Plan properly for autoclave positioning and installation

4th March 2013

When planning and designing a laboratory the task of positioning or repositioning a Laboratory Autoclave can be at either end of the 'easy-impossible' scale.

While Bench top autoclaves and those with a small footprint usually present fewer problems there is often a temptation with larger models to fit a quart into a pint pot.

So why worry?

Installation problems

For one thing it is not unknown for some manufacturers to leave their equipment at the bottom of the stairs if there is not an easy way in - leaving the problem of getting it into position down to you.

Also, how would you feel about digging up your brand new laboratory floor to install the necessary drains.

Access and drainage

In the longer term most laboratory autoclaves live in splendid isolation in the corner of lab - until they stop working. It is a little late to discover that service engineers do not fit into a 50mm gap while your laboratory is grinding to a halt.

In older buildings, which have been adapted from their original uses, access and drainage can be a problem.

With newer buildings it is not unusual for architects, when designing and positioning a laboratory, to overlook the requirements for large, heavy pieces of laboratory equipment such as autoclaves.

It is often the case that little thought is given to the services and space required for the installation of such equipment or to the removal of equipment with a shorter life-span than the building.

Increased sophistication

The increased sophistication of laboratory autoclaves with venting and vacuum systems, coupled with an increased awareness of possible bio-hazards means that in most cases it is no longer sensible to plan the position of an autoclave without considering drainage and water supplies.

Some key questions to ask are:

- Positioning and Installation: Can you get the autoclave into the suggested location via any steps, corridors, tight corners and doors? If on an upper floor, is a suitable lift available? Will there be enough space around it for service access? Is access to a drain available and if so is the drain vented? Will the drainpipes and joints stand the temperature of the exhaust from the autoclave? Room size - Just how much space do you really have?

- For a cabinet type autoclave you should ideally allow the following: To the sides, 1metre; to the rear, 300mm; to the front, 2metres or twice the length of any loading trolley; will heat extraction be required, especially if installation is planned in a separate small autoclave room?

Any reputable supplier will be able to provide assistance, advice and information on these factors. Often you will be able to arrange a site survey to make sure that everything is going to fit.

What services do you have or need and how do they match up with the manufacturer's requirements? These may include:

- Electrical Supply - 415Volt 3Phase or 240Volt Single Phase and how many amps?

- Water - Will mains water be OK or will treated (softened or RO) water be required? Is the supply pressure sufficient?

- Drains - Are they heat resistant? Drains should withstand steam up to 140°C. Domestic plastic waste pipes will melt if connected to an autoclave and on some other systems, although the pipes are temperature resistant, the joints can be affected over time. This can be overcome by cooling the autoclave exhaust but is better arranged at the time of manufacture rather than after a costly leak. Are they big enough? Are they vented at a high level outside of the building? Is a separate drain for overflows and drip trays required?

- Steam (if required). Plant Steam or Clean Steam? Is the line pressure acceptable and is the steam dry enough?

- Compressed air. If required, is there sufficient pressure and capacity?

If there should be a problem with any of these issues is not necessarily the end of the world. By talking to the autoclave supplier or manufacturer at an early stage in the planning process most issues can be quite easily overcome.

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- Tony Collins is Managing Director, Priorclave Ltd, Woolwich, London, UK.






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