By: Kevin O’Brien, President – Mission Critical Construction Services Division, EEC
With growing costs of energy in their facilities, energy conservation seems to be on the top of the priority list for many data center operators. According to Datacenter Journal and other industry sources, today’s data centers consume approximately 3% of global electricity and produce 200 million metric tons of CO2. And with the imminent growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, social media and cloud computing, our reliance on these energy hogs shows no signs of subsiding. While companies strategize new ways to reduce the astronomical cost required to power today’s data centers, they now also have to factor in a more long-term concern – their facilities’ impact on the environment. One quick way to improve data center efficiency is through the optimization of environmental parameters, specifically Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC) / Computer Room Air Handler (CRAH) units.
Recently, while having a conversation about energy conservation and computer room air conditioning units with several Sales Engineers from the MIH Systems Group, it dawned on me that I must have been involved with the installation of well over 3,000 CRAC/CRAH units since 2002. Like most data center technologies, CRAC / CRAH units have changed significantly in that timespan. Today, many facilities contain equipment that consumes enormous amounts of energy because it operates at constant volume – 24x7x365. Older CRAC / CRAH units are no exception; with their fans running at constant volume, these units can only modulate on and off. Most of the newer units, however, contain built-in Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) that enable them to modulate fan speeds in order to save energy.
While purchasing more efficient equipment isn’t always in the budget, optimizing the performance of existing systems – such as retrofitting CRAC / CRAH units with VFDs – is a more cost-efficient way to achieve substantial energy savings. In fact, reducing a fan’s speed by 20% can decrease its energy requirements by nearly 50%. According to the MIH Sales Engineers, 2008 or older CRAC / CRAH units are the most cost-effective to upgrade with their Emerson VFDs. Couple VFDs with the 20% to 50% energy savings potential of Direct Expansion (DX) and chilled water units, and the results can be astounding. The actual savings, of course, depend on the specific IT load in the data room as well as the configuration of the equipment. The actual Return On Investment (ROI) will be determined once utility / energy rebates are factored in.
EEC can audit your data center, plan the retrofit of all CRAC / CRAH units and perform the upgrade in your critical environment. Our CRAC / CRAH services also include a wide range of preventative maintenance services.
This may also be the time to have EEC install an air flow monitoring system to maximize energy savings by greatly reducing energy consumption and improving your Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). The saving is accomplished by monitoring both the inlet and outlet rack temperatures as well as the return air temperature entering the CRAC unit. This will allow you to match your underfloor airflow to your actual IT equipment needs.
So, cross energy conservation off your long list of “to do’s”. With EEC, you can ensure that your data center will grow more efficient as it matures.