Summer is Here: Learn How to Maintain Proper Data Center Humidity at Energy University

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As we enter the summer months here in the U.S., we’re likely to experience a phenomenon that many of us simply dread: excessive humidity. While humidity can put a damper on your outdoor activities in the summer, it can present even greater problems for your data center if it’s not properly controlled.


This may be a good time, then, to invest a little time (less than an hour) in taking the free Schneider Electric Energy University course, “Fundamentals of Cooling II – Humidity in the Data Center.” While the Fundamentals of Cooling I course looked at the three basic overall elements of a data center cooling architecture – heat removal, air distribution and location of cooling units – this second course in the 3-part series looks specifically at humidity and how best to control it.

A data center must continuously operate at peak efficiency in order to maintain the business functions it supports and to decrease operational expenses. While heat has the potential to create significant downtime and therefore must be removed from the space, the course explains that controlling humidity is likewise essential to achieving high availability. Humidity can affect sensitive electronic equipment in adverse ways, and therefore strict humidity controls are required. As the course explains, the primary benefit in maintaining proper humidity levels is a reduction in static electricity. While damage from static electricity can be catastrophic, it will more likely cause low-grade damage that may be initially undetectable, but increase potential for later failures.

The course will walk you through the various elements required to maintain proper humidity. It starts with definitions of common equipment such as computer room air conditioning (CRAC) and computer room air handling unit (CRAH) units as well as chillers.

Then you’ll get into some good weather discussion, defining terms including relative humidity, dew point and saturation – with an interesting sponge analogy that explains why you feel dry in low humidity, and wet in high. You’ll also find a discussion of the effect of temperature on relative humidity and dew point.

The course makes it simple to understand how and why CRAC units can wind up fighting each other, with one or more units adding humidity to a data center room and others taking it out – a situation known as demand fighting. As the course explains, if not addressed, this problem can result in a 20% to 30% reduction in efficiency. In the best case, this results in wasted operating costs and, worst case, downtime due to insufficient cooling capacity. You’ll learn how controlling for the dew point in your data center helps reduce demand fighting – and saves you money.

Humidification systems exist in nearly all data centers and are sometimes used continually. The course goes through the three types of humidifiers – steam canister, Infrared and ultrasonic – and provides detailed explanations of each.

Ideally, you want to minimize fluctuations in humidity in your data center and the course explains some steps to do just that. For example, the course explains various considerations for the use of vapor barriers, from sealing doors to painting perimeter walls. You’ll also learn about the special challenges and benefits when dealing with office space that has been converted for use as a data center.

The course discusses the most effective ways to measure for both humidity and temperature and how to check the set points of your CRAC units to ensure they’re working in unison, and not competing with one another.

Don’t let excessive humidity put a damper on your data center. Check out the free Schneider Electric Energy University course, “Fundamentals of Cooling II – Humidity in the Data Center.” You’ll find it in the College of Data Centers at Energy University.

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