Data centers connect our world, but at a massive energy cost. The critical equipment that they house and protect can easily make energy savings sound unimportant, but this type of thinking will miss fantastic cost savings opportunities. High energy consumption, high energy density, and 24/7 cooling loads make data centers gold mines for energy efficiency. A well-planned approach and careful implementation of energy efficiency projects can offer data center operators a great return on investment while maintaining or improving the reliability of their infrastructure.
Where to Find Energy Savings
No/Low Cost Options
A surprising amount of energy can often be saved with minimal hardware upgrades. Savings can be found even in very high efficiency data centers. Here are some common places to look:
1. Reduce Air Flow
- Install blanking panels to cover all empty spaces in racks.
- Optimize raised floor supply tile placement to eliminate hot spots and reduce over-cooling.
- Turn off unnecessary constant flow AC units
2. Increase temperature setpoints and relax humidity dead-bands
3. Optimize chilled water plant controls
- There are many ways to easily improve chilled water plant efficiency, such as increasing the chilled water temperature and using condenser water resets. Condenser water resets respond to outside air conditions by making colder condenser water when possible to do so, raising the efficiency of the chiller itself at low-load conditions.
The following common upgrades can be implemented with paybacks under three years, with major impacts on energy efficiency.
1. Variable speed fan control retrofits to CRAC or CRAH units
- Retrofit kits are often available.
- EC plug fan retrofits are best, when possible, to improve fan efficiency
2. Aisle containment
- Aisle containment is used to separate hot aisles (where heat from servers is rejected) from cold aisles (where cool air is supplied). This approach helps improve overall distribution efficiency.
- If you have two or more rows or racks, it may be valuable to implement aisle containment.
- Rigid containment with doors is generally best.
3. Pump VFD retrofits
- Often low-cost, quick payback opportunities.
4. Chiller VFD retrofits
- Proper chilled water plant control is critical for achieving savings.
Next Steps Towards an Energy Efficient Data Center
The best place to start is with a conversation. Make time to pick the brains of your facilities staff, occupants, and upper management about current building operations concerns, energy efficiency opportunities, budget constraints and goals.
Hire an Energy Consultant
Even when efficiency opportunities appear to be clear, an energy consulting engineer can provide valuable insight for prioritizing projects, evaluating interplay between measures, maximizing savings, maximizing energy efficiency incentives, and ensuring the project intent is carried through to delivery. While efficiency measures may sound simple, there are often many details to consider for proper implementation, and sometimes steps that are important for realizing savings get “dropped” along the way. You can always call us or reach out through the website to assess the potential for your projects and guide you through implementation and commissioning.