How to Ensure Proper Cooling for IT Equipment in Small Server Rooms and Branch Offices

Sponsored By: Schneider Electric

To function properly, IT gear has operate within certain temperature ranges. If equipment gets too hot or too cold, it could shorten its lifespan at best and, at worst, cause a failure that leads to data loss.

Maintaining proper temperatures can be a challenge for small businesses that don’t always have ideal storage options for their IT gear. But with a little better understanding of how heat escapes and which cooling options best facilitate that, you can ensure temperatures remain in the recommended range.

How heat escapes

In most cases, small businesses store their IT gear either in a small room, such as a closet, or in an open office space. In either case, it’s important to understand how heat escapes these spaces to keep your equipment cool, which will be one of five ways:

  • Conduction: Heat simply flows through the walls of the space
  • Passive ventilation: Heat flows into cooler air via a vent or grille, with no fan involved
  • Fanassisted ventilation: A fan helps heat flow into cooler air via a vent or grille
  • Comfort cooling: Heat is removed by the same air conditioning system that the rest of the building relies on
  • Dedicated cooling: Heat is removed by an air conditioner that’s dedicated to the room housing the IT gear

It’s easy to see how the methods differ in performance and cost, so the best option is greatly dependent on the individual circumstances of each organization.

Assessing cooling options for your organization

To determine the best route for your company, it’s important to understand how much power your IT equipment consumes. The more it draws, the greater your cooling needs. If your IT gear is in a space with adjacent building AC and no abutting walls throwing excessive heat, then following are good rules of thumb.

If the IT load is:

  • Less than 400 watts, conduction will suffice, with no further cooling device necessary.
  • Between 400 and 700 watts, passive ventilation is sufficient if you can mount vents in the room. (This may not be an option if the door or wall is fire-rated.)
  • Between 700 and 2,000 watts, fan assisted ventilation is sufficient but again only if it’s possible to mount vents in the room.
  • Greater than 2,000 watts, dedicated cooling is recommended.

Dedicated cooling solutions include self-contained, air-cooled units which can be used when a return plenum such as a dropped ceiling is available. These are similar to portable air conditioners that you may use in a home where window-based units are not an option.

Other dedicated systems use the building’s chilled water, condenser-chilled water, or glycol as the cooling agent. Such systems usually consist of two components; one is the cooling unit that sits inside on the wall and the other is the condenser that’s located outside of the building, with piping connecting the two.

In instances where the IT gear must be located in occupied office space, a secure enclosure with integrated ventilation and noise dampening will likely suffice. Such systems, such as the APC by Schneider Electric NetShelter CX, come in various sizes and can ventilate up to about about 4kW of IT gear.

No matter where your IT gear has to live, chances are there’s a solution available for ensuring it stays properly cooled. To learn more, download the free APC by Schneider Electric white paper no. 174, “Practical Options for Deploying IT Equipment in Small Server Rooms and Branch Offices.”/a>


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Sponsored By: Schneider Electric