Recommended humidity levels for data center may be changing in the near future
Wednesday, Apr 29th 2015

Data centers around the globe consume vast amounts of energy, and half that consumption goes toward the regulation of equipment and temperature monitoring of rooms. Data centers have to be strategically designed with regard to cooling because poorly implemented cooling systems will lead to greater power usage. The energy required to cool and maintain equipment typically is greater than the energy required to run the equipment. Yet the rooms cannot just be set to a "really cold" setting.

A white paper study by Cisco offered some temperature guidelines for rooms within data centers. It recommended rooms be kept between 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit on the low end and 80.6 F on the high? end. While temperature is important to monitor, humidity could arguably have a larger impact on data centers if it is not properly kept track of.

Humidity and data centers
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air and even though it is water, it is in a gaseous and invisible state. Without humidity, there would be no rain or snow. While those conditions may be good for the employees of data centers, inside, humidity is actually needed. According to The Data Center Journal, too much humidity leads to condensation, which can then lead to corrosion or electrical shorts. Yet if there is too little humidity, there may be a buildup of electrostatic charge, causing static electricity. Equipment may be damaged or destroyed as a result.

Cisco recommended keeping data centers between a low-end moisture level of 40 percent relative humidity and 41.9 F dew point and a high-end moisture level of 60 percent relative humidity and 59 F dew point. Data centers can use 

To lower energy costs, data centers are being designed to allow natural, cool air to flow within rooms, a method known as free cooling according to Data Center Knowledge. However, it is not possible to use natural air all the time because it tends to be drier.

No matter how data centers cool their equipment, they have to to rely on a temperature monitor such as the WatchDog 100. This monitor is built with onboard sensors to track temperature and humidity levels and if they were to fall or rise outside the desired parameters, escalating alarms will be triggered and multiple alerts sent out. The longer a server room is not within the desired parameters, the higher the chance for some type of failure.

New study on humidity forthcoming
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. Technical Committee 9.9 focuses on data centers. It has been working and researching to find ways to prolong free cooling. The committee believes if data centers use higher-than-customary temperatures, the number amount of free cooling opportunities worldwide would be expanded, along with lower energy costs.

After having recently partnered with the University of Missouri on the impact of low humidity on electrostatic discharge, the study's results will lead to ASHRAE TC 9.9 to modify its relative-humidity  guidelines for data centers sometime in 2015 after releasing the study's results.

The implications of this study will lead to more free cooling opportunities for data centers in every part of the world.