Building A Server Room Cooling System


An adequate server room cooling system is vital for many businesses. Small, medium and large enterprises rely on servers for the effective running of their operations. A proper server room cooling system can help prevent these problems, saving businesses from a range of financial and practical difficulties that could otherwise prove extremely harmful.

The Importance of Server Room Cooling

If servers are not properly cooled, heat can cause problems to occur by damaging components. This can lead to downtime, the cost of repairs and even permanent data loss. Problems that can occur include the warping of boards, failure of electronic components, and even melted solder causing damage at the circuit level.

70% of UK companies that experience severe loss of vital data end up going completely out of business. This figure helps to illustrate quite how vital proper cooling for your server room could be. Even if things do not get that extreme, heat-related server problems could result in downtime and interruption to your business operations. This can result in lost revenue, and that revenue could be redirected towards your competitors if customers and clients look elsewhere as a result.

The Basics of Server Room Cooling

While most server rooms will require some form of specific cooling, the first step is simply to observe best practice in areas such as server room layout. If you have any flexibility in your choice of server room location, you should favour areas that are adjacent to air conditioned spaces, and avoid those that are next to particularly warm rooms. This includes rooms directly above or below the server room.

Other good practices include ensuring that all pieces of equipment are placed into sever racks which allow adequate space for air to circulate between them. Dust is also a key consideration. It may seem like a trivial point, but it can be sucked into ventilation holes in equipment and clog them up. The result is that dust makes a surprisingly significant difference to the danger of overheating. Fitting sensors where air circulates around the equipment itself can also help you to get an accurate idea of its operating temperature at any given time and of how effectively heat is being dissipated.

Estimating Other Cooling Requirements

Only very low-powered server rooms – with less than 400 watts total power consumption – can generally get by without dedicated cooling. Even then, this is usually only true if it is next to a space which gets all-day air conditioning. Higher-powered server rooms will usually need some sort of added assistance for cooling. Medium-powered rooms (up to 2,000 watts) will get by with either plain vents or fan-assisted ventilation, but higher-powered rooms will require a dedicated air conditioning system.

It is important to note, however, that power usage is only one factor to consider in deciding upon the cooling requirements of a server room. It plays a big enough role to be used as a useful indicator, but this alone will not give a definitive answer. Room size, heat generated by power supply, heat from lighting systems and even human body heat all play a noticeable role. Given the amount of damage that server failures can do to a business, it is always better to err on the side of caution if you are uncertain.

Dedicated Server Room Cooling Systems

One key type of dedicated cooling system for server rooms is air conditioning. This works according to all the same principals as any other form of air conditioning, but will be designed and fitted specifically for the more demanding needs of the server room. It will introduce cooled air and remove warm air in order to carefully regulate the temperature of the room and aid the dissipation of the heat that your server room equipment generates. More advanced systems will be able to utilise lower external air temperatures to reduce the energy needed to cool air artificially, thereby cutting running costs and delivering an effective cooling solution.

The other main type of dedicated cooling system for server rooms is liquid cooling. This uses a system of circulating liquid to remove heat from the room rather than air. Liquid cooling tends to be a more efficient solution than most air-based systems, though advanced air conditioning systems may serve as exceptions. However, liquid cooling is also often prohibitively costly, making it a less viable or cost-effective solution for many businesses.

by Louise Burke