, and greenhouse gas reductions are shown in the table below.

2020 NIH Freezer Challenge Annual Savings

Challenge Initiative ​
​Numer of Freezers or Refrigerators Initiatives Were Completed On ​​Annual Savings ​
​kWh/Year​$/YearGHG MTCO2e/year​
Change the temperature to (-70°C)​21​46,757​5143​20
​Freezer Defrost (-86°C)1​2,227
​Freezer Defrost (-20°C)​23​12,802​$1,408​5
​Refrigerator Defrost (4°C)​2​846​$93​.4
​Retire Freezers (-86°C)​4​35,624​$3,919​15
​Retire Freezers (-20°C)​8​17,812​$1,959​7
​Retire Refrigerators (4°C)​11​18,614​$2,047​8

The following table shows the complete list of initiatives completed as part of this challenge.

Detailed Participation Results

​Challenge InitiativeTotal​
​Conduct a complete freezer / refrigerator defrost​28 freezers and refrigerators
​Discard Samples LN2 ​5,129 samples
​Discard Samples (-86°C)​8,032 samples
​Discard Samples (-20°C)5,035 samples
​Discard Samples (4°C)​1,710 samples
​Retire Freezers (-86°C)4 freezers
​Retire Freezers (-20°C)8 freezers
​​Retire Refrigerators (4°C)​11 refrigerators
​​Change the ULT freezer temperature setting to -70°C​21 freezers
Maintain an electronic sample inventory
​69 freezers
​Barcode Samples​4 freezers
​Share freezer space with other researchers​16 freezers
Move Samples from (-86°C) to (-20°C)​3 freezers