Maintenance & Optimization of Cooling Systems

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Jeff Powers is marketing manager for Emerson Network Power’s Liebert services business. Powers is responsible for leading the development and deployment of new service products supporting an overall integrated service solution in the data center.

JEFF POWERS
Emerson Network Power

As a heat wave rolls across the United States, as it does every summer, many reach for the thermostat to adjust their home’s air conditioning only to discover that their comfort cooling system is non-responsive. A hasty call to the local HVAC provider soon alleviates the heat inspired stress.

A similar scenario takes place in the data center daily as more equipment is squeezed into IT spaces and increasing pressure is placed on the IT infrastructure. IT systems are critically sensitive to extreme variations in temperature and humidity as high heat or humidity can cause failure, degrade performance and shorten equipment life. Precision cooling systems have very different maintenance and optimization requirements than standard comfort cooling equipment. Controlling these environmental conditions is critical to sustaining availability.

Regular Preventive Maintenance is Critical

Today’s data centers are changing rapidly, and it is more important than ever to ensure that each component of the support infrastructure is operating at maximum efficiency and reliability.

The failure of a critical data center cooling system can lead to downtime, which translates into a loss of service, money and to some, customer goodwill.

Data center cooling systems often receive far less attention than servers, operating systems and network configurations. Yet, the performance of these IT systems is just as dependent on cooling support as on the network connection. As IT systems change, cooling needs to follow suit. Trusting a service partner who takes a holistic view of the overall critical infrastructure is needed.

Precision cooling systems have been designed specifically to meet the needs of data center heat loads and have very different service and maintenance needs than standard building air conditioning, which is designed for occupant comfort. Current data center cooling equipment is generally more complex and multifaceted than comfort cooling. Technologies such as digital scroll compressors, high density in the row cooling, and variable speed drives require advanced controls to be configured and networked properly.

However, maximizing the performance and efficiency of a precision cooling system requires it be properly maintained by original equipment manufacturer (OEM) factory-trained and certified technicians who have extensive knowledge of how to maintain these critical systems supporting the data center. Integration of the cooling system into the data center infrastructure support strategy is key and most non-manufacturer backed maintenance sources lack this experience.

Cooling Maintenance Checklist

Precision cooling runs continuously and is necessary for the proper operation of IT equipment. To maintain that consistency it is important to develop and adhere to a long term service plan that includes preventive maintenance and optimization of the precision cooling system. It certainly does not make sense to potentially undercut the investment in precision air conditioning by using a service provider that may not have the expertise required to maintain the level of performance that was paid for in the first place. The following is a list of suggested preventive maintenance tasks:

Preventive maintenance for cooling equipment should focus on such key components as air filters, blower drive systems, compressors, facility fluid and piping, and evaporator coils.

  • Clogged air filters, for example, should be replaced because they reduce airflow and increase loads on blower drive systems. The air filter pressure drop increases as filters collect dirt and dust, and even the smallest drop in pressure can lead to the need for additional fan energy.
  • Blower belts, bearings, motors, and wheels should also be inspected regularly to ensure that no wear or damage is causing the equipment to malfunction. Additionally, IT managers should check and adjust belt tensions monthly for air handlers and CRAC unit fans that use belt drive fans.
  • Compressors should be checked for leaks and the oil level should also be inspected, as too little or even too much oil can reduce service life. Only the manufacturer- or OEM-recommended type of oil should be used.
  • Cooling units that use facility water or glycol need to be maintained so that the quality of the fluid delivered to the units is as contaminant-free as possible. Finally, evaporator coils need to be checked periodically to ensure that they are clean and free of debris.

Regular Inspections Are Significant

At minimum, we recommend at least 4 regular inspections per year of all major components by authorized service personnel. This can help identify systems at risk of failure, preventing downtime and reducing maintenance costs as well as maximizing product life. Providing a total site solution, that includes mission-critical service for the cooling aspects of a data center, is essential to continuous system availability.

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