Understanding Steam Autoclave Ownership Costs: Acquisition Cost vs. Operating Cost
From small laboratory autoclaves to advanced biocontainment (BSL-3) models—purchasing a steam autoclave is a significant investment. Beyond budgeting for upfront purchasing costs, it’s critical to understand the overall lifetime cost of owning a steam autoclave as well.
To effectively evaluate your purchasing decision, you must not only consider the initial price tag (acquisition cost, or first cost), but also the cost of maintaining the steam autoclave over two decades (operating cost, or second cost). These two numbers will help you understand the true cost of owning and maintaining your unit over its entire lifespan.
As you look to purchase your next steam autoclave, be sure you consider the following second cost factors:
1. Maintenance Costs
Over the course of 20 years, any steam autoclave will naturally undergo wear and tear that can slow down processing capability. From mineral deposit buildups in piping, to spilled liquids in the chamber, to worn door gaskets, every autoclave risks operational hindrances that are simply a byproduct of regular use. To keep a steam autoclave working properly, it’s important that you plan for and budget the resources to develop and employ a system for scheduled maintenance. This will help minimize unnecessary downtime and will maximize unit performance and functionality today, tomorrow, and for years to come.
Proper autoclave maintenance depends on a balance of self-service and professional service attendance. Therefore, you and your facility personnel must plan to execute visual checks, daily drain strainer cleaning, and weekly wipe-down of the autoclave chamber, as well as be prepared to schedule regular, thorough inspections by factory-trained and authorized service technicians. Authorized service technicians will perform maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer, thereby protecting your investment.
Work with a manufacturer who will:
a) Help you devise a preventative maintenance plan that is based upon your usage and throughput requirements. Ask about maintenance kits, available warranties, and other smart options designed to help keep your steam autoclave running at top performance for many years. Be proactive about maintenance!
b) Offer factory-training courses and provide technical support via phone or through Ethernet connectivity. Training courses can be beneficial if you have an internal technician who can address common maintenance issues.
c) Provide a steam autoclave that is designed and manufactured for reliability, as this will significantly reduce maintenance costs over the unit’s lifetime.
2. Replacement Parts Costs
During a steam autoclave’s 20+ year life, various mechanical parts and electrical components will need repair and replacement. Purchasing a steam sterilizer that has been manufactured with non-proprietary parts and components is the best way to protect your investment.
Sterilizers built with non-proprietary parts ensure that future efforts to locate and replace these parts will be faster, less expensive, and involve less risk than trying to do the same for an autoclave manufactured with proprietary parts.
If you purchase a steam autoclave manufactured with proprietary parts, you could be exposing yourself to a number of situations that could drastically hamper your facility’s future production capacity. Issues such as lead-time, availability, and price escalation should be taken into consideration.
To avoid lengthy operational interruptions and cost implications, don’t be left feeling saddled with proprietary equipment and no alternatives. Choose a manufacturer that has a single product focus and fabricates units using non-proprietary parts and control systems.
3. Utility Costs
Steam sterilizers utilize water, steam, and electricity to operate. These costs can add up fast over the course of 20 years. Just the water costs to operate the autoclave can amount to over $100,000. Each of these utilities can be minimized with water and energy saving features provided by the autoclave manufacturer.
It is also important to point out the “indirect” utility consumption that is generated from the autoclave’s heat load to the room. When the sterilizer is powered up, the jacket is filled with steam, thus causing a heat-loss to the room, which results in increased demand on the HVAC system. An autoclave that can minimize not only the water and steam consumption, but also the HVAC load, is very compelling and could substantially reduce lifetime costs.
4. Start-Up and Training Costs
Before you purchase any autoclave, you want to confirm that installing, starting up, and operating your unit will be as straightforward as possible. When you run into complications, you run the risk of unnecessary downtime that leads to increased cost and decreased productivity.
Organizations should seek to purchase an autoclave from a manufacturer that can:
b) Offer intuitive and easy-to-use controller interfaces;
c) Provide readily available, comprehensive training opportunities for facility personnel;
Protect your facility’s total investment for the lifetime of your next autoclave. Know about parts procurement, preventative maintenance options, and overall ease of operation to lower lifetime ownership costs and increase your total ROI.
Learn more about purchasing your next autoclave with Consolidated Sterilizer Systems’ newest eBook, 17 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Autoclave. Or, contact our friendly service team—we’re always here to answer your questions!
17 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Autoclave
With so many models, sizes, options and components to choose from, how can you ever really know exactly what you need to make the most out of your investment?
These questions will help you to make informed decisions by outlining what is most important to consider and know about owning an autoclave.