Lab Startup Equipment Checklist

If you're starting a new lab, you probably have a big to-do list. Let us make things easier with a start-up equipment list. Whether you know exactly what the future holds or you're keeping your options open, we've put together some foundational pieces of equipment you'll likely need.

Basic Lab Startup Equipment Checklist

As you build your lab shopping list, consider your budget and any safety requirements. For instance, if the only space available for your centrifuge would block an air vent on the wall, you might need to go with a different style.

Identify what features you absolutely need for each instrument, and consider heading to the used market. Used lab equipment often works beautifully even years after manufacturing, and you can get it at much lower prices.

With those factors in mind, here are 10 must-have pieces of equipment on our lab startup checklist.

1. Microscope

A lab is the perfect home for a microscope, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's at the top of our list. Microscopes come in a few different styles, some of which are designed for certain applications.

For smaller specimens like blood and bacteria, you'll need a compound microscope that offers good magnification. For larger specimens like insects and gemstones, a stereo microscope should be sufficient. These microscopes have lower magnification power.

Get yourself a well-made microscope that meets your needs for:

  • Magnification power
  • Ergonomics
  • Lighting
  • Optical quality

2. Incubator

An incubator offers a highly controlled environment for various tasks, like growing cell cultures or testing pharmaceuticals, food and beverages. They usually have water jackets or direct heat to help maintain the chamber, and they come in tabletop and freestanding varieties, so choose the one that fits best in your space and meets your requirements for capacity and temperature recovery.

Two popular types of incubators include:

Some features to keep an eye out for include filters and copper linings. High-efficiency particulate air filters can help keep the air contaminant-free, while 100% copper linings are antimicrobial.

3. Circulating Chiller or Water Bath

Chillers and water baths can reach and maintain specific temperatures for liquid samples. You may need one for substances that can't be heated directly, like biological materials or flammable liquids. Their designs can vary widely, so before you start shopping, figure out your requirements for:

  • Temperature range
  • Sample sensitivity and temperature stability demands
  • Size and shape
  • Ease of cleaning
  • Additional features like shaking or ultrasonic baths

4. Benchtop Centrifuge

A benchtop centrifuge is a must-have in most labs. Whether you're conducting research or analyzing clinical samples, the right centrifuge can separate materials efficiently and effectively. A standard benchtop centrifuge is on the smaller side but can reach high speeds.

Special types of benchtop centrifuges include:

If you know you'll need to spin at high capacity or force, check out a floor centrifuge. They can accommodate more samples and achieve higher relative centrifugal force even with lower RPMs.

Browse All Centrifuges


5. Thermal Cycler

Thermal Cycler

For molecular biology labs, a thermal cycler is crucial. This handy piece of equipment is also called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine or a thermocycler. PCR requires temperature changes at specific times and durations, and a thermal cycler provides that environment and programming. You'll find them used in research and clinical labs.

Thermal cyclers can vary in size and performance. Consider how quickly you need temperature changes to occur and what capacity you need.

6. Freeze Dryer or Lyophilizer

Many labs will need a lyophilizer, or a freeze dryer, to preserve specimens or make them easier to transport. It must freeze a product quickly to avoid damaging the cell walls. Then, it dries the specimen by reducing pressure and adding heat. After the water sublimates, the lyophilizer removes them through adsorption. All in all, the instrument uses many processes to freeze-dry a sample.

Lab freeze dryers range from compact to huge and can offer different chamber styles. Consider how many samples you'll need to freeze dry and whether you'd be better served by a certain type of chamber. For instance, some samples are better serviced by vials, while others fit best in trays.

Browse Our Selection of Freeze Dryers & Lyophilizers

7. Refrigerator and Freezer

Whether you're keeping samples cool or extending their shelf life, you'll need lab-grade refrigerators and freezers. When built for the lab, they have some important features built-in, like temperature monitors, fans, alarms, battery backups and locks. If you're working with explosive or radioactive products, you'll also need a fridge with the right protections, such as explosion-proof components or a lead lining.

Lab freezers can get impressively cold, with ultra-low temperature models reaching -45 to -86 degrees Celsius. You'll likely need one if you work with pharmaceuticals, vaccines and some types of biological samples. They come in upright and chest freezer styles.

Check Out Our ULT Freezer Selection

8. Rotary Evaporator

In some labs, a rotary evaporator, or rotovap, is consistently running. This piece of equipment can remove solvents from samples through evaporation. They work quickly and provide smooth sample distribution and uniformity. Capacity is again one of the more important factors to consider when choosing a rotovap, as they can vary widely in size.

9. Pumps

Pumps serve a wide range of purposes, from filtering samples to reducing pressure in various instruments. Some are designed for unique purposes, while others are more generalized. You may need one of the following pumps:

  • Rotary vane: This affordable, reliable style of pump works well on liquids and gases. They require lubrication, so they can contaminate the material being pumped, and they're commonly used as a vacuum pump.
  • Diaphragm pump: A diaphragm pump is a gentler but faster vacuum pump, making it a good fit for biological materials. It's also quiet and can keep the air clean.
  • Scroll pump: A scroll pump has a high and consistent flow rate and doesn't require lubricating oil. It also makes for a good vacuum pump, with minimal vibrations and noise.
  • Syringe pump: A syringe pump is a non-vacuum pump for dispensing small amounts of liquids. They require clean environments and have low capacities, but they offer smooth flow and versatility.
  • Peristaltic pumps: As another simple, non-vacuum pump, peristaltic pumps can also move small amounts of liquids. They don't pose a contamination risk, and they're small and efficient. They can, however, be slow and provide inconsistent flow.

10. Specialized Equipment

Lastly, include any specialized equipment you might need. For instance, a microbiology lab may need microplate readers and spectrophotometers. Meanwhile, a histology lab will likely need cryostats, microtomes and tissue processors.

Every lab is different, so consider what tasks you'll need to accomplish that you can't do with the equipment we already discussed.

Save Money With Used and New Lab Equipment

Save Money With Used and New Lab Equipment

Starting a new lab can be daunting, especially if you're only looking at brand-new equipment prices. New Life Scientific aims to make the process easier.

We offer a wide range of new and used lab equipment, all certified by our knowledgeable team and backed by a 90-day warranty. Best of all? We make it easy to buy these affordable instruments online.

Browse our new and used lab equipment, or reach out to us for help finding the right instruments!