Can combining economizers with improved filtration save energy and protect equipment in data centers?
Economizer use in data centers is an energy efficiency strategy that could significantly limit electricity demand in this rapidly growing economic sector. Widespread economizer implementation, however, has been hindered by potential equipment reliability concerns associated with exposing information technology equipment to particulate matter of outdoor origin. This study explores the feasibility of using economizers in data centers to save energy while controlling particle concentrations with high-quality air filtration. Physical and chemical properties of indoor and outdoor particles were analyzed at an operating northern California data center equipped with an economizer under varying levels of air filtration efficiency. Results show that when improved filtration is used in combination with an economizer, the indoor/outdoor concentration ratios for most measured particle types were similar to levels when using conventional filtration without economizers. An energy analysis of the data center reveals that, even during the summer months, chiller savings from economizer use greatly outweigh any increase in fan power associated with improved filtration. These findings indicate that economizer use combined with improved filtration could reduce data center energy demand while providing a level of protection from particles of outdoor origin similar to that observed with conventional design.