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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 alarm. 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°C freezers and refrigerators. The total costs and emissions from cold storage equipment is 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). Upon completion of the NIH Freezer Challenge, the NIH results will be submitted to the International Freezer Challenge. The NIH won the 2020 and the 2021 International Freezer Challenge in the Government Organization and Individual Laboratory Categories!


The 2024 NIH Freezer Challenge

The 2024 NIH Freezer Challenge has been extended until​ May 31, 2024.

To participate, fill out a freezer challenge form and submit ​it ​to Virgil Thornton II, virgil.thornton@nih.gov​, by May 31, 2024.

Help the NIH increase freezer reliability, decrease energy consumption and become repeat winners in the International Freezer Challenge by signing up for the 2024 NIH Freezer Challenge.

NIH Freezer Challenge Virtual Background.pngPromote the Freezer Challenge and encourage other labs to participate with this virtual background! Follow these instructions to download the background and use it during your meetings.

Participants are provided information on proven management practices and each lab can choose which initiatives they will undertake. To qualify for certification and recognition, the laboratory must meet requirements set forth in Manual Chapter 26101-16 and the laboratory must complete at least one of the Challenge initiatives. Please review the Freezer Challenge Guide, which details the requirements, initiatives and resources available to challenge participants: The NIH Freezer Challenge Guide​


The NIH Freezer Challenge Savings Data

The link above includes the freezer challenge results that can be sorted by: Year, IC, and Building. These results were accomplished by a small number of labs. By participating in the freezer challenge, each lab can make a difference in freezer reliability and environmental sustainability.


2023 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants an​d Results

The 2023 NIH Freezer Challenge was held from Jan 1, 2022 until June 1, 2023. Participants completed a number of initiatives that increased freezer reliability, saved energy,​ and reduced costs.  A ​list of the labs that participated in the 2023 Freezer Challenge and a summary of the initiatives they completed can be found here.​


2022 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants and Results

The 2022 NIH Freezer Challenge was held from Jan 1, 2022 until May 15, 2022. Participants completed a number of initiatives that increased freezer reliability, saved energy,​ and reduced costs.  A ​list of the labs that participated in the 2022​ Freezer Challenge and a summary of the initiatives they completed can be found here.​


2021 NIH Freezer Challenge Participants and Results

The 2021 NIH Freezer Challenge was held from Jan 1, 2021 until May 1, 2021. Participants completed a number of initiatives that increased fr​​eezer reliability, saved energy, and reduced costs.  A ​list of the labs that participated in the 2021​ Freezer Challenge and a summary of the initiatives they completed can be found here.


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 initiatives 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 fr​​eezer reliability, saved energy, and reduced costs.  A list of the labs that participated in the 2019 Freezer Challenge and a summary of the initiatives​ they completed can be found here.


For More Information:

Contact the NIH Division of Environmental Protection, POC Virgil Thornton II.​






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