The NIH Freezer Challenge!

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

Freezer failures may cause the loss of important research and freezers are one of the most energy intensive pieces of laboratory equipment.  Annual energy costs and CO2 emissions for an older unmaintained Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezer can amount to $1,600/year and 12,000 lbs. of CO2/year.  New Energy Star Certified ULT Freezers consume less energy, with annual energy costs of $400 and cause 3,000 lbs. CO2 emissions/year.  There are currently 3,300 ULT freezers in service at the NIH, so the total costs and emissions are significant.  ULT freezers can be managed effectively to increase reliability and reduce energy consumption.  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 next freezer challenge will be held from Jan 1 to April 1, 2020.  To participate in the 2020 Freezer Challenge labs must send an email to the following link that includes the laboratory IC and the POC for challenge.

Take the Challenge!

Participants will be 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.


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.  2019 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants and Results 


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.


The NIH Freezer Challenge is modeled after the International Institutes of Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) Freezer Challenge.  I2SL International Freezer Challenge

Our fellow HHS Operating Division, the CDC, has been an active participant in the I2SL Freezer Challenge.  The CDC won the government sector award in both 2017 and 2018.  Learn more about the CDC initiatives here.


For More Information:

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