Cold Aisle Options
Cold aisle containment options make cooling much more efficient and thus reduce energy costs, but they can have drawbacks. Depending on the structure used to contain the aisle, the existing fire protection system may need some modifications.
Some cold aisle containment designs have drop ceilings that must be triggered to drop before the fire suppression can reach the fire. These systems rely on thermal fusible links/supports, or electro-mechanical solutions.
Other cold aisle containment designs have shrink tiles that rely on the fire getting large enough to shrink the material, which leaves more of a risk for a larger fire to damage equipment.
In some data centers, a rack to ceiling barrier such as a panel or a curtain is installed to contain the aisle.
Disadvantages of the Systems
Data centers that have added cold aisle containment solutions to their server rooms but have not adjusted their existing fire systems can run into some problems.
Changes in airflow pattern can disrupt the normal development of the smoke plume which makes it more difficult to detect smoke earlier.
Other configurations that use physical barriers can obstruct sprinkler spray patterns and clean agent nozzles for compromising periods of time if proper adjustments aren’t made to the fire system.
However, there are other options.
Using Partial Aisle Containment as an Option
There are a couple of useful ways to utilize partial aisle containment.
One option is to utilize end of row doors without installing any structure above the rack.
Another option is to utilize end of row doors and use a smaller physical barrier that is placed above racks to better contain the cooling.
In many server rooms, using a partial cooling partition can also make it easier to accommodate any overhead obstructions such as data and power pathway, or even lighting fixtures, and the structure is not high enough to interfere with the existing fire suppression system.
Data Center Specialists’ Study
Data Center Specialists did a study on using end of aisle containment doors to enclose a 40-foot aisle, and then furthered the study by adding 2-foot-high diverters as a partial containment solution on the aisle.
The first part of the study started by using end of row doors at the ends of a 40-foot aisle. The original temperature was 20.7 degrees Celsius. By using these doors, the enclosed row dropped 2 degrees Celsius.
After that, they installed two-foot-high diverters above the racks. After this, the temperature dropped to 16.2 degrees Celsius, which was another 2.5 degrees Celsius, from just using end of aisle containment.
The Benefits of Partial Aisle Containment
Using partial cold aisle containment can have great benefits of reducing energy costs and improving the efficiency of cooling the aisle. It is also much more practical to use in conjunction with the existing fire protection system in the server room, without having to make major modifications.
The structure for every server room is different. Some cold aisle containment systems are more efficient than others in different ways. The decision comes down to the individual data center.