Experts Conclude Data Centers Can Be Warmer
October 23, 2012
Today’s tip is to consider a warmer temperature in your data center. Engineers are working on more sophisticated technologies for both computers and cooling equipment.
In the early days of data centers, computer equipment was kept at very cool temperatures — from 68 F to 70 F. These temperatures were mandated by computer manufacturers, who would not guarantee their equipment at higher temperatures. However, in 2008 the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) revised the guidelines to temperature band of 64.4 F to 80.6 F. "What is so powerful about these new recommended ranges is that they apply to legacy IT equipment," says Don Beaty, president of DLB Associates.
Using the higher end of the new temperature ranges can significantly reduce cooling energy use in chilled water systems. "Normally the water in the chiller would be cooled to 44 degrees, but if they take it to 50 degrees, it requires half of the energy," says Jim McEnteggart, vice president of Primary Integration Solutions.
Some data centers are running at only slightly higher temperatures, says Paul Mihm, executive vice president, technical services group, of Rubicon, "because the time to reach critical temperature is significantly shorter in the event of a failure." One solution, says Mihm, is to have a backup system to exhaust hot air out of the space. Most environments could withstand a short period of heat until the backup system kicked in, he says.
Another option is thermal energy storage using tanks of cold water. In water-cooled systems, the tank could be used to pump cold water through the system very quickly when a facility switches to emergency power.
While the type of data center will, in large part, determine tolerance of the new ASHRAE standards, geography also plays a role, since a hot climate will likely have a lower threshold for higher temperatures. If the data center needs to be rapidly cooled off, the outside air will not be much help, so there is less margin of error.