As the backbone of the modern economy, data centers support corporate America and the server farms that host such popular cloud computing services as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. As a result of this growth, data centers are now one of the fastest-growing users — and wasters — of electricity in the U.S. This also makes them a key driver in the construction of new power plants.
According to the NRDC, in 2013 U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough to power all the households in New York City twice over — and are on-track to reach 140 billion by 2020.
We assume it is the largest, most well-known consumer and business data centers that hog the most energy. Actually, it’s the other smaller corporate data centers that uses the vast majority of energy. In fact, the average commercial office building spends close to one quarter of its annual energy bill powering server rooms and closets.
Why? According to a recent GreenBiz article, the quick answer is computer servers generate an enormous amount of waste heat. Just one rack of blade servers, for example, can generate heat equivalent to four gas barbecue grills, enough to cook nearly 300 burgers an hour.
Fortunately, the article goes on to note there are things that can be done to reduce data center energy consumption. The most efficient data centers and server rooms, for example, use up to 80% less power, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).
The article lists the three basic ways to make server rooms and data centers more energy-efficient including:
1. Reduce the IT load
Saving just one watt of power at the server level can result in nearly three watts of total savings in a data center, because less power is consumed supporting the electrical infrastructure and cooling hot equipment. Strategies for reducing IT loads include server “virtualization” (which allows us to run more than one workload on a single server), consolidating lightly used servers and removing unused servers, smarter data storage, and buying more energy-efficient equipment, such as Energy Star qualified servers.
2. Manage airflow
Airflow management is about delivering cold air from AC units or fans to the fronts of servers as efficiently as possible, and removing hot exhaust air from the backs of servers as efficiently as possible. Airflow management strategies involve orienting server racks and enclosing them to reduce the mixing of cold supply air and hot exhaust air, using variable speed fan drives in AC units, and deploying devices to direct cold air to where it’s needed the most.
3. Control temperatures and humidity levels more efficiently
Because high temperatures and either damp or excessively dry conditions can harm sensitive data center equipment, temperatures and humidity levels must be managed. However, today’s data center equipment can tolerate much wider temperature and humidity ranges than in the past. As a result, it’s often possible to save energy by doing less cooling and humidification and dehumidification. Additionally, there are new, much more efficient ways to humidify air than the old standby of producing steam. Another strategy for reducing cooling costs includes deploying “economizers,” which take advantage of lower outside temperatures whenever possible to avoid having to mechanically cool air.
For even more steps on data center efficiency, read the complete GreenBiz article.