Is Your Data Center an Energy Hog? How to Control Energy Usage

cloud data center

As demand continues to increase for digital services, data centers are using more energy, and not only are businesses seeing a rise in utility costs, but the environment is also taking a hit as carbon emissions increase. 

Data centers can emit significant amounts of carbon, so to reduce operating costs and become more sustainable, monitoring and controlling data center power usage is becoming an essential part of operations.

However, monitoring and controlling power usage in data centers is often easier said than done. Thankfully, there are ways you can accomplish both without increasing costs.

Tips on Controlling Data Center Energy Usage

Before you can start controlling how much energy your data center uses, you need to start at the beginning. This means measuring the amount of electricity your data uses in an average day. No, you can’t grab a copy of your latest energy bill. Unfortunately, measuring energy consumption isn’t this easy.

A good place to start is with your PDUs (power distribution units). Switching from traditional outlets to PDUs can be an effective way of reducing energy consumption. The PDU can turn outlets on and off depending on if the plugged-in equipment is being used. Remote power panels, UPS (uninterrupted power supply), and other building meters can provide additional information.

You may also want to invest in energy management software. The software can analyze the data and create a report measuring everything from your energy usage to the data center’s carbon footprint.

Review the Data Center’s Environment

Once you know how much energy your data center is consuming, it’s time to look at the environment. Chances are, the environment is contributing to the data center’s high energy usage rate. Taking a few simple steps can significantly reduce energy consumption, resulting in lower costs and a greener data center:

  • Temperature sensors on each rack can monitor cooling. You instantly know if you’re overcooling the stack. Raising the temperature in a data center can result in significant savings.
  • Using humidity sensors lets you know when you need to add or remove humidity. This way, your humidifiers and dehumidifiers are constantly switching on and off. The sensors only turn the equipment on when it’s necessary.
  • Airflow sensors are another inexpensive investment with a potentially high ROI. Sensors by your hot and cold air returns are an effective and efficient way of monitoring your cooling system. In some data centers, the biggest energy hog is the cooling system. By monitoring its performance you can dramatically reduce energy costs.

You should also plan on measuring air pressure in the data center. For example, partition leaks can increase energy usage. By monitoring air pressure, you can more easily identify potential problems and take the necessary repair steps.

Don’t Keep Your Data Center at Freezing Temperatures

Hopefully, you’re using temperature sensors—this way, you have a good idea of the optimal temperature for your data center. 

If you’re not sure what the optimal temperature is for a data center, you can always refer to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines. These guidelines recommend keeping temperatures between 65-80°F. Yes, these temperatures can seem a little high but they can also represent significant savings.

Remember the temperature sensors you installed on the racks? These sensors can alert you if temperatures rise to unsafe levels since this way you can lower the temperature as needed while still taking advantage of the potential savings. 

And yes, this may mean monitoring the temperature a little more closely but the reduced energy costs make it well worth the little extra effort.

Keep Everything Contained

Okay, so you probably already have all of the necessary equipment contained in your data center,his isn’t exactly what containment means in this scenario. You want to keep the cold supply air from the cooling system separate from the IT equipment’s hot exhaust. 

In other words, don’t mix your hot and cold air since all you get is lukewarm air and this does little to keep the equipment at the ASHRAE recommended temperature. Instead, your cooling system is working overtime to counteract the warm air and this is a waste of energy.

You can use doors and ceiling panels to keep the warm air separated until it’s returned to the cooling system. The same strategy in the cold aisle can effectively keep cool air where it’s needed. You can also implement the chimney system, The warm exhaust air is moved up through the chimney to the ceiling before returning to the cooling system. Another option to consider here is using the curtain system.

With the curtain system, your racks are in alternating rows facing front to front and back to back. Curtains keep the cool air away from the warm exhaust. Whichever method you decide to use often depends on the existing configuration of your data center.

Locate Your Ghost Servers

If you don’t have at least a few ghost servers in your data center, you’re doing better than most organizations. Ghost servers are those servers you never use but are still plugged in. Not only is the unused server taking up valuable space, but it’s also using energy.

A good idea is to run a report to see which servers are in use and performing vital functions. For the ones not being used, go ahead and unplug them from the power outlets. You can even go a step further and take the old servers to an electronics recycling facility. 

Now, you’re freeing up space, getting rid of clutter, and doing something beneficial for the environment. You may be amazed at how you can save on energy costs just by unplugging your unused servers.

Controlling Energy Usage Can Have Big Rewards

Getting a handle on your data center’s energy usage can do more than cut your utility costs. You’re also doing something good for the environment by reducing your organization’s carbon footprint. With more consumers searching for eco-friendly businesses, reducing energy consumption is a great place to start. 

Best of all, cutting back on energy consumption is often easier than you may think. Sometimes, all it takes is a few basic steps.


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