Ultra Low Freezers: A Significant Near-Term Opportunity

Allison Paradise, My Green Lab
Anna Levitt, University of California, San Diego

Ultra low freezer use has seen exceptional growth since the technology was introduced in the 1960s. Fueled by the explosion in genetic research the number of ULT freezers in the UC system has grown to over 15,000 units. Based on numerous studies by several UC schools including UC Davis, UC San Diego and UC Riverside these freezers use an average of over 20 kWh/day of electricity. In addition, the heat rejection from ULT's adds an air conditioning load of up to 6 kWh/day.

UCSD has monitored 30 ULT freezers on their campus over the last three years to establish a baseline of energy use and opportunities for reduction. Data collected includes one-minute samples of kW, amps, mean operating temperature, mean ambient temperature, and compressor cycling.

With this data in hand the UCSD energy managers have developed a program to provide incentives for researchers to purchase wireless monitoring software for their freezers and new energy efficient freezers. The campus has used UC Statewide Energy Partnership (SEP) financing to partially fund this program. This presentation will look at the results of this monitoring, the design of the incentive program, the program's success thus far, and the potential impact of a similar UC-wide program.

In conjunction with this effort, UCSD and several other US schools and have worked with California-based non-profit My Green Labs to develop a laboratory energy use survey that established additional baseline information on plug loads and equipment usage. The goal of this survey is to create a case for CA utilities to develop systematic testing of laboratory equipment's energy use, similar to the EPA's Energy Star program. The results of this survey will be presented as well as the plan for engaging with the CA utilities to pursue a rebate/incentive program in 2016 that encourages rapid adoption of energy efficient units.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand and identify the load sources in a laboratory that utilize ultra low temperature (ULT) freezers
  • Recognize resources available to reduce ULT loads in research laboratories
  • Identify opportunities to engage with local utilities to provide incentives for energy efficient lab equipment
  • Understand the resources available to develop a sustainable laboratory program at your research institution or university


Allison Paradise is the Executive Director of My Green Lab, a California-based non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainability in laboratories. My Green Lab works with over two dozen organizations in California and several organizations nationally to reduce the environmental impact of their labs through outreach programs and concrete initiatives.

Anna Levitt is the Assistant Campus Energy Manager at UCSD. She does the day-to-day work of running the campus's $95M energy efficiency program. Prior to joining UC, Ms. Levitt worked with Newcomb Anderson McCormick in San Francisco on the team that developed the 2008 UC Strategic Energy Plan. Ms. Levitt has a B.S. in Engineering from Smith College, and is a licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer and Certified Energy Manager in the State of California.


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