What You Need To Know About Commercial Air Conditioning And Your Server Room

Posted on: 9 February 2015

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Your company's server room is the heart and soul of your communications and your network. If you want to protect your equipment from imminent failure due to heat overload, you'll need to implement a server room air conditioning system. Keeping it separate from your building's air conditioning allows you to maintain a consistent temperature in the server room without affecting the rest of your workspace. There are several methods for cooling your server room, so here are a few options to discuss with your commercial HVAC technician.

Computer Room Air Conditioning

A computer room air conditioning system uses a refrigerant system installed in the floor of the server room. It is typically connected to one or more condensing units located outside. The system installed in the floor forces the cool air up into the room through grates installed in the floor. As the cool air starts to distribute throughout the room, it creates pockets of hot air in the aisles between the server racks. Strategically placed exhaust fans draw that warm air out of the room and cycle it back into the cooling system by routing it to the condensing unit. The warm air drawn out of the server room is then cooled in the condensing unit and distributed back into the server room in a complete air cycle.

Server Room Air Handlers

Like the computer room air conditioning systems, air handlers are installed in the floor of your server room. Unlike the air conditioning system, air handlers use a water cycle instead of air. The water is run through a chiller located outside the building, and the chiller drops the water temperature. Similar to a radiant heat system, these cooling systems then radiate the chill of the cold water through the system in a closed circuit. Fans are usually installed just beneath the grates in the floor to blow air past the water lines. This cold water chills the air as it blows through, distributing cold air up into the room. These systems also have an exhaust fan installed at a higher elevation to draw out warmer air. The biggest difference between the air handler system and a standard air conditioning system is the use of water as compared to air in the cooling system.

Free Cooling Systems

A free cooling system relies on the natural temperatures outside to keep your server room cool. If you live in an area where much of the year brings comfortable temperatures and balanced humidity, this may work well for you. Used in conjunction with another cooling system for times when the outdoor air isn't ideal, a free cooling design will disable the primary cooling infrastructure and draw in outside air when outdoor temperatures are beneficial for cooling.

Close-Coupled Liquid Systems

This type of liquid cooling system relies on air management and containment to manage the temperatures in your server room. The inlet water is chilled as it runs through the system, and the water draws heat away from the servers. The system cycles the water for perpetual cooling. You can even find systems that will work with higher temperatures in the incoming water to save your company money on cooling efforts.

Liquid cooling systems are typically adaptable, modular and easy to upgrade as your demand grows. You might be able to integrate a controlled fan with variable speeds as well as an adjustable water flow system that responds to changes in the heat load that's generated inside the server room.

This intuitive system might give you the opportunity to moderate your server room's temperature to a consistent level with just the inbound cool water supply that runs through the pipes in the room. The liquid cooling is also beneficial for removing any excess heat in the room, because the water absorbs the heat and distributes it evenly to help reduce the total temperature change in the server room.

Consider Integrated Humidifiers

As you explore these options with a commercial HVAC technician, you'll also want to consider the humidity levels in your server room. Server rooms require a delicate balance of humidity to protect the equipment. Too little humidity results in dry air that can generate static. Static can be hazardous to electronics and circuitry.

Too much humidity in the air can lead to moisture settling on the server equipment, which can be just as damaging. Talk with your HVAC contractor about how to integrate a humidifier into your server room cooling system so that you can maintain a consistent level of humidity without having any excess moisture in the room.

With so many options for cooling systems in your server room, it's always best to talk with a commercial air conditioning installation specialist. He or she can help you find a stand-alone system that will work well for your network infrastructure without breaking your facilities budget.