Good news from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Data centers are getting better about reducing power consumption. Since 2010, power usage has remained about the same in U.S. data centers. Even though the number of servers being installed will continue to increase, energy consumption is still projected to remain steady over the next few years.

According to the report, the largest data centers have made the most significant advances in improving power consumption. But that doesn’t mean small and medium-sized data centers can’t implement energy-efficiency tips to cut costs. Some power-consumption improvements take time (and lots of money), but others can be implemented quickly with little to no upfront investment.

There’s no question that improving energy efficiency will save money – it results less data center power consumption, which means that utility bills will be lower. But there are other benefits to consider as well. Lowering data center power consumption can:

  • Extend IT equipment lifecycle
  • Decrease your organization’s environmental impact and footprint
  • Reduce the amount of unplanned downtime due to outages or equipment overheating
  • Improve mechanical and electrical system capacity

Data centers still have room for improvement when it comes to power consumption, and these 6 energy-efficiency tips may help.

Thermal Management Techniques to Improve Energy Efficiency1. Turn Off Lights or Install Sensors

This is one of the easiest things you can do to start saving energy right now. If no one’s in your data center, shut the lights off. And if it’s hard for staff to remember to shut the lights off as they exit, consider installing occupancy sensors.

Not only is energy being wasted by lighting up the space unnecessary, but your data center lights also emit heat. This extra heat places additional load on the cooling system, which makes it work harder than it should to keep temperatures down. This will drive up utility bills and potentially shorten the lifecycle of cooling equipment.

2. Install Blanking Panels in Open Rack U-Space

As servers are removed or changed to different u-slots, an open space or hole is left behind. When these spaces aren’t closed off, the cold air being supplied to the room can move into the return – which translates to 100% complete and total waste.

Metal or plastic blanking panels eliminate bypass airflow and prevent exhaust air circulation – they offer no place for air to go except through equipment. Blanking panels can also improve thermal management and energy efficiency by decreasing server inlet air temperatures and increasing the temperature of air returning to the CRAC (computer room air-conditioning).

According to ENERGY STAR, adding just one 12-inch blanking panel to the middle of a server rack can provide between 1% and 2% energy savings. Imagine what these savings could be if you applied blanking panels to all open spaces in your racks.

3. Transition from Black to White Cabinets

Gray-white reflects much more light than dark colors, such as black; this fact dictates that more lighting is needed in data centers using black cabinets. Headlamps or flashlights might be needed to complete moves, adds and changes (MACs) – without that additional light, seeing RU numbers and ports can be difficult.

Because lighter color reflect more light, the data center doesn’t require as much light output. And, as we mentioned earlier, less lighting also means less heat output – which translates to reduced cooling requirements.

4. Adjust Data Center Temperatures

It’s been almost 10 years since ASHRAE raised the acceptable temperature range at the inlet of a server to 65-80 degrees F. But there are still data centers that set their temperatures lower than 65 degrees F unnecessarily. When you raise the thermostat, you’ll start saving money immediately.

ENERGY STAR also says you can change humidity setpoints to a range of 30% to 70% relative humidity.

5. Get Rid of Underused Servers

The Athensis Group says that up to 30% of all physical servers do nothing – ever. Just like turning the lights off when they’re not in use, getting rid of idle servers – dubbed “comatose servers” – that are underutilized or nonfunctioning will immediately reduce energy and costs.

Keep track of the servers you have and how they’re being used, and condense and eliminate unused servers. This will not only save energy, because fewer servers will be running, but it will also save time: Fewer pieces of equipment means less time spent on maintenance and management.

6. Get an Energy Assessment

If these energy-efficiency tips seem overwhelming – or you feel like you’ve done all you can to improve data center efficiency and are ready for the next step – consider bringing in a third party to conduct a data center assessment. An analysis of current operations, explaining exactly where and how energy is being used and potentially wasted, can pinpoint where to focus your efforts. Some consultants and organizations can also identify rebates, tax credits and incentives that may help fund energy-efficiency efforts.

data center inspection

Belden’s assessment services can provide an overview of current data center performance, as well as recommended changes to reduce power consumption, maximize floor space, enhance security and reduce the potential for human error. Learn more about Belden’s data center services here.

What other ideas would you add to this list? Have you found a way to reduce power consumption in your data center? We want to hear your energy-efficiency tips!