Data centre cooling experts at Vertiv, a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions, have issued updated guidance for managing the extreme heat.
Summer in the northern hemisphere just started, but already devastating heatwaves have washed over much of the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe and Asia. Widespread wildfires in Canada have triggered air quality alerts across that country and much of the Eastern half of the US. Similar extreme heat events across Asia have caused widespread power outages and Europe continues to break heat records as the fastest-warming continent.
Climate change has made the past eight years the hottest on record, but with an El Niño weather pattern compounding the issue this year, many forecasts anticipate record-breaking temperatures in 2023. The sizzling outdoor temperatures and their aftermath create significant challenges for data centre operators who already wage a daily battle with the heat produced within their facilities. There are steps organisations can take to mitigate the risks associated with extreme heat. These include:
- Clean or change air filters: The eerie orange haze that engulfed New York City was a powerful visual representation of one of the most immediate and severe impacts of climate change. For data centre operators, it should serve as a reminder to clean or change air filters in their data centre thermal management systems and HVAC systems. Those filters help to protect sensitive electronics from particulates in the air, including smoke from faraway wildfires.
- Accelerate planned maintenance and service: Extreme heat and poor air quality tax more than data centre infrastructure systems. Electricity providers often struggle to meet the surge in demand that comes with higher temperatures and outages are common. Such events are not the time to learn about problems with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) system or cooling unit. Cleaning condenser coils and maintaining refrigerant charge levels are examples of proactive maintenance that can help to prevent unexpected failures.
- Activate available efficiency tools: Many modern UPS systems are equipped with high-efficiency eco-modes that can reduce the amount of power the system draws from the grid. Heatwaves like those we’ve seen recently push the grid to its limits, meaning any reductions in demand can be the difference between uninterrupted service and a devastating outage.
- Leverage alternative energy sources: Not all data centres have access to viable alternative energy, but those that do should leverage off-grid power sources. These could include on- or off-site solar arrays or other alternate sources, such as off-site wind farms and lithium-ion batteries, to enable peak shifting or shaving. The use of generators is discouraged during heat waves unless an outage occurs. Diesel generators produce more greenhouse gas and emissions associated with climate change than backup options that use alternative energy. In fact, organisations should postpone planned generator testing when temperatures are spiking.