Data centers reduce cooling costs with better airflow
Tuesday, Mar 26th 2013

One of the major issues facing data center operators today is the cost of keeping server room temperatures down. Although the cost of overheated machinery in both loss of equipment and service downtime can be high, the amount spent on cooling data centers is a drain on operating budgets as well. IDC estimated that data center managers spend 66 cents on power and cooling for every dollar spent on new hardware.

With so many resources being used to fund their cooling needs, data center operators have actively pursued alternative and cost-effective methods to prevent their servers from overheating. Data Center Knowledge reported that one potential method for reducing electricity consumption is by improving airflow circulation in server rooms. On average, data centers reportedly allow 48 percent of cycled air to escape via ceiling tiles and other unsealed openings. By implementing more efficient airflow management policies, data center operators can increase the energy efficiency of their facilities.

Methods for optimizing airflow
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has suggested several changes that can be made to server room layouts to increase airflow efficiency. It is essential that data center operators avoid recirculating hot exhaust air. By keeping this air in the system, airflow temperatures will increase and prevent an efficient cool-down process. One way to achieve this is by creating dedicated hot and cold aisles to place server room equipment upon. This way, hot exhaust air can be quickly removed from the airflow circulation.

Another method to improve air circulation is minimizing the distance between cooling air vents and server equipment. Unlike many other scenarios, the primary task of data center air conditioning units is not to create an optimal environment across the entire building, but to provide ideal conditions to a few specific areas. If cooling air is directly applied to the proper equipment, server temperatures will be brought in line much more quickly and result in fewer resources needed to complete the task.

A viable solution for all?
To implement these changes, many data center operators may need to completely overhaul the structure of their facilities. Optimizing airflow management policies may not be the ideal method to reducing electricity consumption in these cases. Instead, data center managers may want to consider installing temperature monitoring equipment that can make the cooling process much more efficient. With temperature sensors in place, a quality environmental monitoring system can track temperature fluctuations and initiate cooling procedures if machines are in danger of overheating. This way, businesses can significantly reduce the amount of electricity they use to cool their server rooms.