Could evaporation cool data centres in a greener way than traditional refrigeration units?
Data centres are notoriously power hungry, due in part to the need for energy-sapping cooling systems. However a British-based company, EcoCooling Ltd, is touting the advantages of its evaporative coolers, as companies look for a more natural way of producing cool air.
Conventional server rooms and data centres use what is commonly referred to as CRAC (computer room air conditioning) units for cooling. This normally makes use of a refrigeration-based air conditioning system. EcoCooling thinks that data centres could usefully look at an alternative based on evaporative cooling.
Buildings are normally cooled by ventilation, evaporative cooling or a refrigeration-based air conditioning system. Ventilation systems can provide some comfort cooling for most of the year but, aren’t normally up to the job for IT systems, as they cannot maintain internal temperatures below 25°C in bouts of high temperatures.
The choice of system can have a dramatic effect on the total carbon emissions of the building due to the different electrical demands, so with more and more companies increasingly concerned by their carbon emissions, EcoCooling believes that its range of evaporative coolers offer a much greener alternative to the traditional air conditioner.
The traditional air conditioner unit or CRAC is normally used in server rooms and data centres. But there is an overhead here, as refrigeration-based systems are effective but can be expensive to operate because of their energy requirements.
They also use refrigerants, which can be hazardous to the environment.
According to EcoCooling, evaporative cooling can produce air consistently below 22°C in the UK climate, and offers companies an intermediate cooling solution that consumes only a fraction of the electricity.
Evaporative cooling has been used for years in homes as an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional air conditioning. According to EcoCooling, an evaporative cooling installation typically consumes less than 15 percent of the electricity compared to the equivalent rated refrigeration-based cooling system.
Gartner recently warned that increasingly high-densisty server equipment will pose more power, cooling and spacing headaches for data centre managers and owners.
What Is Evaporative Cooling?
Evaporative cooling (also known as swamp cooling) uses the drop in temperature that occurs when water that has been exposed to moving air begins to vaporise and change to gas. For example a person in wet clothing will experience the effects of evaporative cooling when changing out of their wet clothes because they were chilly.
An evaporative cooler is in essence a large fan that draws warm air through water-moistened pads. As the water in the pads evaporates, the air is chilled and pushed out to the room. The temperature can be controlled by adjusting the airflow of the cooler.
The EcoCooling solution takes air from the hot aisle and releases it outside the building. Then air from outside the building is passed through an evaporative cooler and then delivered to the cold aisle. And when winter sets in and the days are too cold outside for direct delivery to the data centre, outside air is mixed with exhaust air to achieve the desired inlet temperature.
Installation costs associated with evaporative cooling systems can be significantly lower, and they are also very cheap to run as electricity usage is significantly lower, especially in areas with relatively low humidty. The units themselves are also simpler to maintain than a typical refrigerant-based system.
EcoCooling claims that its evaporative cooling units have been specifically designed for the cooling of industrial and commercial buildings and can give 35KW of air cooling for every 1.5KW of electricity consumed. It touts as an example, the cost of cooling a typical data centre can be reduced by over 90 percent using Evaporative Cooling.
The other advantage is the fact that evaporative coolers can allow the power intensive process-based cooling to be shut off for large parts of the year. And, when combined with favourable climates or increased data centre temperatures, it believes that evaporative cooling systems can entirely replace air conditioning systems.
EcoCooling did not return eWEEK Europe’s call at the time of writing.