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Six Tips for Keeping Your Cool in All Seasons

Now that the colder temperatures and harsh winter weather are behind us, it's time to perform regular maintenance on cooling systems and take preventive measures to ensure the change in seasons doesn't affect their effectiveness and sustainability.

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As marketing manager for Emerson Network Power, Liebert Services, Mark Silnes is responsible for the development of new and existing service offerings related to thermal management.

Now that what felt like an endless winter for many people has finally given way to spring, it's time to focus on cooling your data center and carefully managing it for optimal performance.

When the temperature drops in the winter, so does the humidity. Lack of service on the systems that maintain humidity can create problems such as water flowing onto the data center floor, but moving from colder to warmer temperatures brings its own set of potential issues.

If your cooling services are completed as part of a regular preventive maintenance program, issues related to seasonal changes are likely addressed automatically. If you are self-performing maintenance or sporadically using a third-party service provider, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Maintain Your Humidifiers

With cold or warm weather, humidifiers require special attention to avoid inconvenient or costly problems such as:

  • A clogged drain due to mineral deposits in the humidifier pan

  • Electrode failure in a steam humidifier, causing the humidifier to malfunction

  • Buildup from calcium deposits, causing the humidifier to overflow

To ensure proper operation - especially at the end of winter when you may still be feeling the effects of a dry data center - humidifiers may need to be cleaned, bulbs replaced, steam-generating canisters replaced, and reverse osmosis systems for ultrasonic humidifiers checked.

Continue to Maximize Free Cooling

Your economizers have probably been very active over the last few months and have helped you lower operating costs. That doesn’t have to change as the snow melts away. In many locations, spring offers warmer days with cooler nights, or just drastically different temperatures within a short span of time. With the right set up and maintenance during early spring, there is still plenty of free cooling to be had for GLYCOOL, air-side, or fluid-side economizer solutions.

Mind Your Mechanical Cooling

Make sure you check and/or change your cooling unit filters for both chilled water and direct expansion systems as clean filters support proper airflow across the cooling coil. Proper airflow and refrigeration maintenance keeps your system from freezing and helps you avoid performance issues. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure the refrigeration system is properly charged and that it has the right quality of oil at the correct level. This will keep your system running while maximizing performance and efficiency.

When it comes to mechanical cooling, you’ll also need to mind your heat rejection. Make sure heat rejection units such as dry coolers, cooling towers, and economizers work properly. Coils will need to be cleaned along with the cleaning or replacing of evaporative media.

During spring, there may also be more debris from vegetation and other irritants affecting your cooling system. These items must be cleared as they could get pulled into the condenser; and dry coolers make heat rejection less effective, ultimately affecting your data center’s capacity.

Manage Set Points and Controls

Seasonal changes present opportunities to maximize efficiency or improve control. Depending on the return air temperatures to the computer room air conditioning (CRAC) or air handling (CRAH) units, you could still see significant economization in spring. Reduced compressor loading or run time through economization increases cooling system efficiency from 30-50 percent, depending on application and geographical location.

As you likely know, IT systems are critically sensitive to extreme variations in temperature and humidity. Very low humidity can cause static electricity to build up and discharge, which can possibly damage electronic equipment and/or cause data loss. High heat or humidity can cause condensation in the space, leading to failure or shortened equipment life.

Making the necessary cooling system adjustments is critical for energy efficiency and optimal system performance within a dynamic data center. However, it takes knowledge and time to adjust set points, so it is ideal to work with factory-trained technicians or a highly experienced service providers to do the following:

  • Keep return air temperature to the CRAC and CRAH units higher to maximize full and partial economization.

  • Keep heat rejection set points low to take advantage of all hours of economization.

  • Raise heat rejection set points in warmer months to prevent excessive energy consumption.

  • Adjust controls to maximize economization and performance.

  • Ensure that moisture control (humidity/dewpoint) set points and control types are the same on all equipment.

  • Make sure the set points for moisture control are reasonable for your application, location and facility.

  • Improve the vapor barrier of your space if maintaining moisture control becomes an issue.

Use Intelligent Controls for Maximum Cooling Flexibility

Intelligent control systems increase efficiency by allowing multiple cooling units to work together as a single system. They prevent units in different locations from working at cross-purposes. Without this type of system, a precision cooling unit in one area of the data center may be humidifying, while another unit across the room is dehumidifying. The control system gives you visibility into conditions across the data center and the intelligence to determine whether humidification, dehumidification or no action is required to maintain conditions at target levels. This way, your data center can be more responsive to temperature fluctuations and environmental changes.

Proactively Work With Cooling Experts

The transition from winter to spring can cause problems for your data center that result, at best, in inefficiencies, and at worst, in loss of data and equipment failure. Implementing the above tips is important preparation, especially for those data center managers that do not have an OEM-provided maintenance program. Utilizing factory-trained technicians is ideal when making adjustments to your infrastructure, especially when applying the latest in precision cooling technology and ensuring system integration for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. While weather conditions cannot be prevented, conditions within your data center can be, as long as you take the time to be proactive and prepared.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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