How to Cool a Small Server Room, Network Closet, or Edge Data Center

Much has been written about the cooling requirements of large-scale data centers. As data center density has increased, so has the heat load. Powerful computer room air conditioning (CRAC) systems must be supplemented with aisle containment, raised floor cooling, and other techniques to prevent damaging hotspots and maintain the proper environment for IT equipment.

However, many organizations don’t have large-scale data centers. A few racks or cabinets might be housed in a spare office or storeroom. A network closet might literally be a closet that’s less than 100 square feet. Warehouses, retail stores, and other remote sites might have a single IT or comms cabinet.

Ideal Server Room Temperature

Small server rooms, network closets, and individual cabinets require proper cooling just like a data center. In fact, heat can build up even more quickly in a confined space. Organizations should take steps to ensure adequate cooling of these environments to reduce the risk of downtime and equipment damage.

What Temperature and Humidity Should a Server Room Be?

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), server rooms should be kept at 59 degrees F to 89.6 degrees F. They should also have a relative humidity of 20 percent to 80 percent. However, many experts suggest a range of 64.4 degrees F and 80.6 degrees F and relative humidity of 45 percent to 50 percent.

Contact Cooling Experts

Higher temperature and lower humidity settings can provide adequate heat dissipation while conserving power — assuming the space has adequate airflow. Unfortunately, many small server rooms and network closets were not designed to manage the heat loads produced by today’s IT equipment. Server room cooling requires careful planning to ensure that IT equipment isn’t damaged by heat.

Tips for Cooling a Server Room

Many of the same data center cooling strategies and airflow management principles can be applied to server rooms on a smaller scale. Here are some things IT managers can do to facilitate server and network closet cooling:

  • Ensure that the central air conditioning system supplies adequate cool air. Measure the ambient air and compare it to the temperature setting. If there’s more than two degrees difference, the A/C system is not effectively dissipating heat.
  • Make sure that the fronts of server racks and cabinets face the cold air source. If there are more than a few racks, arrange them in a hot aisle / cold aisle configuration to minimize the mixing of chilled intake air and hot exhaust air.
  • Note that some networking equipment has side intake and exhaust. Also, networking equipment is typically installed at the top of the rack. Hot air rises, so this equipment needs special consideration to avoid overheating and damage.
  • Keep the server or network closet closed to prevent chilled air from escaping and hot air from other areas of the facility being pushed into the room.
  • Use the server room for IT equipment only. Server and network closets should not be used for storage or as spare IT workspace, which only adds to the heat load.
  • Monitor environmental conditions by strategically placing temperature and humidity sensors throughout the server room. Multiple sensors can help identify “hot spots” that aren’t getting adequate airflow.

Benefits of In-Rack Cooling

These steps won’t do much good if the small server room isn’t getting adequate airflow in the first place. Furthermore, some office building managers turn off cooling systems at night, causing downtime for servers running 24/7. And when heating systems are turned on in winter, hot air will be blowing on IT equipment.

Ideally, small server room and network closet cooling should not depend upon office HVAC systems. One option is a ceiling- or wall-mount air conditioning unit positioned such that chilled air blows directly into the equipment intakes. Another alternative is in-rack cooling, which cools individual racks and cabinets.

In-rack cooling systems work in a closed relationship with the rack, creating a microclimate for the equipment. Chilled air is delivered right to the equipment, and hot exhaust air is pulled right into the heat exchanger. Airflow paths are short, so there’s very little cooling loss, and minimal fan energy is required. The exhaust air is captured at its hottest point for maximum cooling efficiency.

In-rack cooling also allows for expansion — simply add more in-rack cooling units. Additionally, the right in-rack cooling system provides the capacity to support AI and other high-performance servers.

Small Server Room Cooling Solutions from Enconnex

Enconnex offers a complete line of micro data center cabinets featuring integrated in-rack cooling units. Available in three models, the EdgeRack is the ideal solution for small server rooms, network closets, and remote edge computing locations that lack the environmental controls needed to support IT systems.

The EdgeRack 3P’s top-mounted cooling unit provides up to 3.5kW of capacity, with an inverter compressor and EC fans providing highly efficient protection for sensitive IT equipment. The EdgeRack Industrial 8M has a side-mounted unit that delivers up to 8kW of cooling capacity while providing a full 42U of usable IT space with protection against dust, water, and other contaminants (NEMA 12 and IP55-rated). Our newest member of the EdgeRack family, the EdgeRack 5M, has a bottom-mounted cooling unit providing up to 5kW of variable cooling capacity. All models feature remote management and monitoring, environmental sensors, built-in condensate water processing devices (evaporators), intuitive controls, and more.

Contact one of our data center infrastructure specialists to learn how Enconnex EdgeRack solutions can help ensure effective cooling for your small server room, network closet, or edge data center.

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Posted by Stephan Lam on January 25, 2024

Stephan has over 15 years of IT experience, including all aspects of data center operations, project management, service delivery, and sales engineering.

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