OTTAWA, Ontario — ​The latest recommendations for data center air quality conditions mean that an increased number of companies in varying climates can now take advantage of the free air cooling offered through adiabatic humidification, improving energy efficiency, and facility operation costs. Since ASHRAE widened its guidelines for data centers’ indoor air and temperature conditions, the use of adiabatic humidification in data centers has increased, alongside the rise of free air cooling systems.

Proper indoor air quality and adequate humidity levels are imperative to safe and efficient data center operations. Humidification in data centers is required to prevent electrostatic discharge, which can damage servers and network products, and offers the benefit of high capacity, low cost evaporative cooling.

“ASHRAE’s expanded thermal guidelines offer data centers the opportunity to drastically reduce energy use and improve operations efficiency,” said Duncan Curd, general manager of Nortec. “Adiabatic humidification systems offer data centers an effective and efficient method of increasing power usage effectiveness in facilities, a metric that has become important in improving and optimizing data center design and operations.”

For every pound of moisture delivered from an adiabatic humidifier, over 1,000 Btus per hour of evaporative air cooling is simultaneously achieved. For a data center using high volumes of outside air to cool an internal environment, this technique offers an economic way to increase the potential of free air cooling.

For data centers, ASHRAE currently recommends a humidity level of 41.9°F (5.5°C) dew point to 60 percent relative humidity (RH), and allows a range of between 20-80 percent RH level for safe and effective operations in the indoor environment.

“In most parts of the world, at some time in the year, an effective humidification system will be required to meet ASHRAE’s recommended indoor air conditions. Adiabatic humidification systems offer the most effective and efficient way to meet these standards,” said Curd.

As an alternative to adiabatic humidification systems, data centers can also employ a wide range of steam humidifiers operating on electricity, gas, or central boiler steam. Though less cost efficient, these methods can be effective in meeting ASHRAE standards. For data centers wanting to lower the operating costs of existing steam humidifiers, resistive electric systems combined with a Reverse Osmosis water filter can significantly reduce maintenance and spares requirements.

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Publication date: 3/6/2017

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