In our last blog, we discussed the Power Considerations of buildings with especially stringent needs for continuous power, specifically hospitals and financial institutions and their data centers. In this blog, we’ll look briefly at the unique heating, ventilation and air conditioning considerations of these industries.
Beyond needing to keep patients at temperatures that are comfortable for them, in hospitals a paramount consideration is of course doing everything possible to reduce the spread of bacteria. Sadly, old systems may be contaminated and spreading airborne contagions to those with the weakest immune system. Modern HVAC systems can reduce this risk. HEPA filtration systems, ventilation and recirculation systems, and targeted air flow systems can all help.
New technologies that involve static heating and cooling built into walls, ceilings and floors do not require forcing air through the building, cutting down on the potential for bacteria to move from one area of a hospital to another.
Other modern equipment can measure air quality, airflow, humidity, pressure, temperature and other factors, and then report and warn when these measurements exceed safe boundaries.
The ever-growing computation needs and server density at data centers means increased heat loads on equipment, and need for increased cooling. Hot spots can result in expensive and painful disruptions, so investing in new and superior air conditioning technology is money well spent.
The average data center uses more than 100 times as much energy as any other commercial facility of equivalent size. HVAC accounts for about one-third of the energy use. Some estimates say data centers could eventually use up to 20% of the world’s power supply.
But engineers are working hard to make sure that doesn’t come to pass. There are several technologies for reducing the power consumption of HVAC units in these data centers; and there are also techniques such as keeping aisles of servers separate from aisles that cooling fans draw from, and separating exhaust fans and AC vents. This reduces the energy needed by equipment to cool itself. The system can be enhanced further by situating exhaust fans attached to the building’s ventilation system within the hot aisles and air conditioning output vents in the cool aisles, again keeping these complementary services separate from each other.
And data centers do not have to stay as cool as in years past. ASHRAE has increased its recommended upper temperature from 77 degrees to 80.6 degrees.
But for data centers, HVAC is not just about temperature but humidity. Condensation can harm sensitive equipment, in worst case scenarios, shorting electrical circuits. But some humidity is needed to reduce the potential for damage from electrostatic charges. 45-55% humidity is considered ideal.
Installing an automated control system is another way to curtail the use of HVAC energy. The system can decide to switch off the artificial air conditioning and pull in air from the outside when cool enough. It can also monitor temperatures in multiple rooms to localize cooling or heating.
Taking these extra considerations into account will ensure that mission-critical environments are safe as well as efficient and pleasant to work in.