Power Consumption Monitoring

Power consumption monitoring is the new hot topic of laboratory operations, and it has gained a lot of attention across the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Whether your lab is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, seeking additional data points to predict equipment malfunctions, aiming to enhance capital preservation, or simply fulfilling a regulatory requirement, you’ve come to the right space. In this article, we’ll address all the questions you may have on the subject.

Why Do Labs Implement Power Consumption Monitoring?

Let’s begin by addressing why power consumption (also known as energy usage monitoring or asset utilization monitoring) is essential. Labs opt for this practice to address concerns such as:

  1. Lowering electricity cost
  2. Managing operational expenses
  3. Minimizing carbon footprint
  4. Optimizing maintenance programs
  5. Mitigating heat exhaust 
  6. Decreasing temperature variability
  7. Reducing noise


Power Consumption Monitoring Can Enhance Capital Preservation

Power consumption monitoring preserves capital by providing valuable insights into equipment performance and cost-effectiveness. By gathering data on multiple pieces of equipment, such as large freezer farms, power consumption monitoring allows laboratories to estimate and justify maintenance and repair budgets more accurately. It can also be used to monitor expensive new equipment, facilitating the creation of robust warranty claims based on actual energy usage data.

Power consumption monitoring can also be used to compare energy consumption from competing manufacturers. This data-driven approach enables laboratories to make well-informed decisions about future equipment purchases, optimizing capital allocation and promoting long-term cost savings.

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Current consumption data, combined with temperature and door contact data, serves as a valuable tool for identifying failing components in cold storage units. By analyzing this comprehensive dataset, laboratories can pinpoint specific issues such as compressor motors requiring excessive starting torque. Such anomalies may indicate potential failures in the motor or a malfunctioning start capacitor. Leveraging current consumption data for equipment health monitoring enhances operational efficiency and prolongs the lifespan of critical laboratory assets.

Leverage Power Consumption Data

Data can be trended over time to assess equipment for potential future failure. Increased power requirements for the same workload compared to previous periods may indicate excessive wear and tear or potential component failure, allowing for timely intervention and maintenance.

In addition, power consumption data facilitates the comparison of run and rest times for a freezer’s compressor. This comparison, when trended over time, enables the identification of freezers that may be cooling less effectively, signaling the need for maintenance or repair to prevent future failures. 

The graph below illustrates the relationship between temperature variation and power consumption behavior for a -80°C freezer, further highlighting the practical application of power consumption data in optimizing equipment performance and reliability.

The first thing to define is “hysteresis.” With any cooling equipment, hysteresis adds a time delay to ensure the compressor doesn’t get “short-cycled.” It is inefficient and damaging to equipment to rapidly turn a compressor on and off. As an example, a 5°C of hysteresis means the freezer will start cooling at the setpoint of -75°C, but won’t turn off until the temperature gets past -80°C.

The graph presents an event where the freezer door was opened three separate times in quick succession. The delayed effect is the freezer temp eventually reaching ~-56°C, before stabilizing and the temp starting to drop as the freezer begins to cool down again. 

Before the event, during periods where the freezer door remains closed, the condenser was typically on for a period of about ~40 minutes, and typically off for a period of ~20 minutes while it maintained hysteresis.

Following the event, the condenser is constantly running for two hours to bring the temperature back down to its original setpoint.  After the temperature setpoint is reached, the hysteresis cycle begins again, but the compressor run time is longer than normal for a few more hysteresis cycles. The freezer is still compensating and using more energy by keeping the compressor on for longer periods – in response to the original freezer door opening event that took place 5 hours earlier.

Graph showing power consumption and temperature data for a -80 freezer

Can Power Consumption Improve Operational Oversight?

Power consumption analysis offers valuable insights into laboratory operations. By leveraging power consumption data, laboratories can conduct equipment utilization studies to answer questions such as how frequently equipment is being utilized and during which periods. This information enables lab managers to identify potential efficiency improvements and allocate resources more effectively. Ultimately, it facilitates informed decision-making and enhances operational efficiency in laboratory settings. 

A key component to consider when it comes to decision-making has to do with navigating what can happen during a power outage. If the power in your facility fails and you’re unaware, it will take users significantly longer to trigger a temperature alarm. At that point, you have less time to understand the alarm, take action, and prevent asset loss.


Power Consumption Monitoring: Technical Details

The XiltriX approach to power consumption relies on milliamp current transducer (MCT) technology, which accurately tracks the current consumption of equipment such as ULT freezers and incubators. This method goes beyond traditional branch-level electrical monitoring, offering granular insights into the power usage of critical laboratory equipment such as ULT freezers and incubators. Such granularity illustrates the operational status of each device and also identifies outdated or inefficient equipment, thereby steering sustainability efforts with data-driven clarity.

Your unit’s age can affect power consumption

The impact of a unit’s age on power consumption is significant. Research has demonstrated that with each passing year, the energy consumption of a ULT freezer increases by approximately 3%. This trend shows the importance of monitoring power consumption as equipment ages or your lab purchases second-hand equipment to help identify potential inefficiencies and mitigate escalating energy costs.

Freezer farms can improve energy efficiency 

Freezer farms emerge as a pivotal factor in optimizing energy efficiency. Studies, such as the one conducted by Biocompare, advocate for either the consolidation of freezers within a single room equipped with adequate cooling systems or strategic dispersion to help minimize energy consumption through heat distribution. 

ULT unit power consumption

According to a study by the Office of Sustainability at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), Ultra Low Temperature (ULT) freezers are significant consumers of power. The study reveals that ULT freezers “consume as much power as a typical household.”  

Power consumption monitoring accuracy 

This practice is exceptionally accurate, even at low power consumption levels. It can provide readings below 0.3 amps, enabling lab managers to effectively track energy usage. This monitoring capability allows managers to promptly identify instances when equipment power becomes unavailable due to issues such as blackouts, blown fuses, or tripped circuit breakers. By providing real-time insights into power usage and potential disruptions, power consumption monitoring enhances operational efficiency and equipment reliability.


In summary, power consumption monitoring emerges as an indispensable tool in optimizing laboratory operations. This practice offers a multitude of benefits, from significant cost savings and carbon footprint reduction to enhanced operational efficiencies and strategic capital preservation. Through detailed analysis, power consumption monitoring acts as an early warning system, identifying potential equipment failures before they occur and ensuring the longevity of laboratory assets. Furthermore, it provides invaluable insights into equipment utilization, helping laboratories optimize their operations and make informed decisions about energy management.

Implementing power consumption monitoring for cold storage units is essential. These devices are significant energy consumers and are critical for preserving valuable research specimens and pharmaceutical products. Monitoring their power consumption not only ensures scientific reproducibility, it also safeguards against unexpected failures that could lead to catastrophic losses. The XiltriX solution eliminates the need for secondary equipment, simplifying implementation. Laboratories can seamlessly integrate our XiltriX controller with current transducer technology, ensuring efficient and effective power consumption monitoring. This enables laboratories to identify and replace inefficient equipment, contributing to sustainability efforts. 

In essence, power consumption monitoring is not just a tool for compliance or environmental improvement, it is a strategic asset that drives operational excellence, and sustainability and preserves capital. If you have more questions or are interested in implementing power consumption monitoring, give us a call at 858-208-0368.


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