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Cooling data centers with row-based cooling systems

Data centers have been under pressure to reduce their electricity loads -- with solar systems and better cooling systems. Here's another innovation that capitalizes on cascading efficiencies in design, physics and common sense.

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Perimeter Cooling systems

The traditional way of cooling data centers, which are notorious for the amount of energy they use, has been a raised floor air delivery from perimeter computer room air handlers (CRAH) and central air-handling units (CAHU).

As rack power grew, air delivery and heat removal challenges became a concern. The major obstacle in these architectures is the length of air delivery. Distance kills temperature advantages.

The heat load also made it difficult to remove the heat generated from the IT equipment without mixing with the supplied air, so separation results in hot spots and complex air system design.

American Power Conversion in O'Fallon, MO provides new generation solutions to cooling data centers using row-based cooling systems.

Row-based Cooling Systems for Data Centers

Row-based cooling systems have start appearing to address the separation of cooling units and heat loads. These row-based designs place the air conditioning units in the row of rack enclosures so that heat can be removed from the hot aisle as it is thrown off from the IT equipment. Then hot air is then cooled and discharged to the cold aisle.

The first energy efficiency attribute of the row-based system is a reduction of the required fan power. Shorter distances and reusing the same air in a closed system is more efficient.

Removing the heat from the hot aisle before it has a chance to mix with room air makes the remaining room air a large volume of supply air. Another savings in distance that the air has to travel.

Static pressure is reduced in this approach, as well, alowing variable speed equipment to be used -- which boosts energy efficiency.

Eliminating the mixing of hot and cold air streams provides another benefit -- much cooler air is sucked ito the cooling units.

By increasing cooling efficiencies, a much smaller cooling capacity per unit is needed.

The key to efficiency is that a "system" is set into motion that is like a perpetual motion machine...each part makes the next part more efficient. In air cooling, it makes sense to reduce the major drags on the system -- heat, distance, and cooling requirement -- so that the overall system can be scaled down.

Other factors can enter this efficiency recipe, such as humidity control, sensors and automated control.

A recent white paper in the ASHRAE journal describes this new system for data center cooling in engineering-detail. It's downloadable at ITBusinessEdge.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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