New Years Resolution: Preventative Maintenance of HVAC System Servicing Data Centers

Data centers represent a unique challenge to building managers. The stacks of servers require large amounts of energy to constantly run, while also emanating large amounts of heat into the room. The challenge is keeping energy costs low in a building while running a high energy-consuming, heat-producing data center at peak performance. As a building manager of a large data center, it is inevitable that the energy costs for cooling the building are likely the largest out of pocket cost each month. Despite the high cost of cooling, many building managers don’t focus enough on conducting proper planned maintenance of their HVAC systems. In order to save a significant amount in monthly energy expenses and long-term equipment bills, building managers should make a business-focused new year’s resolution to create or revive their planned maintenance schedule for HVAC.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) the standard data center requires room conditions to be between 18 and 27 degrees Celsius (64 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit), with a dew point between -9 and 15 degrees Celsius, and relative humidity of 60 percent. The climate, heat output, building construction and makeup of the data center are just some of the numerous variables that make maintaining a room within those conditions both difficult and costly. The heat output of a data center is proportional to the combined amount of computing output and data storage capabilities of the center and likewise, the interior climate conditions inside a data center affect the efficiency of data transfer and server operation. When the HVAC system servicing a data center struggles to maintain internal climate conditions it is at the detriment of both the performance of the servers inside the center as well as the energy consumption of the building.

Maintaining an efficient and healthy HVAC system performance is one of the best approaches to counteracting potentially expensive data center costs. This level of system maintenance can be difficult depending on the demand put on the HVAC system. The interior climate demands in a data center are stringent and they require year-round HVAC performance, but they are also consistent. Unlike human-occupied spaces in a building that can have varying cooling demands, the heat output of a data center is relatively constant. The consistency of the heating load inside a data center provides a unique opportunity for building managers and plant owners to optimize their system to fit the needs of the data center while requiring the least amount of energy to run.

Planned maintenance of the HVAC system serving a data center is a crucial aspect of building management. Periodically scheduled cleanings of system components pay significant dividends in energy savings for an HVAC system. Chillers, coils and other components become clogged with material over time, reducing efficiency and drastically increasing costs.

A hydronic HVAC system or large chilled water system with a significant buildup of limescale and other water formed deposits will have to work significantly harder to maintain the room conditions of a data center. Scale deposits attach to the chiller tube walls, cooler tower piping, and other water-filled components of Hydronic and chilled water systems and reduce the heat exchange properties of the system, as well as the cross-sectional area available for fluids to flow through. This ultimately requires more energy for heat transfer and more power to propel the fluid through the system. Even a small-scale buildup inside pipes can require significantly more energy to cool a space. Additionally, for large HVAC spaces with constant use, a buildup of limescale can degrade the same components of and hydronic and chilled water HVAC systems, drastically reducing their effectiveness and decreasing their usable life.  Large data centers require the greatest cooling effort, and degradations will cause losses in the tens of thousands of dollars. Building managers can calculate their true cost of HVAC scale by using one of the descaling calculators at goodway.com/resources/calculators.

For systems where scale is not the issue, like Packaged HVAC system or RTU’s, scheduling the cleaning of coils is essential to maintain optimal temperatures. Wasted energy can cost between $1,000 and $3,700 per unit. Dirty coils can diminish heat transfer and increase operating temperatures and pressures. The importance to wash and flush both sides of the coils can be the difference between a data center overheating and shutting down or maintaining proper temperature and continuous power. Solutions, like the ones from Goodway, are specifically designed to clean coils. Just as cleaning the coils of such units the maintenance of cleaning the condensate drainage is consequential. Clogged condensate drain lines prevent water and other liquids from effectively moving out of the unit which can in time cause damage to the unit and surrounding area.

A comprehensive preventative maintenance plan is the single greatest method to minimize efficiency losses throughout the year. If building managers don’t already have a plan in place to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of the HVAC system cooling their data center, they should implement one immediately. Maintenance plans can easily be synchronized with the calendar so that starting with the new year each maintenance plan becomes a new year’s resolution for HVAC efficiency. Setting a new year’s resolution is an effective way of making a permanent change for the future, and for a data center, a permanent change to regularly scheduled maintenance can produce savings throughout the life of the system. For specific problems such as system descaling, there are simple solutions such as Goodway’s ScaleBreak Liquid Descaler. Goodway’s line of ScaleBreak products safely dissolve mineral deposits inside your system components quickly and safely. The ScaleBreak Liquid Descaler is a low cost and effective method for achieving your new year’s resolution to carry out system maintenance.

Next Steps

Check out more information on these products at goodway.com/accessories/descaling-chemicals-accessories.

GDS-100 Gets Top Grades When Put To The Test

For building systems like boilers, cooling towers, and heat exchangers that use water to transfer heat, the buildup of mineral deposits and scale inside the equipment is a normal part of the operation. Over time the scale layer gets so thick that heat cannot transfer efficiently through the equipment causing substantial system losses and potential equipment breakdowns. The only way to get the efficiency back is to either mechanically or chemically remove the scale from the equipment, and at this level of scale buildup, a chemical was the only viable option.

For one Operation’s Shift Supervisor at a municipal water power generation plant, routine descaling of several large plate heat exchangers was cumbersome and a burden. As he says,

“We usually just opened the heat exchanger up and cleaned it with power washers. That worked, but it was very labor-intensive. We were interested in an easier way to remove scale buildup” Having already been introduced to Goodway’s time-saving tube cleaning equipment, he called his local sales rep for a way to improve the labor-heavy descaling work.

“Our Goodway sales rep sent us a brochure on the GDS-100 descaling system and I did some research. The product seemed like it might apply to our work and could save labor costs by not having to open up the heat exchanger. The setup looked easy and we had never tried a recirculating system, so we decided to test it out.”

The GDS-100 is a portable “clean-in-place” (CIP) descaling system that pumps descaling liquid through industrial hydronic equipment to dissolve mineral scale deposits, into a liquid suspension to be flushed out. The descaling system is built on wheels making it easy to roll to the work area and once it’s running, the descaler can be left to do the work while the technicians take care of other things.

The power plant maintenance team put the GDS-100 to the test. They filled it with ScaleBreak® Liquid Descaler to see how the system would handle a heavily scaled plate heat exchanger. “We decided to let the GDS-100 circulate for a full 24 hours to see if it could clean it. When it was done we opened up the heat exchanger and found that it did an effective job at cleaning out the scale.” The team immediately knew this was a product that would help them be more efficient.

“Labor savings are a huge benefit of this machine. I can set this up in two hours and just let it run unmanned by itself. We don’t have to open the heat exchanger for inspection each time we clean because we’ve already tested and know it works. The gaskets stay intact and remain inside the exchanger and we don’t have to struggle to put them back. Manual cleaning is very labor-intensive when you don’t have the benefit of the circulation system. We can see the labor savings right away.”

The savings from the GDS-100 goes beyond labor. The efficiency of the heat exchanger improved immediately after it was descaled. When scaled, the heat exchangers at the power plant were only showing a temperature drop of 4 or 5 degrees. But after being descaled with the GDS-100, the heat exchangers were giving 8 to 9-degree temperature differences – nearly a 100% improvement. The team told us that they were getting efficiencies they hadn’t gotten in a long time.

Fast setup, reduced labor costs, and improved efficiency make the GDS-100 and ScaleBreak® Liquid Descaler the choice for maintenance managers everywhere. The team at the municipal power plant is spreading the news of their success. “We’ve taken photos and sent them around to our other facilities to show them the results.” We love to make our customers more successful. Let us show you our entire line of products to make you and your equipment more efficient and work better.

Casino Maintenance: From Surface Sanitation to the HVAC System

Each year more than 50 million people visit casinos in the United States and play some of the 1 million slot and video game machines across the country. But each time they pull the handle, they’re wagering more than just their money; they’re wagering their health, too. Thousands of casino visitors come to play every day despite being sick with a cold or the flu. When sick people push a video poker button or pick up the dice, their germs are left behind and transmitted to the next player who might get sick.

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Chiller Tube Cleaning-A Necessary Preventative Maintenance Task

In 2007 on a man-made island off the coast of Qatar, the world’s largest chiller plant came online. The Pearl Qatar’s mechanical building is packed with fifty-two chillers each over two thousand tons providing an astounding 130,000 tons of cooling to the island’s residential and commercial buildings. In a country where summer temperatures hover around 120° F, the water-cooled chiller plant at The Pearl Qatar never slows down and neither does the maintenance staff.

Your team may not be working on chillers that cool the million dollar homes of oil tycoons, but to keep your chiller working efficiently, it needs regular maintenance and cleaning just like the chillers at The Pearl Qatar. Chiller manufacturers have recommended maintenance tasks that include periodic cleaning of the chiller and condenser tubes. Chiller tubes make up the “circulatory system” of the chiller and, just like when humans veins and arteries clog, when tubes are blocked things go bad.

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The Simplest Way to Maintain Chiller Efficiency

Chillers in large commercial buildings are often the most expensive piece of equipment in the facility. Not only is a chiller expensive to purchase and install, but according to the North Carolina Energy Office’s “Chillers: Energy Saving Fact Sheet”, chillers “consume more than 50% of electrical energy during seasonal periods of building use.” So with a very expensive, very energy-hungry piece of equipment you might think facility managers spend a lot of time ensuring chillers work at peak efficiency. But the same fact sheet points out that a Department of Energy survey estimates that “120,000 chillers in the U.S. are expending more than 30% in additional energy through operational inefficiencies.” It seems a lot of chillers are wasting a lot of money through operational inefficiencies. But what exactly is an operational inefficiency and how can facility managers correct these inefficiencies?

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