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The Almighty Buck IT Hardware

Cost-Effective Server Room Air Conditioning? 414

Posted by timothy
from the what-was-it-about-penny-wise dept.
at0mic26 writes "I am currently tasked with finding a cost effective solution to our 30+ degree Celsius server room. The only air conditioning currently provided is a single duct pipe from one of two air conditioner units. I was thinking of stealing air from the second air conditioning unit with some sheet metal work, but it likely will not be sufficient — and would not have tolerance for both AC units being offline for any amount of time. An ideal supplemental portable AC unit is what I am after, however I'm finding it cost prohibitive, with $600+ humidity controlled AC unit, plus 20 amp socket requirement, plus contract work to make a hole in the wall for outside drainage so that the unit does not flood the place. What sort of successful cheaper air conditioning solutions have you come up with?"
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Cost-Effective Server Room Air Conditioning?

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  • Antarctica (Score:5, Funny)

    by ohxten (1248800) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:22PM (#24785249) Homepage
    Move the room to Antarctica, turn off the heat.
    • Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:29PM (#24785379)

      If you posted more information you could get a reasonable answer.

      How much space?
      How much heat is the equipment giving off?
      What is your budget?
      At what temperature do you want to operate the room?
      How quickly is the heat output of the equipment growing?
      How much excess capacity do you need?

      If you can't answer those questions you won't get a workable solution.

      • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Funny)

        by blair1q (305137) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:44PM (#24787305) Journal

        How far is it from Antarctica?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ignavus (213578)

          Damn! It is a really long way from Antarctica.

          No hope for me getting cheap cooling then, here in northern Greenland.

      • by Elfich47 (703900) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:14AM (#24790405)
        You have to ask the following questions when designing a cooling system for an HVAC system for a server room. The conditions are significantly different than cooling for an office.

        1. What is your total kW consumed in the room.

        2. What is the cooling strategy you want to employ?

        Passive cooling - use a fan to dump the heat out of the building.
        Active cooling - Install an air conditioner with an external condensing unit to dump the heat outside.
        Alternate cooling - Dump the heat into the rest of the building during winter in order to saving on heating costs.
        Any of these options have good and bad points: expense, humidity control, thermostat control, expense of use, required backups.

        3. How is your server room arranged?
        Is everything just thrown in the room?
        Are you running a hot isle/cold isle environment?
        Do you have a raised server floor so you can pump cold air into the bottom of the racks with a ceiling return?
        Do the racks have fans to draw air from front to back?

        4. What is your current cooling capacity that is dedicated to that room?

        The last server room I designed was 500 square feet and consumed roughly 14 kw (28 watts/sf). That is roughly 4 tons of sensible cooling. To purchase a system capable of 4 tons of sensible cooling you will need to purchase a system capable of 5-6 tons of total cooling (Skipping the lecture on Sensible vs Latent vs Total cooling). So have you have just spent $4,000 in materials. Assume your costs will double for installation. Plus another couple of grand to have an actual engineer come in and design a system that will serve your specific needs.

        The question is not one of getting the heat off the chips. The heat is making its way into the air just fine. You need to get the heat out of the air (and the room) and out of the building. If your room is exceeding 30C I would assume your racks are easily running 5-10 degrees hotter. That is getting into the range where your equipment is going to start shutting down.

        Now onto your problem: $600 budget. Option: Throw a patch of your choice at it. A roll-a-way unit from Wal-mart or target where you can push a heat rejection duct out of the building, for example. This is a patch, not a solution.

        Assume you are going to have to pony up $10,000 (USD) to solve this problem.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Cow Jones (615566)

          Assume you are going to have to pony up $10,000 (USD) to solve this problem.

          Oh come on. A fishbowl and a portable AC would cost $505.50.
          For the "priceless" picture, click here [thedailywtf.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tommeke100 (755660)
      Isn't google thinking of moving some data centers to colder places to save on cooling expenses?
      However, you have to keep the temperature above freezing point, otherwise you'll have condensation and humidity problem.
      • Re:Antarctica (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:02PM (#24786863)
        That would actually be the dew point. At the freezing point, the condensation will turn to ice.

        And some of the Scandinavian countries are courting datacenters. They have plenty of power from geothermal energy and also have the colder outside air to make cooling more efficient and/or basically free.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Beezlebub33 (1220368)

          Iceland is pretty much the perfect place then. Lots and lots of geothermal energy, and it's pretty cold most of the time.

          And it's got Icelandic girls. And Bjork!

    • Re:Antarctica (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nbert (785663) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:15PM (#24786137) Homepage Journal
      Since a few years we hear about people putting everything in an aquarium filled with vegetable oil [tomshardware.com]. The only downside is that the oil creeps up the cables going out, so you have to wipe them from time to time. Never heard of any larger setup of this kind, but it would be interesting.

      And before someone mods me down consider this: The original article lacks info about just everything one would need in order to give reasonable advice: Location (local temperatures), heat output (amount of systems and what kind they are of), size of room and so on. So don't blame me but the guy who failed to articulate his question in a way that one could help him (plus the one putting it on the front page).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gid (5195)

        So how does putting a computer in oil solve the heat problem in the server room? In this house we obey the law of thermodynamics.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nbert (785663)
          Adding to amorsen: We all obey the law of thermodynamics (and at least I'm happy to do so). But nevertheless oil is a great heat conductor and air is one of the best insulators we have. We just use it to cool computer components because we have it all around us and it doesn't cost us anything. Oil is simply better if you want to transport intense amounts of heat from one point to the other

          Nevertheless I won't recommend anyone to use oil to get rid of heat problems - it was just a dumb but inspiring answer
    • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:56PM (#24786783) Homepage Journal
      Move the room to Antarctica, turn off the heat.

      Yeah, but if he's running Windows the penguins down there will attack.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bmwloco (877539)
      Funny you should come up with that retort. 2000/2001 I was a network admin at the South Pole. We had a door to open, about 1' square, to open to atmosphere if the room got to hot. Mind you, there was a 4 inch ice "berm" around the entire room. It made cooling my beer easier.
  • this article blows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:23PM (#24785279)

    if you can't afford $600 to cool the room, you need to turn off your servers.

    • by Bronster (13157) <slashdot@brong.net> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:31PM (#24785445) Homepage

      Seriously, the coward shitteth you not. If you can't afford $600 to cool the room, then consolidate your services onto fewer machines and shut the others off, because they're obviously not making you enough money to be worth running.

      If, on the other hand, your boss is a cheapskate then do something like I did before - moved the servers out to my desk and stuck a honking big fan at one side to blow air past them. It had the very big plus side of being obvious to everyone that we had to keep the servers cool, and reminded them every day that the alternative was buying some aircon.

      • by raddan (519638) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:04PM (#24785959)
        Not to mention-- adding another AC unit without that unit being tied into the same controller will cause problems for your AC units. They'll be turning on and shutting off more frequently. This will greatly affect the life of your AC units. If you're a hardware hacker, you can probably add capacity on the cheap by hacking your thermostat to coordinate multiple units. Otherwise, you really do just need to pony up and pay for the AC upgrade. Cool air is a basic business expense nowadays. If the people writing your budget don't see it that way, then your company is in trouble.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Trogre (513942)

          Really? Aren't all half-decent AC units these days inverter-based (ie running constantly)?

      • by ktappe (747125) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @11:09PM (#24789949)

        It had the very big plus side of being obvious to everyone that we had to keep the servers cool, and reminded them every day that the alternative was buying some aircon.

        Trying to re-educate the boss can easily backfire. When my company moved to a new building, ownership neglected to account for I.T. storage and workspace needs (workbench, shelving for spare monitors, PC's, cables, software, manuals, etc.) In protest (not wanting to turn my office into a store room), I stacked the stuff in the hallways of our nice new building. I thought this would give ownership the hint. Instead I got the evil eye from the owners and was outsourced shortly thereafter, despite seven years of service with consistently positive annual reviews.

        Many owners/bosses got to where they are by persuading others that they know more than they actually do. When you show them up, you become an obstacle to their ambition and ego. To their thinking, you, not the item they were wrong about, is what needs "fixing".

        Your boss refusing to pay $600 for A/C to keep thousands of dollars worth of servers running that (probably) contain data worth tens or even hundreds of thousands, is the real problem. But make sure you have calmly and unchallengingly made this clear to him/her. Use phrases like "The plant would be down X days if the servers fail due to heat. How much would that cost?"

        As for trying to rig something up yourself, I wouldn't unless you're a certified HVAC technician. Make that clear to the boss too (again as gently as you can). "I'm not trained in this. I don't want to accidentally take A/C away from anyone else--they have work to do to and we can't afford to lower their productivity." Again, make the costs of the lack of $600 apparent if you can.

        Good luck!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cerberusss (660701)

          Trying to re-educate the boss can easily backfire. [...]
          In protest (not wanting to turn my office into a store room), I stacked the stuff in the hallways of our nice new building. I thought this would give ownership the hint.

          It sounds like you weren't trying to re-educate the boss. You were clumsily communicating.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Eil (82413)

        I couldn't have said it better. It's not cheap to run a reliable server room. The hardware that you use to run your systems is rarely the biggest cost. If you need reliability, that means you need:

        * easy access to all machines
        * utility power
        * battery backups
        * backup generators
        * multiple network entry points
        * adequate cooling
        * redundant everything

        Among other stuff I'm probably forgetting. If you can't afford to build this yourself, it's really best in the long run to host your mission-critical machines in a

    • so we're asking slashdot for a bunch of stupid answers.
    • by Spazmania (174582)

      Correct.

      I would note, however, that most of the $600 1-ton units don't require drainage: they evaporate the condensate into the exhaust air instead.

      • by BKX (5066) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:01PM (#24786849) Journal

        True, but condensation can't be an issue anyway. The compressor and condenser must be outside, or you'll just have a fancy heater that blows cold air on one side and drips water on the floor. See the laws of thermodynamics for details.

        • by mpoulton (689851) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @06:15PM (#24786995)

          True, but condensation can't be an issue anyway. The compressor and condenser must be outside, or you'll just have a fancy heater that blows cold air on one side and drips water on the floor. See the laws of thermodynamics for details.

          Nah. What you have is a refrigerator the size of the room. You just need to reject the heat out of the server room, not out of the building necessarily. Putting the condenser inside the building but outside the server room (as would be the case with a window AC unit installed through ain interior wall) will successfully cool the server room. The only downside is that it will increase the total load on the building's main cooling system. This may not be a problem.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Spazmania (174582)

          The $600 A/C units both I and the poster are talking about sit entirely in the room. Air is drawn from the room, over the condenser and blown out of the room through a duct. For example: http://www.soleusair.com/soleusair/ph1_12r_03_c.html [soleusair.com]

          This particular unit also has a "memory" so it starts back up after a power loss. This is particularly critical for a computer room.

    • by wgoodman (1109297) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:19PM (#24786197)
      I have a similar setup and have had to go into it with a very low budget. I have a ~$400 portable LG air conditioner. No worries on draining it since it's smart enough to use the hot air of the exhaust to evaporate the moisture and send it out the warm air duct. I leave the unit on the "Dry" setting which tends to keep the room plenty cool.
  • woooooosh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:24PM (#24785293)

    Dry ice.

    Just imagine the theatrics.

  • by Nos. (179609) <{ac.srrekeht} {ta} {werdna}> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:24PM (#24785301) Homepage
    Dry ice and a fan? Seriously though, there's not much you can do here. What is the cost to the business if hardware starts failing if it overheats? How does that compare with the total cost of installing another A/C unit?
    • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:29PM (#24785389)

      Dry ice and a fan?

      This is not recommended:

      Due to the health risks associated with carbon dioxide exposure, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that average exposure for healthy adults during an eight-hour work day should not exceed 5,000 ppm (0.5%). The maximum safe level for infants, children, the elderly and individuals with cardio-pulmonary health issues is significantly less. For short-term (under ten minutes) exposure, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) limit is 30,000 ppm (3%). NIOSH also states that carbon dioxide concentrations exceeding 4% are immediately dangerous to life and health.

    • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:42PM (#24785627)
      Better yet, rent the room out for birthday parties with those big 5 gallon tubs of ice cream. Put fans on the ice cream to cool the room and it helps to serve it because it'll be softer. Then when you have enough money for an air conditioning unit and contracting work, cancel the ice cream parties.

      See! Problem solved!

  • by trybywrench (584843) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:25PM (#24785305)
    just stick a boxfan in there.

    I toured CIHost's Bedford TX datacenter a few years ago. I saw a boxfan blowing on a bunch of servers and a single power strip plugged into 4 or 5 of those servers that was stretched across to a wall outlet so that it was about 8" off the floor. Pefect to trip over nevermind the walmart quality parts.

    tour was over after i saw that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ForestGrump (644805)

      Actually that's what we did at my last job.

      We had a lab packed full of routers/switches/data generators for stress testing. There were issues with hot spots and equipment would randomly fail. Solution? buy a ton of box fans during the off-season at $10 each and place them in the lab to help with hotspots. Works great, and is an inexpensive solution.

      Oh, and be sure to have a monitor on the A/C, so when it breaks on a weekend, you won't fry your equip.

  • Simply this... (Score:5, Informative)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:25PM (#24785317)
    There are no cheap A/C solutions. Portable home units lack the tonnage to adequate cool even a small bedroom, let alone a room full of fire-breathing servers. Industrial portables for 'spot' cooling, that have sufficient tonnage start in the low $10K rang and quickly move up. My suggestion is to get an A/C pro to do up the spec for you and then bid it out with guarantees and such in the RFP.
    • Re:Simply this... (Score:5, Informative)

      by linear a (584575) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:02PM (#24785927)

      Sounds like you have more time than money. If you can't afford the cost to beef up the A/C, you can use some of the techniques used in server room design. If you can, take the cold air and put it directly into your hottest (or most expensive to replace maybe) and add partitions to channel the cold air where it will do the most good. Simply mixing a stream of cold air with the warm room air is not efficient. Put the limited cooling where it does the most good, don't let the cold air mix with the hot air, try to channel the hot air away from everything. As an added thought, and exhaust fan somewhere where it is hottest might do considerable good.

  • by banbeans (122547) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:26PM (#24785335)

    Never try and just make do with the cooling.
    The cost of doing it right pales in comparison with not doing it right and something happening.

    • The cost of doing it right pales in comparison with not doing it right WHEN something happens.

      Fixed that for you.

    • by sterno (16320)

      Indeed. At one place I worked the server room would stay reasonably cool as long as the door was open. If somebody happened to close the door, by morning, servers were crashing. Also, long term overheating might not cause crashes, but it will cause things like hard drives to fail prematurely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      A major retailer in the US (and our single big customer at the time) built their own little computer rooms in their dispatch centres. We supplied a little GA-440-based computer and software that did a bit of inventory work for them back in the late 70's. They installed one of the domestic air conditioners they sold (which did match the BTU rating we specified). One of the service calls we had was traced to fried equipment, so we investigated -- 55 degrees C in the computer room -- turns out they did every

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Curtman (556920)
        Another no no is to exhaust an air conditioner into a balcony enclosed with glass. I've seen that done, it's a great show as long as you are on a floor above, and park far far away.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    See subject. Don't just buy servers and think of the cooling problem later. Cooling is expensive, but it costs less if you install it at the same time you set up your facility.

    Apologies - I realise this doesn't really answer your question but it's an experience you, or others can gain from this situation.

  • How many servers? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by greymond (539980) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:29PM (#24785385) Homepage Journal

    If the room averages a temperature of 86 degrees (sorry I'm american) and I wanted to get it cooler there are a lot of options, however what size room are we talking about and where is it located (room, ground floor, basement?) Lots of different options and choices depending on lots of variables that weren't in the post.

    I'm not trying to be a dick, just wondering because cooling a room for a small business like the one I work in that houses all of 3 servers in a room a little larger than your average walk-in closet is a lot different than trying to cool a room with 100 rack mount servers lined up in rows.

    A google search though brings up a lot of places like http://www.ptsdcs.com/ [ptsdcs.com] - might just be worthwhile to google for what you need.

  • Cheaper A/C alternatives? Do nothing. Let the room overheat and replace all the computing hardware. So what if you're down for a week?

    Or suck it up and foot the bill to do it right.

    • by Molochi (555357)

      Or you could just underclock everything and blame it on heat related cpu throttling. If enough people bitch about the systems running slow maybe they'll up your budget.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:01PM (#24785905)

      "Let the room overheat and replace all the computing hardware. So what if you're down for a week?"

      Don't forget the BOFH option.
      Back everything up.
      Wait until meltdown, then be the hero for restoring the new systems. :)

  • insulation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mabu (178417) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:30PM (#24785435)

    You can use standard window units - but the key is insulation - you have to have a very well insulated and sealed room. I built my own server room by adding two additional layers of insulation on to the existing sheetrock (styrofoam with a plastic vinyl 4x8 sheet paneling and then putting silicon on all the seams, then using window units (with a backup unit). I can keep the room at a constant 61 degrees F with two full height racks running with a 8000-12000 btu 220 window unit.

    • F/OSS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BitterOldGUy (1330491)

      ...You can use standard window units

      Maybe he has a F/OSS shop. Geeze!

    • by Sosarian (39969)

      Two full height racks full of 1Us with two quad core opterons each, running computation jobs?

      Or are you just cooling the racks, no gear? :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eln (21727)

      There's really no reason you need to keep your server room that cold, and you're probably wasting a lot of electricity doing so. You could set that thermostat at least 10 degrees higher and still be fine.

    • Dial 911 (Score:3, Informative)

      by westlake (615356)
      built my own server room by adding two additional layers of insulation on to the existing sheetrock (styrofoam with a plastic vinyl 4x8 sheet paneling
      .

      Two layers of styrofoam on top of the existing sheetrock sounds like a fire waiting to happen.

      Foam insulation is relatively hard to ignite but when ignited, it burns readily and emits a dense, black, smoke containing many toxic gases. The combustion characteristics of foam insulation products vary with the combustion temperatures, chemical formulation, and

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rcw-home (122017)

      You can use standard window units - but the key is insulation - you have to have a very well insulated and sealed room.

      No, you don't. If you cool the room with A/C to the same temperature as any other office room, and it's right next to other office rooms, then there is no temperature gradient and no heat will move through even the flimsiest wall. On the other hand, when your A/C unit eventually fails, it'll get much, much hotter in a well-insulated room.

      Sealing may help the A/C unit maintain humidity, i

  • Remove the heat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:31PM (#24785437) Homepage

    The best idea I've seen is to use enclosed racks, sealed with weatherstripping except for vents at the bottom, and put a duct in the top that leads to an exhaust fan on the roof. Now you're not trying to cool the hot air produced by the servers; you're removing the hot air produced by the servers. Cool air from the already-air-conditioned room will be sucked up through ventilation at the bottom of the rack to keep the servers cool. And since your existing AC doesn't have to cool all that hot air, it should be able to keep the room temperature down to 20C.

    Note that this is a long-term solution in terms of lower energy costs. I have no idea what it would cost up front to implement.

    • Re:Remove the heat (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:40PM (#24785593) Journal

      Your solution *sounds* nice, but in fact, may drive cooling bills UP.

      Where I live, it's routinely over 100 degrees (Yup. Ima 'merkin!) outside, today is expected to hit over 110. In order to provide a net savings, the hot air coming out from your server rack has to be even hotter than that, otherwise you're venting 90 degree air outside, then having to compensate for this by cooling down 110 degree air as it gets sucked into your building.

      And this problem is exacerbated if there is relatively high humidity. (EG: Florida) Then, not only are you cooling down the air, you're pumping water out of the air, and since OP mentioned water drains and "not flooding" the place, this may well be him.

      Now, if you're in an area where high temps are the exception, this may not be much of an issue. But it sure wouldn't work where I live.

      OP: Here's what you do: Go to three reputable contractors. Get three quotes for the job. Get references for each contractor. Present this information to your boss.

      If he/she can't handle that, you need to move on anyway.

    • by Fastolfe (1470)

      This only works if the air outside is the right temperature and humidity, because outside air must enter the building to replace the hot air you're venting out the top of your racks. If it's too hot, or the humidity isn't right, you're still going to need air conditioning. You've just moved the problem: instead of containing it in your server room, it's now spread throughout your building (everywhere the negative pressure allows air to enter). I would NOT want to be the server guy when a heat wave hits a

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:32PM (#24785463) Homepage

    You have less than $2500.00 in cost there. Cripes the Libert unit in the server room here cost me $15,000 to have complete. $600 is dirt cheap $2500 is dirt cheap for what you are looking at.

    Even if you did the Half-arse way and put 4 window air conditioners in the wall you still need the electrician to run wires.

    You'll still come out the same price.

  • by TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:32PM (#24785465) Journal
    You can cut corners - but if a 20 Amp circuit + $600 for a cheap unit is scaring you off, you are out of your league.

    Bite the bullet and get what you need right the first time, because the repair and replace if it isn't done correctly will make $1500 seem like a drop in the bucket...

    • I agree that you're out of your league, but there are some alternative methods for cooling your server room.

      One of the most ingenious I've heard of (right here on /. even), is to strike a deal with your neighbors to provide heating for their businesses. It basically gives you a big heat sink and you may even be able to get away with charging a little for your services. This is assuming you're located in an area where heating is a concern for a large portion of the year.
  • A Big fan. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:32PM (#24785473) Homepage Journal

    Really I have been wondering if one of those big fans like I see on some restaurant kitchens would help our server room.
    Suck the hot air out and draw cold air from the rest of the building in.

    Honestly a better solution is to reduce the heat.
    How many servers are you running? How many are old PIV class machines?
    How many could you replace with say new low heat Intel or AMD based systems.
    Have you looked at building a few BIG boxes with new CPUs and running Zen or VMWare on them. Cut the total number of servers down.

    It maybe cheaper to get new more efficient servers than to upgrade the AC. Not to mention the down time you may have when they install the new AC.
    You may want to look at making less heat before you spend money on better cooling.

    • by Fastolfe (1470)

      Suck the hot air out and draw cold air from the rest of the building in.

      Except that the negative pressure you've created in the rest of the building will draw air in from outside. If it's hot out (or too wet/dry), this air must now be cooled (conditioned). All you've done is move the problem out of the machine room to the rest of the building. And now you have to make sure the building A/C can keep up (it's not just the machines getting uncomfortable now).

  • keginator (Score:5, Funny)

    by bugs2squash (1132591) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:33PM (#24785497)
    from your budget, you clearly only have one server in play, so put it in a refrigerator.

    Cut a hole in the door to let the cables in and seal around them with that expanding foam stuff in a spray can.

    Sounds like that would max out your budget.
    • by eln (21727) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:45PM (#24785683) Homepage

      If the room is that hot with only one server in play, the room is probably the garage of a house, in which case he just needs to follow this simple procedure:

      1.) Get a large cardboard box. Poke holes in the top for ventilating hot air out.
      2.) Cut a big hole in the side of the box.
      3.) Wrap box with insulation.
      4.) Put computer in box.
      5.) Knock big hole in wall between garage and main house with a sledgehammer.
      6.) Place the box with the hole in its side flush against the hole in the wall.
      7.) Place box fan in the house, situated to blow air into the hole.

      And Voila, cheap cooling. Alternatively, you could put the server in the main house, but seriously, that's just a cheap hack of a solution.

      Also, he should ask for his pay in cash in the future, because the company clearly has no operating capital and will probably be bouncing checks very soon.

  • by ip_freely_2000 (577249) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:36PM (#24785527)

    If you're talking about concern over $600 price points, then all is lost. It sounds like you don't have the money to provide proper A/C to a residential home much less a commercial server room. I suggest you look into co-locating your servers to a real data center and pay a monthly fee. You'll have lower up front costs and your PHB probably isn't smart enough to recognize the long-term implications.

    Good luck.

  • by taradfong (311185) * on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:37PM (#24785555) Homepage Journal

    In your posting you talked about adding ducts to steal A/C from a second unit. To work decently you would need to not only add a new output duct 'run', but also a new return 'run' (that is, unless the 2 units share a network of return ducting).

  • Do it right (Score:3, Informative)

    by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:40PM (#24785589) Homepage

    What sort of sucessful cheaper air coniditoning solutions have you come up with?

    You've already found the cheap option. Your best bet is to not skimp (unless you like cooking hardware, assuming a reasonable growth rate in computing power under your care) though some of the steps you can take (e.g. hot/cold aisles) are really just rearranging your existing kit and adding some sheet metal work. But that doesn't allow you to skimp on getting adequate cooling. (If you want to know what "adequate cooling" is, ask a real expert; the answer depends on lots of facts you've not revealed.)

    Be aware that in large datacenters, the cost of keeping them cool will usually dominate. Really. Be prepared to be your A/C salesman's good customer...

  • Seriously, you ask yourself how much your servers are worth, what it'd cost to replace them, or do without them, and then you can factor in how much you should spend on setting up your cooling. There are several ways to do that, but few of them are cheap, and if your systems are at all valuable, you shouldn't balk at spending thousands on your needs. Since it seems 600 dollars is too much for you, all I can suggest is looking at your ventilation, or possibly replacement of your existing systems with more
  • Forget drainage, you need a hole in the wall to let out the hot air that the air conditioner produces as waste.
  • by nenya (557317) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:46PM (#24785689) Homepage
    I think there's a basic unanswered question here that will determine which of the above types of solutions you aim for.

    If you're trying to make the actual server room a more pleasant place to be, you really do need to look into additional A/C capacity, and that's just not gonna be cheap.

    But if all you're trying to do is keep your servers from overheating, there may be other ways of doing this. It could involve dedicated A/C units, but needn't necessarily. Non-A/C options include installing fans (not Wal-Mart box fans, something more permanent; talk to a local HVAC contractor), opening windows, installing specialized vent ducts, etc.

    Either way, you're probably going to want to get HVAC in there. Proper cooling for computers, especially servers, is something like proper insurance for driving a car: the question isn't whether you can afford it, it's whether you can afford not to have it.
  • Just leave it as it is. Yes everyone likes to put their professional demeanor on and make proper recommendations and use words like BTU and SEER, but everyone here has seen a bunch of servers jammed into a poorly ventilated closet work just fine. Computers have pretty high tolerances for heat, and usually the worst that happens is the computer will shut down if it gets really bad. I remember one place I worked had modems that got so hot you couldn't touch them; every once in a while they'd stop working b
  • Prices should start around 3 - 4 k installed.
  • You get what you pay for in terms of reliability, electicity consumption and power. I expect that server-room grade AC will be a bit more expensive than that.

  • The LG LWHD1200R I got for my girl in Fla is working fine. Got it from compactappliances.com delivered via UPS. No shipping or taxes, such a deal. Plugs into regular outlet.

    No problems, just store "right side up" overnight to let the oil resettle if UPS didn't follow the sticker. And remove the manual and instructions before you run it.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:57PM (#24785835) Homepage

    OK, here's a way to approach the problem.

    APC sells racks with integrated cooling. [apc.com] They have an online configurator program. Run the configurator, fill in your info, and you'll get a rack design.

    Try changing the "watts per rack" number. Watch what happens as the configurator adds air conditioning units and fans. Note that as the power density goes up, the cost goes way up.

    This is where they start to ask questions like "Do we really need a Web 2.0 web site?" Now you're starting to get the picture.

    I'm not partticularly recommending APC. They just happen to have a useful online tool, one which can give you something to take to your bosses to give them a sense of the costs as you add more equipment to a rack.

  • by billstewart (78916) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:57PM (#24785849) Journal

    Steven Wright has a line about "I bought a humidifier and a dehumidifier and put them together in a room to fight it out." That was what happened with our dual A/C system in the first computer room I helped build, back in the early 80s to support our VAXes. We had a couple of chilled-water Liebert units that were bigger than the computers, and management had decided to get two of them so we'd never lose cooling. Turned out we couldn't actually run them both at once, though I don't remember if they were fighting more about temperature or humidity - one unit would be pushing a bunch of cold dry air under the floor, which would blow into the sensors of the other unit, which would push a bunch of warm wet air under the floor, etc. And any time there was a power failure, the A/C wouldn't automatically restart, but the VAX would, so if this happened overnight or on a weekend, the room would reach 130 degrees (F), at which point the power system would decide their might be a fire and shut everything down until the room got cooler - which would take a while, since it wouldn't let us use the A/C. So we'd get in on Monday morning, have to open the back doors to the lab and go steal desk fans.

    My late-90s lab had much smaller equipment - a bunch of routers and PCs in an enclosed office - but it still generated enough heat that we needed extra A/C. We didn't own the building, and the A/C unit that the landlord put in the ceiling would occasionally ice up and start dripping water onto our desk, but fortunately it usually missed the rack. For a couple of weeks during one of the A/C repairs, they gave us a big standalone thing that blew cool air into the room and warm air out through the ceiling ductwork. It had enough room in the top to chill a couple of bottles of wine, so our winetasting that month did whites.

  • I have seen multiple server rooms full of systems ruined by A/C related failures (directly via overheating, indirectly by fires or sprinkler discharges after A/C failures).

    Don't skimp!

    Tell your employer to spend the money needed to get a proper A/C installation. "portable" units are ok - if they're professional grade, not home grade, and properly drained and wired and vent ducted. Permanent installation units are better, generally - cheaper for given tonnage of rating.

    In either case, put in environmental

  • Distribute the servers in conspicuous places around the office, with your Bosses office as the home of the most loud and obnoxious machines.

    This won't solve your cooling problem, but it might solve your budget issue if you don't get fired.
  • by 1sockchuck (826398) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:59PM (#24785883) Homepage
    Looking at the cooling issue more broadly, here are a couple of resources that provide good information on techniques to optimize cooling on a budget:

    The Hot Aisle [thehotaisle.com]: Great blog from Steve O'Donnell with practical ways to implement hot-aisle or cold-aisle containment and economizers.

    Data Center Knowledge [datacenterknowledge.com]: Recent articles look at "roll your own" thermal monitoring solutions and using excess heat in swimming pools and greenhouses.
  • Go Geothermal! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by haemish (28576) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @04:59PM (#24785889)

    I once had to do essentially this in a slightly unusual situation: the server room was by an outside wall, and on the other side of the wall they were about to put in a new lawn. We just dug down extra deep (about 4 feet) and got about 100 feet of 6' diameter corrugated plastic drainpipe (intended to be buried, the corrugations make it somewhat flexible), covered it with dirt+lawn, and finally put a fan on one end and recirculated the server room air through this. Only had to buy a fan and the pipe, and the long-term power bills were almost zero (just the fan). And it's incredibly reliable.

  • So all told you are talking about $1,000 dollars for AC? Frankly that is a pretty cheap solution for datacenter cooling.

  • Get a Better Job (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:02PM (#24785925) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, I'm all for maximizing economic efficiency, but you can't cool for free.

    "Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"

    There are some great options for minimizing the ongoing costs of cooling:

    • Use your chilled water supply to cool the room - pump server heat into 50 degree street water and serve the building 53 degree street water. win (unless you live in a desert, then bad)
    • Use a geothermal heat sink to take your excess heat. Or water if you have a stream or pond nearby.
    • In the right climate, just use an air/air heat pump.

    But any of those are going to take some investment. Remember, server acquisition cost is 1/3 of the total budget, the other 2/3 includes electricity and cooling, more than maintenance costs, on average.

    Like others have said, virtualize, slow your CPU clocks, take unused disks offline, replace your power supplies, all good, but if your servers aren't worth $600 to cool (and therefor keep operational), how the heck do they justify your salary to run them? (hint: maybe they don't)

  • A fan and an open door is about your only option with your budget..

    My last job tried the cheep route for the test lab.. 20-30 servers in a 15x30 room hooked to a roof mount AC unit (don't know the tonage).. That stupid thing would break down every couple of months and couldn't keep up with the servers when it did work.

    They tried some portable 1.5 ton units to suplement the roof unit but it was still always hot in there. 80-90f was the average

    Then the portables started to break..

    It all went to hell one weeke

  • Call an Engineer! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:24PM (#24786289)

    FFS, call an expert. If an engineer with a design firm wrote in and asked how to set up the company's servers, but he doesn't want to hire any IT people, everyone would be incensed at his stupidity for not calling in an expert. But somehow IT training makes people qualified HVAC design engineers?

    Spend the money now, and only cry once.

  • Seriously though, I put in a commercial grade window unit. I had to cut a hole in a brick wall, second story (glad that we own lifts here) while the server room was operational.

    I keep it set to 72F with a smart fan option, and it has been running 24/7 for 4 years now. It is cooling 12 machines in 2 racks, PBX and switches/routers plus all the UPSs. Positioned the hole in the wall so that it blows across the front of the racks. Nary a problem. The unit cost $800 from McMaster-Carr, and I spent a weekend inst

  • Seriously you can't afford AC for your Servers? And I wanted to get suggestions for a robot pigeon deterent for my pool...how was that worse? I jest...Kinda.
  • I've been wondering if this is practical. I remember that some people have been building houses with dirt on top and non-south facing windows. Sort of like some of the hobbit houses pictured here: http://images.google.ca/images?q=hobbit%20house&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&sa=N&tab=wi [google.ca] - perhaps too whimsical an answer here.

    The living conditions in these houses tends to not require AC to cool the house even in warm climates in warm/hot se

  • Hot Air Ducting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sciop101 (583286) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:40PM (#24786575)
    Install separate ductwork for hot air expulsion.

    The hot air is expelled from the server cabinets, into the hot air ductwork, and out of the building.

    Don't blow equipment heated air into the air-conditioned facility.

  • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @05:42PM (#24786607)

    You have a room full of computers and you can afford $600?? Something is wrong.

    Is the room full of cheap desktop PCs? if that is the case then your problem is that you yu are using to much power. Replace and consolidate the servers

    Back to the "can't afford $600 problem: have you figured out what it will cost per month to run your $600 AC unit? I'm thinking that you can burn up $600 of power in 90 days. If you were to replace those servers you'd save a bundle. Look into something like one of Sun's "cool threads" servers. Typically one of these can replace a rack of PCs It's a very low power 16 core machine.

    In the mean time it ooks like you've found your low cost solution, only that you are not only paying to much for power now but the $600 AC unit will double your power bill. Best to cut power usage with low power servers. Every wat that the server burns takes more than one wat to cool with an AC unit.

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