Skip to main content

Rebate Program Freezes Rising Energy Costs in Campus Labs

A freezer rebate program started by NC State Energy Management is slashing energy costs in university research labs. 

The Ultra Low Temperature (ULT) Freezer Energy Efficiency Rebate Program incentivizes researchers to replace aging, inefficient freezers with high-efficiency models. 

Laboratory-grade ULT freezers are integral to protecting research samples while maximizing storage capacity. Traditional ULT freezers use conventional compressor-based systems to achieve the -80℃ (equivalent to -112℉) temperature required for research sample storage. These systems are expensive to maintain and use a lot of energy. 

By sharing the cost of new high-efficiency freezer, the rebate program encourages researchers to choose freezers that save energy and use environmentally-friendly refrigerant. 

NC State Energy Management monitored the electricity use of conventional and high-efficiency ULT freezers on campus for several months. Results showed that high-efficiency ULT freezers use one-third of the electricity and save the university more than $500 in energy usage costs annually compared to a new conventional freezer. When purchased to replace an older conventional freezer, a high-efficiency ULT freezer uses less than 25% of the electricity, creating energy savings of nearly $1,000 every year. 

Currently, high-efficiency ULT freezers cost more to purchase than conventional freezers. The rebate program equalizes this cost by providing researchers with funding to bridge the initial cost gap so that the university reaps long-term energy savings. 

“The rebate program has been a great way to acquire the latest technology of ultra low freezer at a very affordable price, with the added benefit of reduced energy costs,” said Wall Crumpler of the Department of Biological Sciences.  

More than  20 new high-efficiency freezers have been purchased through the rebate program, and seven old freezers are no longer in use on campus. The rebate program also ensures responsible disposal of old freezers. 

“What we really like about this program is that it is not only a wise energy saving investment, it’s also helpful to our researchers,” said Kerby Smithson, an energy program coordinator who created and manages the rebate program. “As Energy Management builds its relationship with the research community on campus, we will explore other ways that we can improve lab sustainability overall.”

Smithson received an NC State Award for Excellence in part for his leadership of this cost-saving program. 

Researchers interested in the rebate program can visit to apply.

This post was originally published in Sustainability News.