When it comes to batch sterilization, there is no substitute for an autoclave. Whether you have a need to sterilize tools, glassware, waste materials or other items in your facility, an autoclave is the best method available. Steam under pressure is a standard procedure, and with an autoclave, the process is automatic. However, the question is how to choose the right autoclave for your facility. The following are among the most important things to determine before you make a purchase.
Determine the size you will need
There are a wide range of autoclave sizes to choose from. There are small, table top units for limited sterilization needs, and there are units large enough to walk into. Obviously, these are for the largest loads. Most autoclaves fall in sizes between these two. So your first calculation is how large of a load will you have for an autoclave, keeping in mind that you can use the autoclave more than once a day. You should also consider if your equipment and materials can be stacked in any manner. Racks are one example, but shelving can also be used for some materials. Once you know the approximate size of your load, you can begin to look at various chamber capacities.
Determine your steam source
You will need steam for your autoclave, so if your facility has a boiler, you may be able to tap into it. If this is true, you will need to make sure the steam pressure is compatible with the autoclave. If no steam source is available, you will need to purchase a steam generator. These are readily available, but you will need to make sure that it can generate steam at a pressure compatible with your autoclave.
Determine your water source
This is not as simple as it sounds. It is easy enough to use tap water, but this water varies from one location to another. If the water is too hard in your area, this can lead to a build of of deposits that can lead to your autoclave experiencing downtime as it is cleaned. Autoclave manufacturers will have specifics on the water that is to be used in their unit. Often you only need to use a water softener filter for your autoclave to meet the manufacture's specific for minerals, hardness, etc.
The three factors above are the most important, but there are other factors as well. Although obvious, you will also need to determine if you have the space for the autoclave, and equally important, whether you have the right voltages available. And the more complex your autoclave unit is, the more you will need tech support. Take your time to find the right autoclave. It is one of the most critical pieces of equipment in a medical facility.