8 Tips to Optimize Your Data Center’s HVAC and Energy Use for 2022

Data Center with technicians examining a server with connectivity symbols in the foreground

Just think – Some of the largest data centers in the world have the same power consumption as nearly 80,000 US households.

Data centers today comprise 3% of global power consumption, but that is expected to jump to 8% by 2030 at the current rate of digital transformation. It makes sense then that organizations have already begun to start looking at their data centers’ energy footprint to find ways of improving efficiency.

Before diving into our energy efficiency tips, let’s first quickly go over data centers and their importance in the business world.

What are Data Centers?

We’ve already gone in-depth into data centers in a previous article. To recap, data centers are centralized facilities used for the storage and processing of data en masse. The business world from small-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to multinational corporations (MNCs) relies on these data solutions as their operations are further digitalized.

As cloud computing has become an intrinsic part of business operations and continuity, this reliance on data facilities has grown exponentially. Recently, in an attempt to create a more efficient way of collecting and processing data, edge data centers located closer to data sources have been deployed.

These fringe facilities provide more efficient and effective storage and analysis of data in real-time and reduce the load on centralized data centers by processing the data at the source. In order to accomplish this, all of these facilities, both central, and edge data centers, must be operating efficiently in regards to their energy and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) use.

On that note, let’s dive into the importance and issues surrounding HVAC use for data centers, and how it directly relates to your energy costs.

How HVAC use is costing data center operators needlessly

HVAC comprises all of the machinery and technologies used to heat, cool, and purify the air for a closed space. One of the greatest sources of wasted energy in data centers comes from inefficient HVAC systems. This is because many data centers operate at unnecessarily cold temperatures.

The allowed temperature range for safe data center operations ranges from 59 to 90℉. However, the recommended range is between 64.4 and 80.6℉ (18 and 27℃), but most data centers operate between 19 and 21℃. Operating at the lower end of the spectrum keeps equipment and the server room itself cool, but also costs a great deal in wasted energy costs.

Actively monitoring your HVAC’s cooling systems, especially their energy use, is critical to stop wasting energy on unnecessary cooling. In fact, For every 1℃ a data center’s temperature is raised, the operators can save 4-5% of their energy costs.

However, wasted energy costs for data centers go beyond just effective HVAC management, and it’s important to understand why you should care about these inefficiencies.

Why it’s time to start caring about your data center’s energy consumption

Data center energy consumption per year according to Moore's Law
Source: ScienceDirect

Data centers are hemorrhaging large portions of their supplied energy to inefficiency. This stems from inefficient cooling to the various power systems, UPS backups, and onsite machinery, among other sources.

They also require a LOT of power in general to provide continuous operation. Datacenter power consumption is expected to reach 321 Terawatt Hours (TWh) annually by 2030. When you take into account Industrial IoT infrastructure expected to be in use in these spaces, that number jumps to a whopping 752 TWh. To put this into perspective, some countries’ total power production hover around 1 trillion TWh per annum.

In addition, the deployment of 5G and other network technologies has further raised the public and private need for data centers for continuous operations. All of these deployments and reliance on new technologies have also led to a precipitous increase in electronic waste produced.

According to the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor, we are producing over 54 million metric tons of e-waste every year, a number that has grown by 21% in merely five years. Looking towards 2030, that number is expected to reach 73 metric tons, almost double what it was just 16 years ago.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s dive into our tips on how you can start running your data center more efficiently and sustainably.

Eight tips to optimize your data center’s HVAC and energy consumption

1. Keep a wary eye on your HVAC use

In order to understand better how your data center is operating, you still need to actively monitor your HVAC system how these assets are performing. Remote HVAC monitoring and control solutions like Galooli’s can provide you with data-centered insights on how you can improve the performance of your data center’s HVAC systems.

They also provide real-time alerts for predictive and preventative maintenance to mitigate potential outages and more serious malfunctions. This will save on HVAC maintenance costs, improve efficiency, and identify issues before they disrupt operations.

2. Flip the switch on DC power

According to an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) study, introducing DC power systems resulted in power savings from 14.9% under load to 15.8% when idle versus AC systems. They also found that DC provided significantly improved energy delivery reliability, and improved redundancies with DC’s ability to directly connect to backup batteries.

3. Reduce needless energy losses

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is a measure of the efficiency of a specific data center. From a perfect score of 1.0, most data centers average around 1.8, with a score of 1.2 and lower indicating an efficiency-focused data center. The aforementioned study by the EPRI found that over 58% of data centers are operating outside of an efficient PUE.

In addition, Power Distribution Units (PDUs) losses can comprise up to 12 percent of a data centers energy consumption, with UPS Systems having a similar impact. This also ties into more efficient HVAC operations as we discussed earlier, which reduce needless energy consumption, especially during idle times.

4. Monitor your energy assets remotely

Using a remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution like Galooli’s can provide comprehensive visibility and control over energy and HVAC systems. By tracking performance KPIs and facility performance overall in real-time, we can ensure any inefficiencies are identified and mitigated. With our remote controls, malfunctioning and out-of-date HVAC and energy assets can be discovered and synced without being onsite.

5. Let your servers breathe

Diagram displaying data center setup inefficiencies that cost in energy and excessive and unnecessary HVAC use
Source: NREL.gov

Server layouts haven’t changed too much since being placed in racks, but there are a number of methods to improve data center HVAC efficiency. Firstly, a proper cooling setup significantly reduces PUE, which hinges on minimizing air leakage and recirculation. This requires proper seals on servers like plexiglass panels, which act as an excellent cost-effective seal.

6. Start tracking your facility’s carbon footprint

In addition to tracking your energy use and any outlying assets behaving abnormally, it is also critical that data center operators monitor their facilities’ carbon footprints. Data centers produce around 2% of the world’s GHG emissions, comparable to the entire airline industry.

Using certain RMM solutions, you can track your overall carbon footprint, identify problematic remote assets, and compare overall performance over time. In this way, you can begin to understand where and when you can improve your emissions and troubleshoot those problematic assets remotely. You can also install sensors to further the insights you can glean from an expanded range of environmental and operational KPIs.

7. Trim the fat of unused servers

A joint research endeavor with Stanford University found that up to 30% of the world’s servers are sitting idle. Though statistics vary as to the number of servers in use globally, at that point in time, they numbered approximately 100 million. An average cost of $3000 per server means there is approximately $30 billion in physical IT assets alone, not to mention energy and other operating costs.

Through using tools like RMM solutions you can begin identifying and removing unnecessary servers and start saving across the board. Real-time insights can make shutting down inefficient servers much quicker, and immediately improve your efficiency and carbon footprint.

8. Time to clean up your aisles

Diagram depicting hot cold aisle data center setup and the effect it has on airflow and temperature
Source: ACHR News

How you organize your server racks can create a massive difference in energy efficiency. By implementing a hot/cold aisle setup, wherein servers are oriented facing each other, with the back facing each other as well. This forms exhaust (hot) aisles behind and cool aisles where the servers face one another. When combined with containment, this can reduce fan energy consumption by up to 25%.

It's time to turn your data center operations green

Optimizing your data centers’ energy and HVAC use does not change overnight. Some of these tips are usable in the short term, while others will require consistent effort to determine where your organization is wasting money and energy on your facility’s operations.

Galooli’s remote monitoring and management solution can help implement a number of our tips by providing overarching visibility over your energy and HVAC assets. In this way, we provide real-time insights and alerts into their performance, along with remote controls and configuration troubleshooting.

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