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5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Biological Safety Cabinet

5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Biological Safety Cabinet

Your biological safety cabinet protects your employees and samples alike from harmful contamination, making it crucial for a safe lab environment. A well-maintained biosafety cabinet can provide decades of use, while on the other hand, a faulty BSC can result in major safety concerns and unprotected samples. So when is it the right time to replace your facility’s biosafety cabinet? It’s an important question to ask to get the longest possible lifespan from your lab equipment investments. Typically, biological safety cabinets have a usable lifespan of 15 years but many factors must be considered when deciding the right time to upgrade such an important piece of lab equipment.

Reasons to Upgrade Your Biosafety Cabinet Today

Physical Degradation: The appearance of rust or corrosion on the interior or exterior of your biological safety cabinet is a clear indication that it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. The presence of rust can be a sign of excess humidity or the incorrect use of corrosive solvents to clean the cabinet. Rusty surfaces in a biosafety cabinet can also make cleaning the appliance more difficult because microbes are more likely to stick to rust, which can lead to sample contamination.

Energy Savings: Because biosafety cabinets are capable of lasting so long, many lab managers are unaware of the newer features and benefits that modern BSC models offer. One major reason to upgrade your facility’s BSC is the potential energy savings. According to Marc Dunn, a technical applications specialist at Thermo Fisher Scientific, “Modern BSCs are much more energy-efficient than older type ‘energy hog’ BSCs that are still using AC motors. The return on investment by switching to a new modern DC motor Class II BSC should be evaluated.” A study performed by Baker found that if your lab uses a biosafety cabinet that is 15 or more years old and you were to replace it with a newer, more energy-efficient model, you can expect to receive an estimated annual operating cost savings of up to $1,900 per unit, or $28,500 during that same 15-year period of time.

Performance Improvements: Over the years, improvements in safety containment performance in modern BSCs have been driven by many factors, including product design, airflow optimization, improved HEPA filters, and testing methods. However, the single largest impact was the 1992 Revision of NSF Standard 49, which introduced several new tests designed to assure that all BSCs complied with specific performance requirements. These new evaluations included the measurement of inflow velocity, motor/blower performance, and biological safety containment effectiveness. 

Improved Serviceability: After a certain amount of years, some replacement parts may not be readily available due to electrical or mechanical changes at the appliance manufacturer or supplier. For example, magnetic ballasts and T12 fluorescent bulbs have been phased out and have not been commonly used since the year 2010. Additionally, improved front filter access, improved blower mounting, the inclusion of the exhaust choke screw, and improvement of the wiring system are all advancements that have also been made since the 1992 Revision of NSF Standard 49 to reduce service and/or certification time, resulting in lower maintenance costs compared to older BSC models. A biological safety cabinet that requires repetitive servicing to keep it running or that has failed its annual NSF certification test has reached the end of its life cycle and should be replaced as soon as possible.

Improvements in Ergonomics: Biosafety cabinet manufacturers have made many ergonomic improvements to reduce worker fatigue and increase work efficiency, such as enhanced forearm support, increased effective work area, expanded vision zone, and adjustable heights. In addition, newer cabinets are quieter than older models, a feature that appeals to scientists who work in labs with limited space. With the above ergonomic improvements, today’s biosafety cabinets provide improved safety conditions and accessibility for all users. 

How to Ensure a Long Life for Your New BioSafety Cabinet

After you’ve invested in a new biological safety cabinet, there are two primary tips to ensure a long life for your new lab equipment. The first tip is simple - clean your BSC regularly. General cleaning is one of the most obvious, but most often overlooked steps of maintaining an effective laboratory. Clean equipment is essential for obtaining accurate results, keeping lab workers safe, and eliminating sources of contamination in samples. The second is to have your BSC certified upon installation and then once per year after that. This ensures that your equipment is set up properly, complies with federal workplace safety laws, and preemptively diagnoses any issues your BSC may encounter. 

With proper maintenance, BSCs can run well for many years to come. However, vast improvements in efficiency, safety, and ergonomics can be compelling motivators for upgrading your safety cabinet at an earlier date. If you have questions about upgrading or receiving certification for your BSC, feel free to contact us at 919-303-1212 or via email at