This past week, while visiting data centers in Michigan, we discovered that one of our customers was in the midst of deploying about ten CRAC damper/extensions on their legacy floor units. The customer had upgraded their cooling system to have rooftop units ducted to the raised floor, but kept the floor units around for backup. Upgrading cooling systems is a normal part of a datacenter’s lifecycle, but our customer was running into a few problems during the process. Their issue was that these existing floor units effectively acted as “big holes in the floor” that allowed air to leak back through them and into the room.
This same problem is sometimes associated with the deployment of either hot or cold aisle containment in legacy sites where the goal is typically to turn off CRAC units (those not equipped with VFDs). However, once a CRAC unit is turned off, it effectively becomes that “big hole,” leaking cold air back through the unit and reducing the efficiency of the data center’s HVAC system. In the past, Polargy has offered CRAC Covers to help prevent that leakage, which is fine when units are manually turned on and off. The covers won’t work for CRAC units that are remotely controlled on and off such as those connected to a DCiM, for obvious reasons. This is the case for our customer in Michigan. So, what can be done?
CRAC Damper Top Mounted
Dampers can become the solution for this problem. CRAC Dampers are custom built to the size of the unit and the height is also specified for each individual project. These are delivered as large, rectangular boxes and are simply attached to the tops of the units with sheet screws. Since the damper assembly impedes access to the CRAC unit from above, filters are installed above the dampers on flanges that are built into the extension. The easiest and simplest way to add dampers to an existing CRAC unit is to mount gravity operated dampers to the tops of the units. This is exactly what our customer was doing during our visit. The damper housing was about 18” tall to also act as an extension, grabbing hotter air from higher up in the room.
Gravity Operated Louvers
Just like our Michigan customer, check on your CRAC units. If you know they will be manually controlled, CRAC Covers can be a good solution. For the CRAC units connected to a monitoring system that dynamically controls them, dampers are the way to go.
Hard containment, soft containment, and partial containment only touch on the most common uses of containment in data centers. In the course of working with customers looking to partition air in a particular way, Polargy is occasionally asked to build architectural walls. Because we spend our time creating innovative containment strategies and structures, and we’re good at manufacturing and installing airflow partitions, it becomes a natural next-step that we are asked to apply this expertise to other areas within the data center. Also, containment costs generally fall lower than the expenses associated with installing traditional architectural partitions; harnessing Polargy’s knowledge of partition construction can provide a cost advantage as well. These requests usually accompany a larger containment project where the site needs architectural walls for very specific applications.
- A “Light Box” for a PDU Room
One example application we’ve encountered was the need for materials to function as walls but still display some transparency. As part of a new 232,000-foot data center being built by DPR, the owner came to us because he was interested in creating a “Light Box” effect for the isolation around a long bank of PDUs. Polargy simply re-purposed our standard containment panels for this project. To meet the needs of this customer, we replaced the normal clear panel inserts with opaque ones to diffuse the light. We also added 10” kick plates to the bottom of the panels to prevent damage from carts and cleaning.
- A Test Space on a Data Center Lab Floor
A second application of Polargy’s containment solutions was for a complete internal construction project. In the course of building a 16,000-foot lab for a networking equipment company, the owner sought to utilize approximately 200 square feet of unoccupied floor space for test benches and lab desks. Polargy was commissioned to build the room, which consisted of floor to ceiling walls and a door. We again changed the panel inserts, but from clear to bronze in this case, in order to give the room a little more privacy and an attractive aesthetic.
We suspect that Polargy will continue to see these dual purpose partition usages in our new builds. Containment easily creates these architectural partitions and can sometimes address the specific construction needs of a project even better than traditional partitions. The above examples used containment practically, in terms of the transference of light, and aesthetically, for improving the color and comfort of a space. While these are two uses of containment, panels and doors can be designed to fit other partition needs as well. We always look forward to becoming involved in architecturally-focused projects since they challenge the traditional use of our solutions, expand our scope for creative containment, and ignite news ways of thinking about data center design.