The NIH Freezer Challenge!

Increase Freezer Reliability and Reduce Energy Consumption from Freezers at the NIH.

Freezer reliability is essential to prevent the loss of important research and avert the dreaded 3 AM freezer alarms. Mechanical Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezers are one of the most energy intensive pieces of laboratory equipment. Annual energy costs and CO2 emissions for an older unmaintained ULT freezer can amount to $1,600/year and 18,000 lbs. of CO2/year. There are currently 3,400 ULT freezers in service at the NIH and thousands of -20 freezers and refrigerators. So the total costs and emissions are significant. 

ULT freezers can be managed effectively to reduce energy consumption, which increases freezer reliability and decreases energy costs and emissions. The NIH freezer policy, Manual Chapter 26101-16, sets the requirements for freezer management at the NIH. The NIH Freezer Challenge goes beyond the freezer policy to further increase reliability and decrease energy consumption.

The NIH Freezer Challenge is modeled after the, International Freezer Challenge, run by the non-profit organizations My Green Lab and the  International Institutes of Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) Freezer ChallengeUpon completion of the NIH Freezer Challenge, the organization's results will be submitted to the International Freezer Challenge. The NIH won the 2020 International Freezer Challenge in the Government Organization and Individual Laboratory Categories!

2021 NIH Freezer Challenge

Help the NIH increase freezer reliability, decrease energy consumption and become repeat winners in the International Freezer Challenge by signing up for the 2021 NIH Freezer Challenge.

Participants are provided information on proven management practices and each lab can choose what initiatives they will undertake. To qualify for certification and recognition, the laboratory must meet all the requirements set forth in Manual Chapter 26101-16 and the laboratory must complete at least one of the Challenge Initiatives. Please follow the following link for the list of Minimum Requirements and Challenge Initiatives.


2020 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants and Results 

The 2020 NIH Freezer Challenge was held from Jan 1, 2020 until July 1, 2020.  Participants completed a number of initiatives that increased freezer reliability, saved energy and reduced costs.  A list of the labs that participated in the 2020 Freezer Challenge and a summary of the intiatives they completed can be found here 

2019 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants and Results 

The 2019 NIH Freezer Challenge was held from Jan 1, 2019 until April 1, 2019.  Participants completed a number of initiatives that increased freezer reliability, saved energy and reduced costs.  A list of the labs that participated in the 2019 Freezer Challenge and a summary of the intiatives they completed can be found here.


The NIH Division of Scientific Equipment & Instrumentation Services (DSEIS) can help you meet the requirements of purchasing Energy Star Freezers, will perform preventative maintenances on freezers and labs can rent a spare freezer from DSEIS to help with defrosts.  Check out the DSEIS webpage for more information and contacts.


For More Information:

Contact the NIH Division of Environmental Protection, POC Jaroslav Sebek.