Thermal Cooling System Inspection

Thermal Image of datacentre cooling

OVERVIEW

This thermogram taken during a thermal cooling system inspection of a datacentre shows uneven cooling down a data center isle. The racks on the right, located adjacent to the floor vents are receiving cooling air; the left racks left are not. This is a “cold” isle where both sides require cooling. Notice the warm area on the floor encroaching into the floor vent near the center of the image; there is an air distribution problem in this isle.

Conditions detectable by an infrared inspection:

  • Energy waste caused by overcooling
  • Undercooled hot areas
  • CRAC unit problems
  • Supply and return air distribution issues
  • Cooling airflow blockages
  • Revalidation of cooling during equipment expansion or reorganization

DETAIL

The natural evolution of a datacenter requires adding newer, higher density equipment and retiring technologically older gear. When an upgrade takes place, the original CFD studies and cooling assumptions may not account for the newer configurations and equipment. A thermal cooling system survey of the reconfigured racks/isles will detect hot spots or overcooled areas, and validate with thermographic images that your cooling air is being directed accurately and efficiently.

 

Data centers use significant amounts of electrical energy to power the computer equipment which in turn produces a significant amount of heat. Excess heat in the electronics will increase the failure rate of the components so it needs to be removed from the equipment racks using large air conditioning units. Removing this excess heat from the equipment requires even more energy to power air conditioning units and blowers to circulate cooing air through the equipment.

All this electricity cost money, so it is critically important that the cooling air is directed effectively to keep the equipment cool, but not wasted by overcooling large areas of the room where there is no equipment. Equally as wasteful is overcooling localized areas server racks while leaving some racks under or partially cooled.

While much of the computer room equipment has some form of thermal sensor internal to the units to warn of an overheating condition, only thermal imaging can give the broad picture of how a rack/room is being cooled. Infrared thermography is the only method which can visually show the actual temperature of a row of racks at high resolution, over a wide area with 100% coverage.

During the design of a computer room, advanced methods such as CFD are used to analyze the heat flow of the racks. However, as server room configurations change and equipment is updated, these initial thermal studies may become obsolete. Thermal imaging can provide a fast “Reality check” that a new configuration of racks and equipment is being cooled effectively. Infrared surveys of data centers are also great for confirming that general airflow out of floor tiles and into ceiling intake vents is effective and efficient. It’s amazing to see in the thermal images how often cooling air is being wasted because it is blowing directly into the CRAC intake plenum!

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