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Illustration of an incubator
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Purchasing Guide: Incubators

Incubators are versatile instruments used for ?culturing cells and tissues, shelf-life studies, materials testing, and more

by Lab Manager
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Incubators are versatile instruments used for a variety of purposes. In addition to mimicking natural environmental conditions for microorganism, cell, and tissue cultures, incubators may be used in shelf-life studies, materials testing, and stability testing across industries. Gassed incubators are frequently used in culturing to control the level of atmospheric CO2 and/or O2 present. A wide variety of refrigerated options are also available for a wide variety of applications. Contamination is a dominant issue for incubators, particularly when used for culturing. Make sure new units are easy to clean and use, as well as reliable, before exploring additional features. For a list of incubator manufacturers, see our online directory: and

7 Questions to Ask When Buying an Incubator:

  1. What applications and capacity do you need it to support now and in the future?
  2. What are the environmental conditions that must be controlled, and at what ranges?
  3. How uniform and stable is the temperature distribution within the chamber?
  4. What materials compose the inner chamber and shelves? Stainless steel and copper are popular choices for durability and antimicrobial properties, respectively.
  5. What contamination controls do you require?
  6. How precise and accurate do the controls and sensors need to be for your work?
  7. How easy is it to clean and maintain the interior and adjust shelving?

Purchasing Tip

Considering a pre-owned water-jacketed incubator? Ensure you’re buying from a vendor that stored it properly. Water jackets can bust if the incubator has not been stored in a climate-controlled environment. Additionally, pay close attention to the images and description to confirm it meets application needs and has no significant damage, particularly signs of rust or leaks.

Refrigerated Incubators

More sustainable options for refrigerated incubators are becoming increasingly common. Purchasers can look for units that have natural refrigerants in place of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) or Peltier cooling technology. Learn about the different cooling technologies available in current refrigerated incubators and which factors you should consider when buying at