Data center lighting is often an overlooked part of data center design, yet it plays a vital role in data center visibility and power savings. Poor lighting can lead to operational hazards and energy inefficiency.

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How the Right Lighting Can Save You Big Bucks

When IT staff is working in a data center, it’s crucial they have a clear view of all the equipment panels and wires. But most data center cabinets and equipment are flat and black, so little or no light is reflected in the aisles. If the lighting fixtures are located above the cabinets or cable trays, it makes a bad situation worse.

Due to cost considerations and availability, architects often end up using lay-in tile panels in suspended metal grids for data center ceilings. And the lights are just standard fixtures in the lay-in panels. But if the ceiling grid is not well coordinated with the aisles and racks, the lights can end up casting huge shadows and create dark areas.

The problem stems from the fact that in most cases the architects aren’t even aware of the issue, meaning they end up using standard office design patterns. A solution to the problem would be to make the architects understand that the lighting pattern should follow the style of a library. In a library, the lighting and bookshelves are coordinated to allow people to read the prints on the book spines easily. This model can work well with data centers, too. The design will allow overhead lighting to adequately illuminate the cabinets and aisles.

Also, designing data centers to provide “on-demand” lighting can lead to significant energy savings. Data centers can use sensors to recognize occupancy, use daylight to control lighting level, set lighting schedules and policies, and collect data from light fixtures to improve energy efficiency. Using energy-efficient halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in lighting fixtures can lead to significant power savings. According to US Department of Energy, energy-efficient lightbulbs use 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents.

Data Center Lighting Requirements

The TIA-942-A standard has recommendations for data center lighting controls. The standard defines the ideal placement of lighting fixtures above the aisles and between the cabinets. But it also delves into the protocol data centers should follow for energy savings. It recommends a three-level approach:

  • Level 1: The lighting at this level is intended for unoccupied data centers. At this level, video surveillance equipment should work but the lighting doesn’t need to support clarity for human vision.
  • Level 2: The lighting should move to this level when someone enters the data center. Aisles and passageways should be sufficiently illuminated for safe movement through the facility and easy recognition of the individuals on the security cameras.
  • Level 3: The occupied areas where employees will be working require 500 lux in the horizontal plane and 200 lux in the vertical plane. This will ensure the employees are able to clearly see the equipment and wires in the racks and cabinets.

Efficient Data Center Lighting

LED has become the popular way to make any facility green. In 2014, three physicists who contributed to the creation of LED lights were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. It’s an important step towards environment-friendly and energy-efficient light source. However, LED lights come in limited fixtures, so they are hard to install in data centers with high ceilings. Those facilities end up using fluorescent lights. But there are new LED lights available that can fit into fluorescent fixtures. Also, architects should pay attention at the design phase to make data centers accommodate more LEDs.

Data center lighting is crucial to the efficient operation, maintenance and sustenance of the facility. Managers, architects, and designers should pay attention from the start. It will make data centers more cost-effective. Also, making data centers safe and energy-efficient is the right thing to do.

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