Increasing thermal awareness and adjusting hardware to ensure proper operating temperatures are key to avoiding burnouts and painful downtime costs

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn your servers’ recommended running temperatures to get smart about overheating
  • Add temperature sensors for plenty of warning
  • Don’t trust your AC to do the job alone
  • Rethink your server aisle configuration for better results
  • Upgrading data banks or their storage can help with temperature management

There are many important considerations when creating a data center, like choosing the right rack PDU and preventing power failure. One of the most important expenses in a data center’s budget is cooling costs. Maintaining appropriate and consistent operating temperatures around the clock isn’t an area where companies can cut financial corners, but there are ways to optimize the cooling budget and maximize results.

Even a short period of overheating can lead to system-wide downtime. An hour offline means lost profits, frustrated customers, and maybe even corrupted or lost data. In hard financial terms, an hour of downtime in 2021 can cost $84,650.

In business, it’s often necessary to spend money to save it. This guide will provide some professional tips for business managers on how to best manage their data center cooling costs through smarter equipment layouts and hardware additions.

1. Augment your knowledge and data center’s temperature sensors

Here are some critical cooling questions: Do you know which tier of data center you’re operating, ranging from 1 to 4? Proper cooling measures will be harder to establish with no firm classification. Can you confidently reel off the recommended ambient room temperature and humidity levels for your tier? The right running heat for rack intakes and outtakes?

If you answered “No” to any of those questions, we recommend bookmarking these ideal numbers and methods from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) plus installing some extra temperature sensors.

Even if you just aced that pop quiz, consider adding a few more temperature sensors to assist the ones you have. ASHRAE recommends an even distribution of six sensors around each rack: at front and back, and at top, middle, and bottom.

2. Don’t rely too much on your AC

Smaller data centers might be able to squeeze by relying solely on their air conditioning, but it’s not recommended for any business. The best practice is to use portable cooling units that can focus their output more accurately and minimize the energy waste of indiscriminate AC blowing in all general directions.

AC is also typically responsible for handling the whole building, not just where the servers are stored. This means that cranking up the heat in colder weather will send that warm air right into the servers, accelerating burnout if no dedicated cool air equipment is in place. Position spot coolers in strategic locations to ensure data banks stay frosty no matter what.

3. Use the hot aisle/cold (H/C) aisle configuration

This is an airflow management layout for server racks that your data center may not have employed yet. It has the added benefit of being an energy saver thanks to lowering fan speeds, thus prolonging server life. This alternating configuration involves positioning the hot air exhaust ports to face one way (creating a hot aisle) while the cold air intake sides of the server racks are pointed in the other direction (creating a cold aisle).

Put very simply, the fronts of your servers should always be facing each other, never front to back. The ideal H/C setup also has the cold aisles facing air conditioning output ducts and the hot facing the return ducts. Connecting a plenum to your HVAC system is a smart investment to prevent hot and cold air from mixing and invalidating your aisle plans.

Don’t use unperforated plexiglass or other solid barriers to control cooling without consulting installation pros. Note that the hot aisle/cold aisle configuration isn’t ideal for racks with top or side exhausts, so positioning those designs is also best done with the advice of an experienced electrical installation team.

4. Upgrade the databanks and/or their storage

Are your servers feeling their age? Old equipment burns out faster and is likely to be less optimized for thermal performance. Modern servers are many times more efficient at staying cool than some of the legacy systems still commonly in use. Yes, it will require expense to replace this equipment today, but you’ll see a big long-term return in lower cooling costs.

More powerful modern data banks can do more and take up less room, freeing up the floor space that’s so important to increasing airflow and avoiding overheating from close-quarters stacking. Consider investing in self-contained rack units, as these often come with built-in cooling measures, and some will even provide redundancy measures and backup cooling.

5. Consider further airflow management hacks

We want to squeeze as much useful information as possible into our Top 5, so here are some more quick airflow tips that can help:

  • Raise the racks: Elevating your server racks a foot or more from floor level further optimizes airflow.
  • Use variable speed fan drives (VSDs): VSDs are superior to fixed speed because they can better adjust to fluctuating data center loads. According to data from EnergyStar, this can mean huge energy savings. A 10% reduction in fan speed can cut electricity use by up to 25%.
  • Try blanking panels: These cover unused rack spaces to allow air to pass through server equipment more efficiently by decreasing recirculation in the inner rack. They also decrease server inlet air temperature and further boost energy efficiency.

Data centers aren’t all created equal, so be sure to call the power pros who will help match the right cooling solution to your equipment needs and available space.

Keep your data at the perfect temperature with UES

The Universal Electrical Services team is fully experienced in helping data centers optimize their budget and maximize their power performance. We provide tailored solutions for many other industries, too, each one designed to be reliable under normal and unpredictable conditions. Visit our contact page to speak with our expert technicians about how we serve customers throughout the state of Florida.