Hot or Cold Air Containment: Which Is Right For You?


By now you know some of the more obvious benefits of data center airflow management are increased hardware “up-time”, improved rack capacity, enhanced equipment performance, and longer hardware life. If you’re looking into energy-saving benefits for your data center, but are unsure whether hot or cold air containment is the most effective strategy, read on. FabraCraft can help you make the most informed choice.

It is a relatively known fact that an air containment enclosure can help to eradicate hot spots and offer energy savings over conventional, uncontained server layouts. But what is a better choice: hot or cold air containment? We’ll break it down for you, step by step.

Assess Obstacles

The first thing you’ll want to do is assess in your data center are any obstacles that cannot be overcome, or at least not without a high cost. In most cases, this assessment can be done quickly. FabraCraft’s design and engineering team can help you to determine whether to use hot or cold air containment (or neither). Following are a few examples of obstacles.

IT Equipment Configuration

Proper aisle width is essential for any containment solution, whether hot or cold. Having properly spaced aisles is a priority for most data centers, so having adequate space available for the number of server racks or cabinets is critical for sufficient air flow management.

Support column location: Support columns in your data center may be located within a row of racks or located in line with a rack aisle. This would require a work around, where the right mounting hardware and bracket system used can make it possible to configure an air tight enclosure around, or attach to, the column(s).

Drop Ceilings: A dropped ceiling is commonly used as a way to mount data center brackets and flexible vinyl wall panels. Brackets are attached to the T-vanes of a drop ceiling with the use of adjustable caddy clips. This is a fast and easy way to create an enclosure with an existing dropped ceiling. Other ceiling mount options include steel threaded rods that attach to structural joists or beams to create a suspension mounting option for larger enclosures, or where dropped ceilings don’t exist.

Type of air distribution: In most data centers, it’s typically challenging and cost prohibitive to change the path of air distribution—which is a critical factor in defining the level of investment and difficulty involved in establishing the best containment method. For example, data centers with targeted hot air returns in the ceiling or walls can draw heat out of the enclosure, and uses a cold air supply that is directed to the server racks outside of the enclosure. This type of air distribution is a good candidate for hot air containment. Cold air containment is a better option for data centers with adequately positioned ceiling mounted, floor or wall cold air supply ducts directing air to the inside the enclosure, and has sufficient hot air return returns outside of the enclosure.

Besides where your air supply and returns are located and used, room size and layout, working conditions, lighting, floor depth and fire safety are other factors that must be considered. Being aware of your existing options is just one step in choosing the best containment strategy for your data center. If you have questions, or want to learn more, contact FabraCraft today, and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

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