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Data centres

Using and reusing free energy

Data centres and server rooms generate a large amount of consistent dry heat 24/7. This heat is an unwanted by-product of the electronic processes. In the northern hemisphere, we benefit from having a suitable average ambient temperature with which we can deliver external air to a data room for the majority of the year. When the ambient air does drop, rejected room heat can be used to temper the incoming external air.

To complete the package, when we do experience our UK summer, we draw on evaporative or adiabatic cooling to provide natural cooling to the air by passing the warm ambient air through a moist heat exchanger to cool it down.

Free cooling works by utilising the air from outside combined with both reclaimed heat and evaporative cooling to provide the total cooling solution to any data centre or server room.


The UK climate – perfect for free cooling

Free cooling can be a good option for cost saving and energy saving, especially in the UK.

Over the years server equipment has become more resilient to both temperature and humidity fluctuation. Not so long ago, a server room needed to be kept at around 20oC with an RH of around 50%. This was all achievable through the use of mechanical cooling and humidification.  With the advent of more robust data hardware, we no longer need to rely on the high energy consuming HVAC, and cannot turn to free cooling using the ambient air and a high room air change rate to dissipate the heat generated by the data hardware.

Rooms can operate comfortably at much higher tolerances. This means that for most of the summer, air from outside can still cool the room to an acceptable temperature.

Project Example – Free Cooling for a Data Room (Public Sector)

The main aim for the client was to develop a low energy and low carbon air management system to work alongside the already installed traditional split system air conditioning.

The data room was of a typical layout comprising of a row of rack mounted servers and network equipment with additional UPS back up, all configured for both hot & cold aisle air distribution.

Our Solution

We developed a bespoke system incorporating ‘free cooling’, linked through a sophisticated control system to complement the existing DX air conditioning system. Using diffuser grilles mounted discreetly in the ductwork, the external air could be diffused vertically so that a curtain of cool air engulfed the front of the racks.

A tailor-made control panel monitored both internal and external conditions constantly adjusted the air ratios to meet the conditions. If the external conditions were not available for free cooling the system would automatically revert back to the original re-circulating DX air conditioning. The introduction of the free cooling system was estimated to have saved the client 75,525kW in energy per year and reduced their carbon usage by 32 tonnes.

The financial saving was also significant, with an estimate of £6,042 saved in the first year giving back on the capital investment within 2 years.

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