Data Center Cooling: 6 Best Practices for Airflow Distribution in Mission Critical Facilities

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One of the most important challenges to address in the mission critical space is the airflow distribution in the white space. The following are an adapted version of  the  best practices recommended by ASHRAE Technical Committee 9.9 in the mission critical space when it comes to airflow distribution:

  1. A proper analysis of the facility should be done with proper consideration given to several types of airflow architectures including overhead, in floor, and hybrid type solutions.
  2. In order to make sure that the airflow in the data center is optimized it is imperative to use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling so that the various layout configurations can be rightly analyzed.
  3. The third best practice with regards to airflow management is containment, containment, containment.  In other words, it is necessary that there is good separation between the supply and return air pathways.  This can be achieved with hot aisle/cold aisle containment.  ASHRAE recommends that any down-flow CRAC units be placed at the end of the hot aisle.
  4. For optimized efficiency gains with regards to cooling the data center energy efficient fans, fan motors, and vfd’s should be chosen.  Naturally it is also  important to minimize the pressure drop on the system design.
  5. Take off your sweater!  An obvious energy efficiency measure that can be implemented is to select as high a supply air temperature as will provide appropriate cooling to the servers.
  6. Consider some sort of modular or scalable solution for the data center’s cooling infrastructure.  This is important because the density of the servers will increase over the next 10-15 years resulting in higher loads than the initial build out.
*Adapted from:  American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. (2008). Best practices for Datacom Facility Energy Efficiency. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.