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A survey of data center economizer use completed by The Green Grid and discussed in Green Grid WP #41, “Survey Results: Data Center Economizer Use”, showed that use of economization will result in an average cooling energy savings of 20% when compared to data center cooling systems without economizer. Direct and indirect air economizer modes are two approaches of air-side economizer mode which uses outdoor air to cool the data center.
I think most people understand the idea of direct air economization which is often referred to as “fresh air” economizer. It uses fans and louvers to draw a certain amount of cold fresh outside air through filters and then directly into the data center, when the outside air conditions are within specified set points.
What’s indirect air economization? As the name implies, this kind of economizer mode uses outside air to indirectly cool data center air when the outside air conditions are within specified set points. An air-to-air heat exchanger is used to isolate the impact of outside humidity and prevent outdoor air pollutants from entering the IT space.
Let’s look at some of the common questions raised when considering these two air economizer modes?
- Which locations are favorable for each kind of economizer mode?
- What’s the capital investment?
- What’s the operating cost?
- Do I need a full mechanical DX system for backup or just a mechanical cooling assist?
- What’s the impact of increased temperature, elevated humidity, and air pollutants on the reliability of the IT equipment housed in my data center for a direct air system?
- Can my IT equipment withstand external conditions for a direct air system?
- Can my data center be retrofitted with this kind of economizer mode?
- What are the design considerations to install an indirect air economizer system?
- What are the main differences between direct and indirect air economization?
- What’s the energy efficiency penalty due to the air-to-air heat exchanger in the indirect air economizer mode?
Knowing the answers to the above questions can help data center design managers and users select a cost effective and high efficiency cooling system. In my next post, I’ll tell you where you can find answers to the above questions, compare direct and indirect air economizer modes, and provide practical guidance for selection.