August 30, 2018

Data is the lifeblood of many businesses today, and the server room is the heart that keeps it flowing. However, server rooms have substantial cooling requirements, and if these are not met, they can quickly overheat. This can cause major productivity losses for your business, and in the worst cases, the heat can damage or destroy valuable equipment and data. You can avoid many of these risks by observing the best practices for cooling your server room.

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Server Room Cooling Requirements

Server rooms house sensitive hardware that can be damaged easily if exposed to extreme temperatures. Servers must be fed a constant stream of cool air since they generate a substantial amount of heat which can damage their internal components. Your room will need to be designed to remove this heat before it builds up and creates hazardous conditions for your equipment. If you fail to take adequate precautions, you could expose your business to many risks, including equipment failure and even fire.

Intel suggests a number of criteria your server room meet to reduce the risk of overheating. They recommend you choose a windowless room with ceilings that are at least nine feet tall and enough space to house any future servers you may add. To maximize your cooling capabilities, they suggest you lay out your servers in hot-cold aisles, so that each aisle is dedicated to feeding servers cold air or to removing their exhaust. Intel also says you should maintain redundant cooling capabilities for your server room and should not rely only on that of your building.

You’ll want to take the following factors into consideration when setting up your own server room:

  • The number of server racks and cabinets you wish to install
  • How you intend to cool the room and monitor its temperature
  • Whether the room is insulated and if it is close to sources of heat
  • How many people will be working in the room
  • What fire control measures exist for the server room
  • The type of lighting you intend to use and how much heat this will contribute

What Are Some Server Room Cooling Best Practices?

Here are some questions you may ask when implementing best practices for your server room.

Is It Possible to Cool a Server Room Without Air Conditioning?

Some business owners don’t install a dedicated air conditioner for their server room because their lease doesn’t allow it or because they simply don’t have the budget. It’s possible to keep a server room cool without air conditioning by using fans if it’s properly ventilated and doesn’t house too many servers. However, you should at least install a thermostat for the room to notify you if the room gets too hot.

1. What Kind of Server Room Air Conditioner Sizing Requirements Do I Need to Be Aware Of?

You’ll need to calculate how many BTUs your server room will generate when designing its cooling system to make sure it is adequate for your needs. There are several major potential sources heat for your server room, including equipment, lighting, any windows, and even the workers who have to service it. You can do this by hand, or you can use any of the calculators that are available on the internet to get a rough estimate. Once you calculate the heat load of each of these factors, you’ll have an idea of what cooling system is right for you.

In order to calculate the number of BTUs your server room will generate, first calculate the surface area of the room and multiply it by 337. Add 400 BTUs for every employee you expect to work in your server room. Multiply the wattage of your lighting by 4.25 and that of your equipment by 3.5 to determine the BTUs it will emit. If you are in the northern hemisphere, you can also multiply the surface areas of south-facing windows by 870 and north-facing windows by 165, and by another 1.5 if there aren’t any blinds for them.

2. What’s the Best Server Room Temperature?

There isn’t any particular optimal temperature for server rooms, but the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers suggests keeping them between 77 ℉ to 81 ℉. You will also want to keep relative humidity in your server room between 40% to 50%, or your room could generate condensation if there is too much moisture or static electricity if there is too little. However, server rooms can safely operate in temperatures ranging from 64.4 ℉ and 80.6 ℉ depending on your needs. Google is said to maintain server rooms at 90 ℉, but these temperatures can be too high for workers to operate in if they need to service equipment.

3. Why You Need Server Room Exhaust Vents

Exhaust vents can efficiently move warm air out of your server room by using the natural physics of airflow to your advantage. Warm air from your server room will rise through the vent as the cold air you pump in forces it out. These are a low-cost option that require little more than correctly positioning your server cabinets and sometimes installing a new duct to allow for better air intake. An exhaust vent can be better for the security of your server room and more efficient, as you can keep the doors shut, allowing cold air to stay in the room.

How to Cool Down a Server Room If It DOES Get Too Hot

If your server room constantly overheats, check to see if any of the following could be causing it to do so:

  • Server cabinets are too close together or not arranged in hot-cold aisles.
  • Spaces between server racks are trapping hot air. Consider installing blanking panels to prevent this.
  • Ambient humidity is too high or too low.
  • If your cables are cluttered, consider organizing them so they trap less heat.
  • Remove any unnecessary objects you have stored in your server room to remove heat.
  • You may require a portable AC if your server room still gets too hot after organizing it.

Server equipment can be quite resilient when operating in higher temperatures, but it can quickly deteriorate if you aren’t careful. This can make catastrophic failure much more likely, which can prove to be far more costly to your business than installing an adequate cooling system. Your server room is likely one of your most important investments, which makes it imperative to work with a team of professionals to determine the best way to cool it. This could have benefits for your entire business which you could begin to experience immediately.

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