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Cost-Effective Server Room Air Conditioning?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-was-it-about-penny-wise dept.

The Almighty Buck 414

at0mic26 writes "I am currently tasked with finding a cost effective solution to our 30+ degree Celsius server room. The only air conditioning currently provided is a single duct pipe from one of two air conditioner units. I was thinking of stealing air from the second air conditioning unit with some sheet metal work, but it likely will not be sufficient — and would not have tolerance for both AC units being offline for any amount of time. An ideal supplemental portable AC unit is what I am after, however I'm finding it cost prohibitive, with $600+ humidity controlled AC unit, plus 20 amp socket requirement, plus contract work to make a hole in the wall for outside drainage so that the unit does not flood the place. What sort of successful cheaper air conditioning solutions have you come up with?"

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Celcius? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785245)

Silly Americans.

Re:Celcius? (-1, Offtopic)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785641)

I know, those silly Americans can't even spell "Celsius".

Re:Celcius? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785953)

Also, this is twice in one day that 'tasked' has appeared on the front page. This is a terrible word. The first sentence should be 'I have been asked to find...' not 'I have been tasked with finding...'. Please, will someone think of the children!

Antarctica (5, Funny)

ohxten (1248800) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785249)

Move the room to Antarctica, turn off the heat.

Maybe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785379)

If you posted more information you could get a reasonable answer.

How much space?
How much heat is the equipment giving off?
What is your budget?
At what temperature do you want to operate the room?
How quickly is the heat output of the equipment growing?
How much excess capacity do you need?

If you can't answer those questions you won't get a workable solution.

Re:Antarctica (3, Insightful)

tommeke100 (755660) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785791)

Isn't google thinking of moving some data centers to colder places to save on cooling expenses?
However, you have to keep the temperature above freezing point, otherwise you'll have condensation and humidity problem.

this article blows (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785279)

if you can't afford $600 to cool the room, you need to turn off your servers.

Turn off the servers (5, Insightful)

Bronster (13157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785445)

Seriously, the coward shitteth you not. If you can't afford $600 to cool the room, then consolidate your services onto fewer machines and shut the others off, because they're obviously not making you enough money to be worth running.

If, on the other hand, your boss is a cheapskate then do something like I did before - moved the servers out to my desk and stuck a honking big fan at one side to blow air past them. It had the very big plus side of being obvious to everyone that we had to keep the servers cool, and reminded them every day that the alternative was buying some aircon.

Re:Turn off the servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785899)

let's face it the guy needs to find another job!

Re:Turn off the servers (4, Informative)

raddan (519638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785959)

Not to mention-- adding another AC unit without that unit being tied into the same controller will cause problems for your AC units. They'll be turning on and shutting off more frequently. This will greatly affect the life of your AC units. If you're a hardware hacker, you can probably add capacity on the cheap by hacking your thermostat to coordinate multiple units. Otherwise, you really do just need to pony up and pay for the AC upgrade. Cool air is a basic business expense nowadays. If the people writing your budget don't see it that way, then your company is in trouble.

...oh and we can't afford a heating consultant (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785489)

so we're asking slashdot for a bunch of stupid answers.

Re:this article blows (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785991)


I would note, however, that most of the $600 1-ton units don't require drainage: they evaporate the condensate into the exhaust air instead.

Money I needs it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785285)

What I am first to post LOL

woooooosh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785293)

Dry ice.

Just imagine the theatrics.

Not much you can do (4, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785301)

Dry ice and a fan? Seriously though, there's not much you can do here. What is the cost to the business if hardware starts failing if it overheats? How does that compare with the total cost of installing another A/C unit?

Re:Not much you can do (4, Informative)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785389)

Dry ice and a fan?

This is not recommended:

Due to the health risks associated with carbon dioxide exposure, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that average exposure for healthy adults during an eight-hour work day should not exceed 5,000 ppm (0.5%). The maximum safe level for infants, children, the elderly and individuals with cardio-pulmonary health issues is significantly less. For short-term (under ten minutes) exposure, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) limit is 30,000 ppm (3%). NIOSH also states that carbon dioxide concentrations exceeding 4% are immediately dangerous to life and health.

Re:Not much you can do (2, Informative)

Ferzerp (83619) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785467)

You realize that the GP was being facetious, right?

Re:Not much you can do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785391)

What the parent said.

Don't be cheap where cooling is concerned.

This being slashdot though, I'm sure there will be someone who will tell you how free alternatives to bowing down to the proprietary A/C industry are superior.

These same people won't be there to help you recover your environment when heating issues cause catastrophic failures though.

Fund raiser and cooling at same time. (4, Funny)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785627)

Better yet, rent the room out for birthday parties with those big 5 gallon tubs of ice cream. Put fans on the ice cream to cool the room and it helps to serve it because it'll be softer. Then when you have enough money for an air conditioning unit and contracting work, cancel the ice cream parties.

See! Problem solved!

do what CIHost does (3, Funny)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785305)

just stick a boxfan in there.

I toured CIHost's Bedford TX datacenter a few years ago. I saw a boxfan blowing on a bunch of servers and a single power strip plugged into 4 or 5 of those servers that was stretched across to a wall outlet so that it was about 8" off the floor. Pefect to trip over nevermind the walmart quality parts.

tour was over after i saw that.

Re:do what CIHost does (2, Interesting)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785429)

Actually that's what we did at my last job.

We had a lab packed full of routers/switches/data generators for stress testing. There were issues with hot spots and equipment would randomly fail. Solution? buy a ton of box fans during the off-season at $10 each and place them in the lab to help with hotspots. Works great, and is an inexpensive solution.

Oh, and be sure to have a monitor on the A/C, so when it breaks on a weekend, you won't fry your equip.

Re:do what CIHost does (1)

Gerald (9696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785577)

Most box fans are about 19" wide. This fact came in handy years ago when I worked at an ISP. Our Ascend boxes (in an otherwise frigid data center) kept overheating, so we wire-tied a box fan to the front of the rack. Worked like a charm.

Simply this... (5, Informative)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785317)

There are no cheap A/C solutions. Portable home units lack the tonnage to adequate cool even a small bedroom, let alone a room full of fire-breathing servers. Industrial portables for 'spot' cooling, that have sufficient tonnage start in the low $10K rang and quickly move up. My suggestion is to get an A/C pro to do up the spec for you and then bid it out with guarantees and such in the RFP.

Re:Simply this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785665)

Yeah that's pretty much the case. We were able to hook up an external fan for the winter and switch to that when the temp got low enough that helped shave the costs a bit in winter, but for 11 months of the year in the northern midwest it requires a $15K unit for even the most modest of server rooms.

Re:Simply this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785907)

You are full of crap.. We cool down our server 3 portable air condition (total cost 800.00) Works fine..

7 Dell 2650's
3 Dell 220s SCSI Racks

Re:Simply this... (5, Informative)

linear a (584575) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785927)

Sounds like you have more time than money. If you can't afford the cost to beef up the A/C, you can use some of the techniques used in server room design. If you can, take the cold air and put it directly into your hottest (or most expensive to replace maybe) and add partitions to channel the cold air where it will do the most good. Simply mixing a stream of cold air with the warm room air is not efficient. Put the limited cooling where it does the most good, don't let the cold air mix with the hot air, try to channel the hot air away from everything. As an added thought, and exhaust fan somewhere where it is hottest might do considerable good.

Re:Simply this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24786035)

I suggest you call B^HTuttle, ill-tempered, heavily-armed heating engineer.

Simple answer is don't mess around (5, Insightful)

banbeans (122547) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785335)

Never try and just make do with the cooling.
The cost of doing it right pales in comparison with not doing it right and something happening.

Re:Simple answer is don't mess around (1)

cosinezero (833532) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785667)

The cost of doing it right pales in comparison with not doing it right WHEN something happens.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Simple answer is don't mess around (1)

sterno (16320) | more than 6 years ago | (#24786031)

Indeed. At one place I worked the server room would stay reasonably cool as long as the door was open. If somebody happened to close the door, by morning, servers were crashing. Also, long term overheating might not cause crashes, but it will cause things like hard drives to fail prematurely.

Factor in the price of cooling with the servers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785357)

See subject. Don't just buy servers and think of the cooling problem later. Cooling is expensive, but it costs less if you install it at the same time you set up your facility.

Apologies - I realise this doesn't really answer your question but it's an experience you, or others can gain from this situation.

Whats the SEER rating? (1)

ilovesymbian (1341639) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785377)

>> I am currently tasked with finding a cost effective solution to our 30+ degree celcius server room.

First, its "celsius" and not "celcius".

On track, you need to check the SEER rating. A rating of at least 15 is good and energy efficient. Many of the Carrier models have decent SEER ratings. We use it in our office (a telecom) and its a huge saving over the old A/C which had a 10 SEER rating.

How many servers? (3, Insightful)

greymond (539980) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785385)

If the room averages a temperature of 86 degrees (sorry I'm american) and I wanted to get it cooler there are a lot of options, however what size room are we talking about and where is it located (room, ground floor, basement?) Lots of different options and choices depending on lots of variables that weren't in the post.

I'm not trying to be a dick, just wondering because cooling a room for a small business like the one I work in that houses all of 3 servers in a room a little larger than your average walk-in closet is a lot different than trying to cool a room with 100 rack mount servers lined up in rows.

A google search though brings up a lot of places like [] - might just be worthwhile to google for what you need.

Blow me incorporated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785393)

Higher a hooker for your boss that gave you an impossible task. Because then he won't fire you when you are unable to come through here.

Spend the freakin' money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785405)

and do it right!

Simple... (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785433)

Cheaper A/C alternatives? Do nothing. Let the room overheat and replace all the computing hardware. So what if you're down for a week?

Or suck it up and foot the bill to do it right.

Re:Simple... (1)

Molochi (555357) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785645)

Or you could just underclock everything and blame it on heat related cpu throttling. If enough people bitch about the systems running slow maybe they'll up your budget.

Re:Simple... (4, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785905)

"Let the room overheat and replace all the computing hardware. So what if you're down for a week?"

Don't forget the BOFH option.
Back everything up.
Wait until meltdown, then be the hero for restoring the new systems. :)

insulation (4, Interesting)

mabu (178417) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785435)

You can use standard window units - but the key is insulation - you have to have a very well insulated and sealed room. I built my own server room by adding two additional layers of insulation on to the existing sheetrock (styrofoam with a plastic vinyl 4x8 sheet paneling and then putting silicon on all the seams, then using window units (with a backup unit). I can keep the room at a constant 61 degrees F with two full height racks running with a 8000-12000 btu 220 window unit.

F/OSS (3, Insightful)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785585)

...You can use standard window units

Maybe he has a F/OSS shop. Geeze!

Re:insulation (1)

Sosarian (39969) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785867)

Two full height racks full of 1Us with two quad core opterons each, running computation jobs?

Or are you just cooling the racks, no gear? :)

Re:insulation (2, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785935)

There's really no reason you need to keep your server room that cold, and you're probably wasting a lot of electricity doing so. You could set that thermostat at least 10 degrees higher and still be fine.

Remove the heat (4, Interesting)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785437)

The best idea I've seen is to use enclosed racks, sealed with weatherstripping except for vents at the bottom, and put a duct in the top that leads to an exhaust fan on the roof. Now you're not trying to cool the hot air produced by the servers; you're removing the hot air produced by the servers. Cool air from the already-air-conditioned room will be sucked up through ventilation at the bottom of the rack to keep the servers cool. And since your existing AC doesn't have to cool all that hot air, it should be able to keep the room temperature down to 20C.

Note that this is a long-term solution in terms of lower energy costs. I have no idea what it would cost up front to implement.

Re:Remove the heat (4, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785593)

Your solution *sounds* nice, but in fact, may drive cooling bills UP.

Where I live, it's routinely over 100 degrees (Yup. Ima 'merkin!) outside, today is expected to hit over 110. In order to provide a net savings, the hot air coming out from your server rack has to be even hotter than that, otherwise you're venting 90 degree air outside, then having to compensate for this by cooling down 110 degree air as it gets sucked into your building.

And this problem is exacerbated if there is relatively high humidity. (EG: Florida) Then, not only are you cooling down the air, you're pumping water out of the air, and since OP mentioned water drains and "not flooding" the place, this may well be him.

Now, if you're in an area where high temps are the exception, this may not be much of an issue. But it sure wouldn't work where I live.

OP: Here's what you do: Go to three reputable contractors. Get three quotes for the job. Get references for each contractor. Present this information to your boss.

If he/she can't handle that, you need to move on anyway.

Re:Remove the heat (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785957)

This only works if the air outside is the right temperature and humidity, because outside air must enter the building to replace the hot air you're venting out the top of your racks. If it's too hot, or the humidity isn't right, you're still going to need air conditioning. You've just moved the problem: instead of containing it in your server room, it's now spread throughout your building (everywhere the negative pressure allows air to enter). I would NOT want to be the server guy when a heat wave hits and the building A/C can't keep up, because even if your servers aren't cooking yet, everyone else in the building might as well be.

Cheaper? Really? (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785451)

A 20 amp socket, if you're in the US is required for all commercial buildings. You don't have to pay for that. But $600 and a hole in a wall is too much $$ for a server room? That's pretty crazy. One server probably costs more than that. What are you looking for, dry ice and a fan?

Holy crap! you're complaining about that cheap? (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785463)

You have less than $2500.00 in cost there. Cripes the Libert unit in the server room here cost me $15,000 to have complete. $600 is dirt cheap $2500 is dirt cheap for what you are looking at.

Even if you did the Half-arse way and put 4 window air conditioners in the wall you still need the electrician to run wires.

You'll still come out the same price.

Cost of doing business (5, Informative)

TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785465)

You can cut corners - but if a 20 Amp circuit + $600 for a cheap unit is scaring you off, you are out of your league.

Bite the bullet and get what you need right the first time, because the repair and replace if it isn't done correctly will make $1500 seem like a drop in the bucket...

Re:Cost of doing business (1)

Ryan Stortz (598060) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785921)

I agree that you're out of your league, but there are some alternative methods for cooling your server room.

One of the most ingenious I've heard of (right here on /. even), is to strike a deal with your neighbors to provide heating for their businesses. It basically gives you a big heat sink and you may even be able to get away with charging a little for your services. This is assuming you're located in an area where heating is a concern for a large portion of the year.

MovinCool (1)

Swampcritter (1165207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785471)

I recommend taking a look at MovinCool ( products.

A Big fan. (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785473)

Really I have been wondering if one of those big fans like I see on some restaurant kitchens would help our server room.
Suck the hot air out and draw cold air from the rest of the building in.

Honestly a better solution is to reduce the heat.
How many servers are you running? How many are old PIV class machines?
How many could you replace with say new low heat Intel or AMD based systems.
Have you looked at building a few BIG boxes with new CPUs and running Zen or VMWare on them. Cut the total number of servers down.

It maybe cheaper to get new more efficient servers than to upgrade the AC. Not to mention the down time you may have when they install the new AC.
You may want to look at making less heat before you spend money on better cooling.

keginator (5, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785497)

from your budget, you clearly only have one server in play, so put it in a refrigerator.

Cut a hole in the door to let the cables in and seal around them with that expanding foam stuff in a spray can.

Sounds like that would max out your budget.

Re:keginator (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785683)

If the room is that hot with only one server in play, the room is probably the garage of a house, in which case he just needs to follow this simple procedure:

1.) Get a large cardboard box. Poke holes in the top for ventilating hot air out.
2.) Cut a big hole in the side of the box.
3.) Wrap box with insulation.
4.) Put computer in box.
5.) Knock big hole in wall between garage and main house with a sledgehammer.
6.) Place the box with the hole in its side flush against the hole in the wall.
7.) Place box fan in the house, situated to blow air into the hole.

And Voila, cheap cooling. Alternatively, you could put the server in the main house, but seriously, that's just a cheap hack of a solution.

Also, he should ask for his pay in cash in the future, because the company clearly has no operating capital and will probably be bouncing checks very soon.

Been there (1)

youngdev (1238812) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785507)

I have had this problem and I addressed it at the time. One of the things you have to be worried about is not only all the factors you described but what will you do when winter comes and the office users decide they want heat instead of AC??? What I did is I I piped a flexible duct extension to the "server room" which was really just a big closet and during the summer I allowed the vent to sit in the grid ceiling instead of the ceiling tile. When winter came I pushed the vent up into the drop ceiling and replaced it with a regular ceiling tile. this did the trick for a while. I also had the benefit of having the closet positioned against an exterior wall. Without a duct in the closet it got pretty cold in there.

Of course if you have any budget whatsoever you will be able to find better solutions if you hunt for portable air condition units. All of them will require more than 110 outlet. But I do remember seeing some that did not need the drain to be piped. Some of them that I have seen have a hot air return that you you vent into the drop ceiling and the condensation is pumped into a little pan with a heating element. It evaporates the water into the hot air return along with the heat produced by the compressor. As long as you are not concerned about what happens with the air return this might be a solution that will work. YMMV

People coolers (1)

eggfoolr (999317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785511)

Don't use people coolers, those stand alone AC units are not designed for 24x7 operation. I have seen computer rooms fry when they have been used because when they fail they fail spectacularly!

Bight the bullet and install a proper unit. The first time your people cooler dies, it will cost you more than proper AC.

Re:People coolers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785975)

We tried cheap consumer air conditioners in a small room that would get 86F from servers even though it was -20F outside. Eventually started using a Mitsubishi PKA-A12GA split air conditioner that runs 24/7, and amazingly this thing will still cool down the room with an outside air temperature near -40F. Like everyone else says, though, it was in the $6000-$10,000 range. Moving to the arctic does not really help a small enclosed room with even a few servers in it.

Law of natural consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785515)

Let it be the way it is until servers fail and cause outages. When it hurts the business enough, you'll get the budget you need to do it right.

It depends (1)

quarkie68 (1018634) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785523)

The temperature 30+ says nothing to me. If I know the area of your machine room, the total number of watts from your equipment, maybe I can be more specific. FYI, I have eliminated the drainage issue by installing a small 12V pump myself and getting the pipes to the nearest kitchen sink, so no drilling on external walls.

There's nothing you can do except open the windows (3, Interesting)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785527)

If you're talking about concern over $600 price points, then all is lost. It sounds like you don't have the money to provide proper A/C to a residential home much less a commercial server room. I suggest you look into co-locating your servers to a real data center and pay a monthly fee. You'll have lower up front costs and your PHB probably isn't smart enough to recognize the long-term implications.

Good luck.

The best idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785529)

Install Linux, problem solved.

Just one question? (1)

SolarStorm (991940) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785535)

What company do you work for that can afford multiple servers at 10k each, give or take, and a server room and then balks at the price of an air conditioner? I like the idea of letting it fail, then going to your boss with downtime costs and recovery costs (you do have a recovery plan?) Then mention that the $600 plus looks pretty good.

Can't just add ductwork (3, Informative)

taradfong (311185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785555)

In your posting you talked about adding ducts to steal A/C from a second unit. To work decently you would need to not only add a new output duct 'run', but also a new return 'run' (that is, unless the 2 units share a network of return ducting).

Do it right (2, Informative)

dkf (304284) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785589)

What sort of sucessful cheaper air coniditoning solutions have you come up with?

You've already found the cheap option. Your best bet is to not skimp (unless you like cooking hardware, assuming a reasonable growth rate in computing power under your care) though some of the steps you can take (e.g. hot/cold aisles) are really just rearranging your existing kit and adding some sheet metal work. But that doesn't allow you to skimp on getting adequate cooling. (If you want to know what "adequate cooling" is, ask a real expert; the answer depends on lots of facts you've not revealed.)

Be aware that in large datacenters, the cost of keeping them cool will usually dominate. Really. Be prepared to be your A/C salesman's good customer...

Can't you have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785607)

Can't you have like, air blowing up from the bottom of the building, through the room, and then out the top? Like a PC case? Sure it doesn't have to go straight up obviously because the rain would get in. But if you have it go out the roof anyway out a chimney it would work. I guarantee it!!!

Check the basement (1)

spribyl (175893) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785625)

This may seem a bit odd but try the basement of the building. Basements are usually cooler then the upper floors.
Simply blow the cooler basement air into your server room.

The down side of this is moisture and the outside chance of CO poisoning.

Submerge the servers in Fluorinert ... (1)

NealAbq (1267110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785633)

... and don't forget the waterfall.

Multiple aircon may be inadvisable (1)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785637)

I'm no expert, but according to our consultants if more than one aircon unit is serving the same area they will conflict and one or the other (or both) will be likely to fail. (This even applies to leaving a door open between two rooms that are served by different units.)

I've got to admit that I've never quite understood their explanations as to why this is, but FYI.

Iceland and a window fan (0, Troll)

olddoc (152678) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785659)

Move the servers to Iceland and get a window fan.

How much are your servers worth? (2, Insightful)

Puffy Director Pants (1242492) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785663)

Seriously, you ask yourself how much your servers are worth, what it'd cost to replace them, or do without them, and then you can factor in how much you should spend on setting up your cooling. There are several ways to do that, but few of them are cheap, and if your systems are at all valuable, you shouldn't balk at spending thousands on your needs. Since it seems 600 dollars is too much for you, all I can suggest is looking at your ventilation, or possibly replacement of your existing systems with more energy-efficient ones.

You need that hole (1)

James Youngman (3732) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785677)

Forget drainage, you need a hole in the wall to let out the hot air that the air conditioner produces as waste.

Discussed this with an A/C tech friend. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785679)

My buddy, who pulls six figures doing A/C installs and consulting (and earns every penny), discussed this with me a couple months ago. Basically, good A/C is as complicated as putting together a good database. There's air flow and direction and insulation and compression and all sorts of things you'd never even consider. You can get by without training, but you should expect it to fail, and badly.

Depending on the size and population of your server room, you might expect to need a couple of $10K cooler units on the roof. Call your local industrial-service A/C or ducting guys and get an estimate for your BTUs and target temperature. That cost will make your boss cry- but give him a list of what the equipment in the rack would cost to replace and he'll sign off on it.

You wouldn't want the A/C guy to design your db, your boss shouldn't expect you to put together a good A/C solution.

What are you really trying to do? (2, Insightful)

nenya (557317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785689)

I think there's a basic unanswered question here that will determine which of the above types of solutions you aim for.

If you're trying to make the actual server room a more pleasant place to be, you really do need to look into additional A/C capacity, and that's just not gonna be cheap.

But if all you're trying to do is keep your servers from overheating, there may be other ways of doing this. It could involve dedicated A/C units, but needn't necessarily. Non-A/C options include installing fans (not Wal-Mart box fans, something more permanent; talk to a local HVAC contractor), opening windows, installing specialized vent ducts, etc.

Either way, you're probably going to want to get HVAC in there. Proper cooling for computers, especially servers, is something like proper insurance for driving a car: the question isn't whether you can afford it, it's whether you can afford not to have it.

Liquid Cooling! (0, Redundant)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785691)

Immerse your server room in Flourinet!

Re:Liquid Cooling! (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785909)

Curses you beat me! Fluorinert has definately got it's advantages. Once you get past the enormous startup costs, all you'd need is an appropriately sized radiator outside and the cost to run a liquid pump at a surprisingly low volume.

ahh let it go (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785697)

Just leave it as it is. Yes everyone likes to put their professional demeanor on and make proper recommendations and use words like BTU and SEER, but everyone here has seen a bunch of servers jammed into a poorly ventilated closet work just fine. Computers have pretty high tolerances for heat, and usually the worst that happens is the computer will shut down if it gets really bad. I remember one place I worked had modems that got so hot you couldn't touch them; every once in a while they'd stop working because of it but you'd just sort of jostle them around and they'd cool off just fine and start working again.

Enviromaster Ductless (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785701)

Prices should start around 3 - 4 k installed.

Target the problem, not a symptom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785717)

Have you considered consolidating your servers?

Machines with low load could be consolidated into one, by virtualizing or config-fu. This is a good option if you've got lots of older single-core units.

If you have fewer machines belching heat, you need less energy to cool them.

$600 is probably already to cheap... (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785751)

You get what you pay for in terms of reliability, electicity consumption and power. I expect that server-room grade AC will be a bit more expensive than that.

Doing it cheap doesn't work. (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785773)

You should not consider trying to do this on the cheap. If you keep in mind the cost of early equipment failures, installing a real dedicated AC unit becomes less costly. Check out a Mini-Split unit. Some of them have very high efficiencies and they do not require any ducting, just two lines to transfer the coolant and a drain line to get rid of moisture and power of course.

Lots of Options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785797)

There are several alternatives:

1. ask to see the service level agreement (SLA) that defines your servers' uptime, availability, data loss, security, etc. If he has none, then simply drop the subject - whatever you do is AOK

Assuming you do have a service level to respect and no money to spend, then

2. Get a few ceiling fans and hang them below the ceiling blowing up through missing tiles into the air space above the ceiling. Open the main door to let cool air from the rest of the office in. Barbed wire filling the open door space will definitely qualify for security *see SLA above

3. Provide him with an estimate of costs and downtime to replace several servers because of overheating. Note to him that warranties don't necessarily apply either, if the machines are abused.

4. Start looking for a job where the management can see the light of day from where their routinely keep their head.

Please note, some of these options are tongue in cheek. Choose which ones ...

Don't do cheap AC or cheap power... (1)

volxdragon (1297215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785805)

BIGGEST mistakes you can make on a server room is going cheap/unreliable cooling and power, you'll regret both when you have a room full of burned-up toasters.

12000 BTU of cool (1)

jhines (82154) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785827)

The LG LWHD1200R I got for my girl in Fla is working fine. Got it from delivered via UPS. No shipping or taxes, such a deal. Plugs into regular outlet.

No problems, just store "right side up" overnight to let the oil resettle if UPS didn't follow the sticker. And remove the manual and instructions before you run it.

Here's a tool to help you out (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785835)

OK, here's a way to approach the problem.

APC sells racks with integrated cooling. [] They have an online configurator program. Run the configurator, fill in your info, and you'll get a rack design.

Try changing the "watts per rack" number. Watch what happens as the configurator adds air conditioning units and fans. Note that as the power density goes up, the cost goes way up.

This is where they start to ask questions like "Do we really need a Web 2.0 web site?" Now you're starting to get the picture.

I'm not partticularly recommending APC. They just happen to have a useful online tool, one which can give you something to take to your bosses to give them a sense of the costs as you add more equipment to a rack.

try a big-ass fan.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785847)

Dual Air Conditioning Issues (4, Interesting)

billstewart (78916) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785849)

Steven Wright has a line about "I bought a humidifier and a dehumidifier and put them together in a room to fight it out." That was what happened with our dual A/C system in the first computer room I helped build, back in the early 80s to support our VAXes. We had a couple of chilled-water Liebert units that were bigger than the computers, and management had decided to get two of them so we'd never lose cooling. Turned out we couldn't actually run them both at once, though I don't remember if they were fighting more about temperature or humidity - one unit would be pushing a bunch of cold dry air under the floor, which would blow into the sensors of the other unit, which would push a bunch of warm wet air under the floor, etc. And any time there was a power failure, the A/C wouldn't automatically restart, but the VAX would, so if this happened overnight or on a weekend, the room would reach 130 degrees (F), at which point the power system would decide their might be a fire and shut everything down until the room got cooler - which would take a while, since it wouldn't let us use the A/C. So we'd get in on Monday morning, have to open the back doors to the lab and go steal desk fans.

My late-90s lab had much smaller equipment - a bunch of routers and PCs in an enclosed office - but it still generated enough heat that we needed extra A/C. We didn't own the building, and the A/C unit that the landlord put in the ceiling would occasionally ice up and start dripping water onto our desk, but fortunately it usually missed the rack. For a couple of weeks during one of the A/C repairs, they gave us a big standalone thing that blew cool air into the room and warm air out through the ceiling ductwork. It had enough room in the top to chill a couple of bottles of wine, so our winetasting that month did whites.

Use cold outside air (1)

Rudolfo (111984) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785857)

If the outside air is cold (winter, night, etc.) blowing it into the server room costs next to nothing.

Of course, if it's humid outside air, it may not be a good idea.

Please DO NOT cut corners on this (1)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785861)

I have seen multiple server rooms full of systems ruined by A/C related failures (directly via overheating, indirectly by fires or sprinkler discharges after A/C failures).

Don't skimp!

Tell your employer to spend the money needed to get a proper A/C installation. "portable" units are ok - if they're professional grade, not home grade, and properly drained and wired and vent ducted. Permanent installation units are better, generally - cheaper for given tonnage of rating.

In either case, put in environmental monitoring ($400 or less) to send out alerts if it gets too hot or something else goes wrong.

IT folks tend to either not understand or not believe in the significance of getting facilities right. Experienced IT folks, with decades in the industry, know better. Take our advice - spend the money, get it right.

Figure out what your actual power is, what the UPS capacity is (remember, if the A/C isn't on UPS but the systems are, after a power failure the room will start heating up until the UPS is exhausted!). Definitely install monitoring (can be cheaper than any rackmount server is).

Bosses Office (1)

CambodiaSam (1153015) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785871)

Distribute the servers in conspicuous places around the office, with your Bosses office as the home of the most loud and obnoxious machines.

This won't solve your cooling problem, but it might solve your budget issue if you don't get fired.

Two good resources on cooling (3, Informative)

1sockchuck (826398) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785883)

Looking at the cooling issue more broadly, here are a couple of resources that provide good information on techniques to optimize cooling on a budget:

The Hot Aisle [] : Great blog from Steve O'Donnell with practical ways to implement hot-aisle or cold-aisle containment and economizers.

Data Center Knowledge [] : Recent articles look at "roll your own" thermal monitoring solutions and using excess heat in swimming pools and greenhouses.

Go Geothermal! (4, Interesting)

haemish (28576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785889)

I once had to do essentially this in a slightly unusual situation: the server room was by an outside wall, and on the other side of the wall they were about to put in a new lawn. We just dug down extra deep (about 4 feet) and got about 100 feet of 6' diameter corrugated plastic drainpipe (intended to be buried, the corrugations make it somewhat flexible), covered it with dirt+lawn, and finally put a fan on one end and recirculated the server room air through this. Only had to buy a fan and the pipe, and the long-term power bills were almost zero (just the fan). And it's incredibly reliable.

1 grand isn't bad (1)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785915)

So all told you are talking about $1,000 dollars for AC? Frankly that is a pretty cheap solution for datacenter cooling.

Get a Better Job (2, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785925)

Seriously, I'm all for maximizing economic efficiency, but you can't cool for free.

"Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"

There are some great options for minimizing the ongoing costs of cooling:

  • Use your chilled water supply to cool the room - pump server heat into 50 degree street water and serve the building 53 degree street water. win (unless you live in a desert, then bad)
  • Use a geothermal heat sink to take your excess heat. Or water if you have a stream or pond nearby.
  • In the right climate, just use an air/air heat pump.

But any of those are going to take some investment. Remember, server acquisition cost is 1/3 of the total budget, the other 2/3 includes electricity and cooling, more than maintenance costs, on average.

Like others have said, virtualize, slow your CPU clocks, take unused disks offline, replace your power supplies, all good, but if your servers aren't worth $600 to cool (and therefor keep operational), how the heck do they justify your salary to run them? (hint: maybe they don't)

i work at a site with a fairly big data center (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785937)

i.e. several thousand servers. We only have to AC it for a few days a year (including probably today, since it's hot). Except on unusually hot days, we blow outside air through the building with fans and we have exhaust ports in the ceiling and roof for this purpose. This saves a huge amount of electricity over our old setup. I'm just a code geek so I haven't actually visited the data center yet, but maybe I'll take some pictures if I get there for some reason.

Don't cut corners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24785971)

$600 won't get you an air conditioning unit suitable for any server room, let alone cover installation costs.
I'd suggest requesting a budget the is sufficient for the job at hand. You can't cut corners for a job like this, particularly if you actually value your data and uptime.
Possibly you could roof mount several units, and have a single heat exchanger for all of them. The holes required for the plumbing are actually not particularly large. The pipes to the heat exchanger can go through either the walls or ceiling, depending on the physical location of your room. It will probably cost more to have someone plumb the units than it will to have an electrician do the wiring. Hire professionals - they will do both.
I'd say that 20A is to low. 20A @ 240V is only ~4.8KW. You aren't going to get many servers in your room with only 20A.
Your room temperature is far to high. I'd remove the servers to alternate locations until you can control this. 18-20C should really be your target.

Open the window (1)

TheDreadedGMan (1122791) | more than 6 years ago | (#24785989)

If you can afford a window, open it.

The outside air is probably cooler then the inside air... if it's not, tough luck, you can't afford anything else.

missing info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24786009)

Your missing key information: wjat is the size of the server room. how many servers there is...

Honestly a small room a cheap 150$ 5K BTU unit will do the job, add a external temp sensor to computer that will page you when temp rise above X

Heat pipe (1)

Meor (711208) | more than 6 years ago | (#24786011)

Dig a hole, install pipe + water + pump, sink heat in to the ground. Ongoing costs = electricity to run a pump that only has to overcome fluid friction loss within the pipe. Cost variance over a year through different seasons = 0 since the ground in mostly a constant temp unlike an AC unit trying to sink heat to the air in the summer.

you can use a split system 2.5Ton colling solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24786019)

costs around 3-5kUS

the BEST solution (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#24786021)

knock out one of the walls and put in one of those movie hurricane fans that are like 10 feet tall and run on a v8 engine :D Then crank it up! It'll move air through that place so fast, the temp inside will be the temp outside! Now I'm from Wisconsin so that's rarely a problem but in like CA that'd be bad. But seriously, if $600 is out of your budget, you need to simply move the hot air out. Buy some ducting and install like a 12" fan in the ceiling (where the hot air goes) that blows down the duct and into the hallway or the closest large room. That's kinda what I do in my room at home cuz it goes up about 5 degrees Fahrenheit per hour of 3D gaming. So I blast it all out into the living room with a fan and it cools in back down to normal in about 3 minutes

One word: colocation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24786037)

Just rent space in a colo facility with all the cooling/power/net. You can throw in monitoring, backups and failover. It'll be cheaper (up front, not over long haul) to rent a small space at a datacenter.

And as an added bonus: you'll sleep better.
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