Healthcare facilities and laboratories use autoclaves to sterilize instruments and provide healthy environments. Find the right autoclave for your site to ensure efficient performance. Read on to discover everything you need to know about buying autoclaves.
Capacity and Dimensions
Optimize your sterile processing department throughput with an autoclave of the right capacity and dimensions. Throughput capacity is the number of items the machine can sterilize in one complete cycle. Depending on your model, a full cycle can take between 60 and 90 minutes.
Buying a steam sterilizer with the smallest footprint helps keep your site organized and enhances workflow. The smallest autoclaves fit on a tabletop, and the largest ones stand on the floor.
Saving space leaves more room for personnel to work or more available area for other equipment. But remember that having multiple smaller autoclaves doing the work of one larger autoclave raises upkeep and preventative maintenance costs and contributes to a higher total lifetime cost.
Get an autoclave spacious enough to accommodate the largest items you’re sterilizing. Autoclave capacity is measured in liters, but the number reflects the total volume inside the chamber. The usable space is usually smaller and depends on the configuration of the chamber and how the racks fit. You can ask the manufacturer or equipment provider for more information to determine effective capacity.
You can choose between gravity autoclaves and pre-vacuum autoclaves, depending on the types of items you need to sterilize. Opting for the right cycle type ensures proper sanitation of your equipment.
A gravity autoclave uses gravity to displace air from the chamber so steam can make direct contact with the load to sterilize it; this is the most common type of steam sterilization cycle. You can place glassware, red bag waste, and certain types of unwrapped supplies in a gravity autoclave.
Some loads make it more difficult to displace air and require a more powerful mechanism. A pre-vacuum autoclave uses a vacuum system to remove air from the chamber. You can place wrapped goods, packs, porous materials, and red bag waste into pre-vac autoclaves.
Operators should understand which items are approved for a specific cycle type. Always inspect containers before loading to make sure they are autoclave-safe and don’t have cracks or breaks. Some things that should never be placed in a sterilizer include non-autoclavable plastics, bleach or agents containing bleach, and sealed containers.
Electric and Water Utilities
Another factor to consider when choosing an autoclave is the machine’s electric and water utility requirements. In the simplest setup, you can place the autoclave in the designated area, plug it in, and add water directly to the unit. However, some models require a more involved approach.
Standard outlets have 120 volts, but some autoclaves require 220–240 volts—the higher voltage heats the steam faster. A qualified electrician can change an outlet’s voltage or add a new outlet to accommodate the higher voltage requirement.
When it comes to water, many steam sterilizing machines have the option to add water directly to the unit. Other models require a plumbing connection to an external water source that provides a steady supply of water. This requirement limits where you can place the autoclave.
Ease of Use
You will want an autoclave with all the features you need in an easy-to-use format. User-friendly autoclaves can include features like one-step loading, automatic doors, push-button cycle selection, pre-programmed sterilization cycles, and intuitive displays.
Automatic alerts can notify users of critical system errors, facilitating quick and confident operation. Smart technology can monitor water levels for worry-free use.
Prior to operating an autoclave, personnel should complete training with a qualified supervisor. Training can cover topics such as following proper safety protocol, preparing items for sterilization, loading the device, and selecting the correct cycle.
Ask your equipment provider to explain installation and the operator training process. A demo can illustrate how easy it is to use the machine.
Cost of Ownership
Purchasing an autoclave requires a significant upfront investment. Prices vary depending on the model, whether it’s new or used, throughput capacity, features, customizations, and more.
Over time, components of the autoclave may need repair or replacement. Maintenance kits, available warranties, training courses, and technical support can help you address potential issues.
Damage and deterioration can occur from liquids spilled in the chamber, worn-down gaskets, and mineral deposit buildup. These issues can affect your device’s processing capability if not addressed, and the price of replacement parts varies widely.
Maintenance requires self-service and professional service as defined by the manufacturer. Typically, you should perform routine visual checks, clean the drain filter daily, and wipe down the autoclave chamber weekly. Schedule regular inspections by factory-trained and authorized technicians.
The cost of water and electricity can add up over the unit’s life. Autoclaves with water- and energy-saving features can reduce the cost of utilities.
Monthly Maintenance and Cleaning Requirements
Proper maintenance and cleaning will ensure your autoclave functions efficiently and safely. Before you buy an autoclave, determine the manufacturer’s requirements. Some autoclaves will automatically display a message alerting you to perform monthly maintenance, which involves thoroughly cleaning the unit.
Typically, manufacturers suggest cleaning the chamber, plumbing, trays, and filters. You’ll also need to remove and clean the door and door dam gaskets. At the same time, inspect the gaskets for damage, shrinking, or swelling, and replace the components with evident signs of damage. Parts that might need a replacement include:
- Door switch
- Door gasket
- Flat door lock rod
- Chamber drain strainer
- Heating element gasket
- Safety valve
One process many manufacturers recommend checking once a month is the proper operation of the pressure relief valve. Verify that the valve does not require excessive force to open and that it reseals properly. If you encounter a problem, contact your authorized dealer right away.
Ask your equipment provider how often you need to have the sterilizer’s performance and operation verified. Usually, this checkup happens at least every 10 years or 10,000 cycles, whichever comes first.
Now that you are equipped with everything you need to know about buying autoclaves, purchase your autoclave supplies from a reliable equipment provider. All States M.E.D. carries autoclave cleaning liquid, trays, new and refurbished steam sterilizers, and more. Shop with us today for the items you need and experience our friendly customer service.