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Server Room Air Conditioners: Purchasing

Feb 05, 2013

Server Room Air Conditioners:

A Confusing Purchase

Critical server infrastructure is typically off-site nowadays, as companies are settling for all-inclusive hosting solutions to handle their racks and equipment. Still, there are many companies, particularly SMBs, that continue to house their servers on-site. 

Air control (HVAC) is an important consideration regardless of server size, expense or technical expertise. Overheated servers and equipment are always a problem, but what will you do about it? 

Crowd Source:

A common method is to crowd source the answer. For example, these spiceworks discussions are likely generating tremendous traffic, simply because of the visible expertise on server rooms and air conditioners. Take a look for some quick advice, but beware that any suggestions are limited to the original question, and may not apply to your particular situation.

Spiceworks Discussion 1 (AC Brand Recommendation)

Spiceworks Discussion 2 (Brand and General Temperature Advice)

Spiceworks Discussion 3 (Specific 200 sq. foot Room)

Is this the answer? Should you simply pose your question on a crowdsourced support forum and shoot the breeze until answers begin to populate? When you're purchasing this critical component are you leading by advice from a stranger? 

Google Help?

Try google for a product search. You'll find that for "HVAC selection", outside of the crowdsourced solutions and sales pitches, there are hardly any unbiased sources that provide detailed solutions, differences, and common obstacles that purchasers may encounter. A glance at the shopping results for "server room air conditioner" adds more confusion, as the specifications and prices aren't easily digestible. There's an unfamiliar brand list (Tripp Lite, Sunpentown, Whynter), a range of power options (8000 to 36000+ BTU), and tremendous price variation ($335 to $14,000+). At a high level, most of us understand that BTU is an important consideration for HVAC units. Still, this relationship is not linear. Higher BTU ratings don't necessarily translate to higher prices, and higher BTU ratings don't nessecarily indicate better cooling functionality. Do you know the room's current humidity or dew point? Where should you start? Clearly, if you've ever been tasked with choosing an air conditioning unit for your server room, you've discovered that this is a difficult (and multi-faceted) task that requires research (and not merely crowd opinion). The real question is, where is the research?


Helpful Resources:

These resources are primarily driven by expertise, experience, and industry standards/regulations. Use these sources in your HVAC quest, and feel confident that you're following informational and factual guidelines. When your superior asks you about the HVAC system that you've chosen, don't let your answer be  "x person on Spiceworks recommended it". These resources will help you find a server room air conditioner that suits your needs. As always, make sure to abide by all ASHRAE guidelines when possible.


ASHRAEwiki: Comprehensive source for definitions and scientific explanations of relevant terms. Highly technical explanations.

2011 ASHRAE Data Center Environment GuidlinesNote: While this is now two years old, it still contains useful tips for HVAC in server rooms. We urge you to join ASHRAE to gain access to their complete database, as this represents the best possible source.

Energy Saving Tips: Tips for saving energy in server closets and data centers. An excellent, multi-pronged resource with specific information and insight for a variety of applications and products, including:



Warehouse Applications    Data Center Cooling  
 Office Environments    Network Data Closets  
Server Rooms    Raised Flooring  


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