You might think keeping a data center or server room functionally cool gets much easier when outdoor temperatures drop. Ha! In fact, cold weather brings a new set of challenges to data center cooling--particularly when trying to keep one room cool and all the surrounding rooms warm. Let's look specifically at the right solution or cooling system for the job.
Block the vents!
If the room is connected to the central heating and cooling system, you may be tempted to block the vents. Although it may provide some immediate relief to the server room you'll want to check with your facility manager or building engineer to make sure you won't be unbalancing your central heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Depending on the design of your system, this may work to reduce hot air, but it is also likely to increase energy consumption and operating costs. The blocked air creates either back-pressure against the unit's fan, causing it to work harder and burn more energy, or it simply pushes the air through leaks in the duct work.
Is a CRAC the answer?
You may want to explore installing a totally independent system for the server room or data center. The larger and more equipment-packed the room, the greater the need for a dedicated computer room air conditioner (CRAC). A big budget and a big space may allow for a split, ductless cooling system, separate from the central air system. However…"big budget" and "big space" may render this option obsolete. An independent cooling system ensures the server room and surrounding spaces won't need to fight for the thermostat settings on the central system.
Spot Coolers may be the solution!
There is good news, however! First of all, your data center may be able to tolerate a warmer temperature than you thought. As the good people at InfoWorld reminded us recently, much of our updated equipment has been made to withstand higher temperatures. Be sure to check out the guidelines for data center cooling that are published by ASHRAE.
Considering you may not have to turn your server room or data center into a meat locker, a reliable, energy- and cost-efficient alternative for server room cooling is a portable air conditioner. Spot coolers and portable air conditioners are affordable, take up little space, go where you want them (the trouble zones), and are easily installed and can be a cost effective solution for the additional cooling needed in data centers and server rooms.
Your facility manager or building engineer can be helpful solving your cooling problems so be sure to start with them. And if you need more help or want to get additional information, just download this handy guide for cooling commercial server rooms.