By Jim Lundrigan, Vice President of Operations, Electronic Environments Corporation
The cold is almost upon us once again and just like people, data centers can be prone to the winter blues, too. As the temperatures drop and humidity decreases, it is important to ensure the necessary environmental adjustments are made within data centers to protect equipment. This entails ensuring equipment which may have remained inactive during the summer and fall months is now able to operate with higher frequency at peak efficiency. In the cooler, drier climate brought on by the changing seasons, this requires maintaining proper humidity levels, which is essential to achieving high availability and reducing operational costs within the data center.
Proper maintenance of data center humidification systems is necessary in drier climates to prevent static electricity that can build up and discharge – typically caused by cool, low humidity air moving throughout the facility. Static electricity and electrostatic discharge (ESD) can lead to damaged computing equipment, including instances of blown fuses. For the majority of data center facilities, staying within the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommended humidity and temperature guidelines (64.4° F – 80.6° F; 41.9° F – DP-59° F dew point) ensures a highly stable and effective environment for the efficient and reliable operation of mission-critical functions.
Identifying and remediating malfunctioning humidification equipment is also key to preventing water leakage resulting from blocked drainage. Water leakage can severely damage the unit and surrounding IT equipment. Malfunctioning humidification equipment is also the culprit behind the less obvious excess water vapor, which can slowly deteriorate components of a cooling unit. Well-maintained systems are critical to reducing nuisance alarms, return calls and their related high price tags between preventive maintenance (PM) visits. Monitoring and changing set points can also result in substantial power savings and increased energy efficiency. At Electronic Environments Corporation (EEC), we’ve noticed a trend, much like that of raising intake air temperatures, in which customers are lowering humidification set points from 45% to 40% to 35% to reduce energy costs over time.
EEC has been providing customers with strategic guidance across all areas of data center systems, designs and environments for over three decades. We help our customers prepare for and proactively prevent future data center challenges by providing a comprehensive scheduling of inspections and repairs. This includes critical elements such as ensuring humidification systems are functioning at peak efficiency through the modification settings while preparing for seasonal changes and cooler, drier weather. EEC’s humidification system inspections encompass:
- Starting a humidification system and performing diagnostics;
- Checking condensation pump operations and cleaning as needed;
- Confirming that set points are operating correctly;
- Examining overloads, fuses and electrical operations to ensure proper functionality;
- Removing and cleaning humidifier pans and drain lines from build-up and deposits;
- Adjusting pan water levels while testing and adjusting water overflow safety devices;
- Calibrating humidity sensors; and
- Maintaining water filtration systems that feed humidifiers (where applicable).
EEC leverages deeply-rooted data center expertise to develop and deploy customized solutions for data center maintenance in order to accommodate each customer’s unique business needs. Examples of our customized solutions range from steam canister humidifiers, which offer simpler troubleshooting but a higher replacement cost, to UV systems, which require more maintenance, or ultrasonic systems, which requires larger up-front investments but run more efficiently and produce long-term energy savings.
While maintenance is critical during seasonal changes, it’s important to inspect equipment regularly year-round to ensure data centers function efficiently. Prepare your humidification system and data center for the coming cold and dryness. While you may not be ready for winter, your data center certainly should be; your business depends on it.