Decoding New Fire Codes

new_nfpa_stds_thumbThere is some confusion in the marketplace regarding changing fire safety regulations and materials deployed in the data center as airflow containment. To help clear things up, I prepared a technical briefling titled “New NFPA Standards Explained” which I have been presenting at AFCOM regional meetings. For the benefit of the many people who may be suffering a bout of this confusion and missed my presentations, I’ve provided my slides.

new_nfpa_stdsIf you’re planning a containment project, whether retrofit or new construction, and want to be sure you’re interpreting fire codes correctly, give us a call. Polargy is the trusted partner in data center containment to get your job done right the first time, on time and on budget.

PolarPlex Drop-Away Roof Panels are a Clear Winner

cac_1_blogthumbcac_1Our popular PolarPlex Drop-Away roof panels are designed for use under existing data center fire suppression systems that activate at 165 degrees F so they don’t require complicated and expensive changes to your existing fire suppression regime. The PolarPlex Drop-Away panel inserts are also thermally activated, falling out of their frames at 135 degrees F, so in the event of a data center fire, your existing fire suppression system works unimpeded.

Another important containment design consideration is ensuring adequate lighting in the cold aisle. With the introduction of a clear PolarPlex Drop-Away Panel, Polargy addresses this customer requirement in a simple way.


Our new clear Drop-Away Panels allow 90% of light into the aisle while our Frosted Drop-Away Panels allow 80% of existing light in, which means they don’t require complicated and expensive changes to your data center lighting system.

We will be showing both our Clear and Frosted Drop-Away roof panels at the Data Center World Global Conference 2014 in Las Vegas this week. Stop by the ASM Modular booth# 619 to see a full suite of our PolarPlex containment solutions and even some of our more popular airflow accessories, such as PolarDam Air Dam Foam and PolarFlex 42U Full Rack Blanking Panels.

Sealing gaps: We’ve come a long way

Ship bld Caulk 7Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. In ancient times, boat builders would pack fibers, reeds and pitch into cracks between the planks of their boats to seal water leaks. I invented PolarDam five years ago because data center operators needed a low-cost, simple, flexible and safe method for sealing a wide variety of air gaps to improve cooling efficiency.
Over the years, we’ve enjoyed hearing stories about how operators sealed air gaps prior to using PolarDam, and here are a few of the more entertaining examples:
  1. Software. Yes, software. The data center was once home to countless software packages (CDs, manuals, etc.) for enterprise desktop support. Since all those boxes were just sitting around—and about the right size (5″ x 7″)—facilities managers used them to block off cable openings in empty racks.
  2. Foam peanuts. Inventive? Yes. Fire safe? No. We don’t know the whole story of how they were held in place, but they were called out by the fire marshal as not fire safe, so they had to go. The site manager replaced them with fire safe PolarDam air dam foam.
  3. Cardboard. This is no surprise given its ubiquity except for the obvious fire danger. In haste to achieve energy savings, this operator overlooked the potential to actually accelerate a possible fire by packing kindling throughout his data center.
  4. Rags. This is an odd example because there’s no reason to suspect the data center operator already had quantities of rags on hand, so they must have intentionally purchased a large quantity of new clean rags to plug air gaps. Probably not as bad as cardboard or software but certainly not up to code. PolarDam to the rescue again.
  5. Packing foam. Think about that pink packing foam that protects new-in-box computers and servers. Now imagine you’re supposed to wedge pieces of this rigid foam into air gaps of different shapes and sizes. It sounds like a nightmare, maybe even punishment, but definitely awkward and inefficient. Clearly not “the right tool for the job.”
  6. Wood. Scraps of wood. If I didn’t hear this myself, I’m not sure I would believe it. Is there any good use for wood in the data center? How does one fashion a custom wood block “air dam” on site without multiple cuts and resulting saw dust? If I hadn’t invented PolarDam, I think I’d sooner recommend fiber, reeds and pitch.
DSCN3974 (1)No need to seal air gaps with rubbish or other flammable materials, PolarDam seals your large and small air gaps, no tools required, and it’s fire safe.
Send us your entertaining “stop gap” stories from the days before you used PolarDam air dam foam:

The secret’s out about PolarDam

This month we followed our customers’ lead and ‘let the cat out of the bag‘ about all the ways to use PolarDam Air Dam Foam to seal off air gaps throughout the data center.

polardam_air_dam_foam_promoYou probably remember the old story about 3M’s accidental invention of Post-It Notes.

bitcoin-aha-momentThe invention of PolarDam Air Dam Foam was a little like that:

  • Accidental product insight
  • Simple solution to a real problem
  • Subsequent use case proliferation

If you spend as much time with customers as Polargy does, you become very familiar with the details and nuance of their challenges. This means we’re often positioned to solve—and even anticipate—customer problems with innovative containment solutions.

Almost more importantly (for business), staying close to a large number of varied customers allows Polargy to recognize common pain points across the market.

polardam_air_dam_foamIn the PolarDam case, our customer needed to close about a hundred air gaps of varying sizes, and it was clear that brush grommets weren’t going to get the job done. The high cost of brush grommets alone made them a bad option but they also just didn’t work.

IMG_6064Together with the customer, we developed a simple, customizable air gap sealing solution that beats brush grommets every time in terms of fit, cost and flexibility. It was clear to us immediately that the same air gap challenges this customer had were common to data centers everywhere.

So that’s where it started, but now it’s taken on a life of its own. I even made a video about it.

“Everyone knows that air leakage reduces data center cooling efficiency. The best kept secret for sealing air gaps is PolarDam Air Dam Foam.”

And here’s a little gallery of some of the most popular PolarDam applications:


Normal cable cutouts where you could use a brush grommets (but prefer PolarDam’s far lower cost)


PolarDam 2

Odd-shaped or obstructed cutouts that no brush grommet will fit



2-post racks, either on top or through the floor



photo 1Blanking inside racks when you’re blanking off an entire 1U or 2U (or more) but especially when you’re running cables out through the front of the rack. Try to do that with a rigid blanking panel.


PolarDam 3Pipe penetrations through a floor or near a wall…

…and there are so many more.

The important thing to remember is that PolarDam closes all these air gaps in seconds. No tools, no measuring, no messy drilling. Just tear it to the perfect size and push it into place with your hands.

Just one part number: PD24

Containment’s Gas Suppression Challenge

Existing data centers protected with FM200 or other clean agent systems can be a challenge to contain because the cost of adding or moving nozzles is very high. One alternative has been the use of electronic fuse links that trigger off the FM200 system. Though the links are pricey (about $250 each) and need testing, it is a workable solution that can still offer an ROI that meets project goals.

Electronic Fuse Links

Electronic Fuse Links

The electronic links pictured above where installed on a hot aisle containment system pictured below. The site has a ceiling with two levels and the FM200 nozzles are installed in the lower section of the ceiling. The curtains were installed with a gap above them to allow some air movement (so not total isolation) in order to assure that air flow to the existing smoke detectors were not obstructed.

Hot Aisle Containment

Hot Aisle Containment

These links have an electronic trigger off a signal from the FM200 system as well as a thermally activated mechanism. The wiring requirements are similar to those for smoke detectors and is through conduit that you can see in the above picture. The other wires are tethers to stop the fall of the curtain after it drops about two feet to clear the FM200 nozzles.

Customer Does Home Test on Burning Properties

A customer did a burn test on Polargy’s PolarDAM Air Dam Foam and posted it on Youtube. Of course, we were happy to see that the foam performs as specified and is self extinguishing.

Interestingly, I visited another customer who had put a few pieces of our air dam foam in an environmental test chamber to see how well it withstands high temperatures and varying temperatures. I had no idea that they were doing this until my visit. We examined the sample pieces and could see no indication of the foam decaying. I was surprised to learn he had this test running for the past three months.