Energy Savings Strategies for Your Data Center – Part I: Building a Winning Team

If you are like me, you’ve been counting down the days until football season kicks off. Right now, the optimism for the season’s success is at an all-time high. As the season continues, you will begin to gather information on the coaches, free agents and draft picks. This information will enable you to evaluate the probability of a successful season. When it comes to developing energy savings strategies in your data center, the recipe for success is very similar to your favorite football team.

The best football coaches spend much of the off-season devising a winning game plan so they are not surprised by any unforeseen circumstances when game day comes around. These game plans are tested tens and hundreds of times before they are actually implemented in a game situation.

In your data center, a game plan should be developed based on testing and commissioning of the existing system. Having a well-executed commissioning plan in place before making changes will ensure that the equipment, controls, and mechanical systems are all working together as expected and as intended. It could be a huge gamble to push the limits of your operations without understanding how the systems truly interact and operate after years of making small changes and additions and miscellaneous alterations during routine maintenance. It would be like having all of your players study the playbook all off-season but then running the plays for the first time on game day!


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A winning game plan cannot be developed without also knowing your players’ strengths and limitations, allowing you to put them into positions that maximize their ability and performance. The same level of knowledge of the mechanical and IT systems in your data center is essential to achieving operational excellence. Mechanical equipment in particular is designed to perform best and be the most reliable within certain operating parameters. As you push the limits of those parameters to achieve more energy efficiency, you lose some stability and reliability.

Increasing the efficiency of a chiller by increasing the leaving chilled-water temperature and decreasing the entering condenser water temperature will maximize your efficiency but will leave you more susceptible to chiller shutdowns.

Installing an economizer will give you free cooling but can expose you to contaminants and reduced capacity, or negatively affect the operation of a plant when switching between mechanical and free cooling.

Sometimes a winning game plan alone is not enough. Football is played at a fast pace, so the ability of the coach to make in-game adjustments is pivotal to a team’s winning performance. Coaches have to evaluate the following:

  • Down and distance
  • Opposing team’s lineup
  • Current state of their teams to make in-game adjustments

Data centers are in a constant state of flux in terms of electrical and heat loads, outside environmental conditions, and hydronic and air systems. Due to the ever-changing nature of the data center, the ability to monitor and make slight adjustments in real-time to maximize energy savings is essential to the success of operational changes. Gathering the critical information can be achieved through:

  • An energy management system
  • Data loggers and commissioning
  • Being on the data floor to listen to the equipment and feeling the temperature swings in different places

Some examples of “in-game adjustments” include:

  •  Adding blank-off panels to minimize bypass
  • Changing temperature set points of air and water
  • Moving supply and return grilles to enhance air management

Developing a solid operational plan and then executing it can really maximize energy efficiency by utilizing existing equipment and systems without making a major dent in the budget.

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About Matt Rothwell


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Matt Rothwell manages the Critical Systems group at McKenney’s, which specializes in data center projects ranging in size and complexity with a focus on renovations, expansions, and greenfield projects. Matt, a graduate of Georgia Tech and former McKenney's co-op, works with his team to cultivate existing and new relationships through the development and implementation of energy savings strategies.

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