Incubator warnings!!!

Tritech Research Tritech_Research at
Wed Jan 8 21:35:12 EST 1997

Since all of the Worm Labs use incubators, and many
of the Worm Labs have Tritech Research DigiTherm
Heating/Cooling Incubators, I think it is important
to post some general warnings and specific information
about them here.  *This is NOT a sales pitch*

Just as with computer data, backing up strains is important.
As with all kinds of "incubators", including temperature-
controlled rooms and even -80C freezers, our incubators
can (and WILL eventually) break down.  And, left in a
broken down "incubator", temperature-sensitive samples
(like worms) can be damaged or destroyed.  Therefore, it
is critical to store important samples (and strains) in
multiple locations:  in more than one incubator and/or
more than one freezer.  All of you know this, but it is
sometimes easy to forget when the equipment is working
flawlessly for months and months.  And it is because
someone cooked some strains that I thought to write this now.

That was the general information part; here is a brief
discussion of possible failure modes of our incubators.

The Coleman and Igloo thermoelectric units that we use
right now have fan motors and heat pumps "rated" (by
Coleman or Igloo) for an average life of 50,000 hours
(= 2083 days = 5.7 years).  However, the standard deviation
is very high - we test the incubators here for several
days before shipping them out, and occasionally we find
(and discard) units where the heat pump will burn out.

If the fan or heat pump burns out in "heating mode", the
incubator may continue to work "normally" (since a burned
out heat pump generates heat, and our controller will
turn power on and off appropriately), or the unit may not
be able to get hot enough (probably no big deal... BUT...)

If the fan or heat pump burns out in "cooling mode", the
incubator can overheat (since a burned out heat pump or fan
generates heat, and our controller will keep supplying
power since it "thinks" it is trying to cool.  Even though
our unit runs on an impressively low, energy-efficient
50 watts, even a portion of this can be enough to warm
the incubator to heat-shock temperature and above.

If the controller stops working (which usually happens if
the temp. probe is cut or damaged, but could also happen
if there is a huge power surge), the unit will either stop
running (in which case you get room temp) or keep running
indefinitely (in which case samples will either freeze or cook).
So, there you have it.  It is just as important to keep
backups of strains stored in other company's incubators.
Even though they charge at least 4x as much (over $2000
compared to our $500-650), they break down too, sometimes
covering worm plates with ice, or cooking them.  I have even
seen >$50,000 20C rooms heat up to over 37C.  One advantage
of our incubators (besides convenience, accuracy, and cost)
is low repair cost.  In the event that you have a problem,
(after our 1-year full parts and labor warranty expires)
we can replace the entire heating/cooling chamber, heat pumps
and all for about $200, giving you essentially a brand new
incubator; whereas, other companies will charge that much
just for a service call.  Or, we can get you a replacement
fan for about $25.  If you need a copy of our catalog or have
any other questions, feel free to e-mail or call (800)733-3874.
All that being said, have a happy, healthy, and experimentally
successful 1997!

Andy Papp

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