Proper Data Center Energy Management Starts with Using the Right Electrical Meter

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Most every data center owner and operator is interested in conserving energy these days and in some cases, legislation requires it. Plenty of software exists to help track energy use and point you in the right direction toward conservation, but none of it does much good without a fundamental underpinning: various types of electrical meters.

Meters provide data that offers insight into the operation of the data center infrastructure, like the power and cooling systems. Various types of meters have different purposes, from tracking the use of electricity to analyzing the power quality, reporting problems or measuring the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of the data center.

Schneider Electric’s Energy University is offering a free course, “Types of Electrical Meters in Data Centers,” that will bring you up to speed on all the common types of meters you’ll find in a data center, pros and cons for the sake of comparison, and the various benefits you can expect.

Those benefits are many. It starts with enabling PUE reporting, which more and more companies are required to do whether for internal company initiatives or by regulators. Information from meters can also help a data center decrease unplanned downtime by alerting operators to over-loaded UPSs, generators and IT racks, for example. Trending data from meters also enables predictive maintenance programs, where maintenance activities are scheduled based on critical performance parameters.

Detailed data from meters can also help you recover more quickly from a downtime event, by providing timely – and time-stamped – alerts that help you pinpoint the source of the problem. The data can also help you avoid over-sizing assets and operate within smaller safety margins to maximize your capex costs and decrease ongoing operating costs. And they can help with chargebacks for energy use to internal or external users.

To gain all these benefits, you have to use the right meter in the right spot for the correct purpose. And there’s a lot to know. The course goes through four levels of metering – building, switchboard, circuit-level and end-use – which take you from an aggregate view to very specific measurements of end user equipment. Depending on your objective, you may not need meters at each level, however.

Next the course walks you through the role of transformers in the metering system and the seven types of electrical metering devices commonly used in data centers, namely:

  •  Power quality meters
  •  Power meters
  •  Digital relay embedded meters
  •  Electronic trip unit embedded meters
  •  UPS embedded meters
  •  PDU / busway embedded meters
  •  Rack PDU embedded meters

You’ll learn what each device is, its primary and secondary functions, advantages and disadvantages. The course also discusses typical costs of using various types of meters per kW of IT load. And you’ll find a useful chart that summarizes the types of meters, applications and costs for each.

Finally, you’ll walk through three example applications showing where metering devices would typically be placed within the data center depending on what the goal is: PUE reporting, transformer and load balancing, or IT customer cost allocation.

Effective use of electrical meters and accompanying management tools can provide a host of benefits to data center owners and operators. In less than an hour, the free Schneider Electric Energy University course, “Types of Electrical Meters in Data Centers,” will help you ensure you’ve got the right meter for the job at hand. You’ll find it in the College of Data Centers at Energy University.

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