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Running A Cool Data Center? Don't Sweat It When It Comes To Humidity

Apr 23, 2009

Check out this story Chris A. MacKinnon about humidity in the data center from a recent feature in Processor Magazine:

A hot data center is bound for trouble. But what about a data center with too little or too much vapor in the air? You don’t hear as much about humidity as you do about cooling in the data center, but most data center and IT managers in small to midsized enterprises believe that humidity can have just as detrimental an impact on data center equipment as insufficient cooling.

The Impact

Harry Schechter, founder of Temperature@lert (
www.temperaturealert.com), agrees that humidity has a large impact on data center equipment. “It’s true that humidity was becoming less and less of a problem for the modern data center.” Schechter says. “However, the problem of humidity is about to come back into play. The name of the game today is cost cutting. One way that data center managers are cutting costs is by raising the temperature on the thermostats. For each degree of increase, you can get back about 4% of your energy bill.”

Schechter says most equipment is rated at temperatures far above what a normal data center exists at, but there does come a point of diminishing returns for pushing up the thermostat. “If you experience an AC failure, there’s less time to react,” he says. “Also, maintaining a data center at 80 [degrees Fahrenheit] (which seems to be about the optimal temperature for electricity savings) increases the air’s ability to hold moisture. This is why humidity will start to pop up on the radar screen again.”

It appears that humidity is indeed a bigger deal than some experts are purporting. “If you’re sticking with the traditional cool temperatures in the data center, it’s not much of a worry anymore,” Schechter says. “However, if you decide to outfit your staff with Bermuda shorts, it’s time to start watching humidity.”

You can view the full article here and trust that we'll retire the Bermuda shorts line from our next interview. :)

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