In a commercial building, the server room safeguards some of the most essential equipment to a business’ operations. Server equipment – even in modest server rooms – generates a great deal of heat, but it must be maintained within a certain temperature range to ensure reliable performance and durability.
When designing a server room, one of the most important, and most challenging, steps is calculating the average heat load in order to determine the ideal cooling system. The heat load is rarely constant day in and day out; it changes depending on a variety of factors. Ideally a server room is located in a manner that would allow it to not experience heat gain from any external sources. Usually this is accomplished by locating the server room internally and insulating it from the main space.
Since most server equipment is highly sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations—and overheating could lead to a devastating server failure—keeping the room cool is a priority. Traditionally, most office spaces will utilize split systems for cooling of IT rooms. This is due to the split system’s ability to modulate to maintain the room temperature, and it can isolate this particular room from the rest of the space.
Oversizing the split system can lead to the compressor cycling endlessly and thereby reducing its effectiveness and its anticipated lifecycle, resulting in excessive energy usage and wasteful spending. A common solution to this is to size the compressor for the majority of the load and then include a backup thermostatic exhaust fan that will operate only if the temperature in the room rises too high.
The goal when determining a server room’s heat load is to be as accurate as possible. The specific calculations will vary depending on the type of commercial space and the server equipment in use, but these overall guidelines will help estimate the scope of the cooling system.
Take stock of all heat sources and environmental factors.
Measure the area of the server room, as well as the size and position of any doors, windows or exterior walls (many server rooms are housed in an interior space but not all). Identify all of the normal room occupants, light sources and pieces of equipment.
Don’t use the equipment nameplates to measure heat output.
A common misstep is to use nameplate data to calculate the heat load of each piece of equipment in a server room. The problem with this method is that nameplates typically list the maximum power draw equipment is capable of. This means it’s describing full-load operation – not what is realistic to maintain consistency over long periods of time.
Use building information modeling (BIM) tools for heating and cooling loads analysis.
It’s possible to estimate the heat load of a server room by calculating the output of each piece of equipment that would be running under normal circumstances, then doing the same for various “what if” scenarios. Newer technology makes this process much easier and more accurate. Software programs, such as Autodesk’s Revit, offer tools that analyze 3D building models to calculate heating and cooling loads and create detailed reports.
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