GCN LAB REVIEWS
A cool way to beat server room hot spots
The FOSE government trade show is normally held in the spring, but this year, it ran in July during one of the hottest weeks of the year. So I was shuffling through the halls of the show, laden with my thick lab coat, thinking it was a just touch warmer than the last time I visited the Mojave Desert.
Suddenly, a blast of super-cooled air struck me, and I had to stop to chat about it — and the product that was producing such sweet relief.
It turns out that the SRCOOL12k portable cooler unit from Tripp Lite is a lot more than just a standard air conditioning unit. In fact, it can become an important, nearly maintenance-free, part of any network for not a lot of money.
Hot computers take a dip
Sandia researchers find better way to cool electronics
People forget how important cooling is to healthy infrastructure. Hot computers run more slowly, break down more often and are generally a lot less reliable than units kept under pristine conditions. Of course, most buildings have centralized air conditioning, but those units are designed to keep entire floors evenly cooled. Hot spots in server rooms or wiring closets pop up all the time, especially in aging federal buildings with as many corridors, nooks and crannies as employees. Even clusters of tech-heavy cubicles can create enough heat in a small area to overload most building air-conditioning systems because they simply push air evenly everywhere.
The answer, of course, is spot cooling. Small, portable air-conditioning units can keep problem spots from overheating, and they save energy by reducing drag on the building’s main unit. The problem is that most of these units in the past have been so high maintenance and expensive that it was difficult to deploy a lot of them.
Exhaust and condensation
The biggest two problems that most of the older units possessed is that the byproduct of cooling air in one place is hot air somewhere else, in addition to the moisture generated by condensation, which can really add up over time. The SRCOOL12k fixes both these problems in ingenious ways. For water build up, there is a built-in evaporator. This eliminates all the condensation and expels it as water vapor in the exhaust. You can turn the evaporator off if you want to really reduce the local humidity, but then you need to drain the water from a tube behind the machine. Given that few server rooms and almost no wiring closets have drain pipes, this is probably not an option most people will use. Once the water is evaporated, the SRCOOL12k has a flexible tube that attaches to the back of the exhaust vent, allowing you to direct the warmer air and humidity wherever you want, such as into a drop ceiling, to another room or out a window. Standard hookups for windows are included as part of the package.
There is another flexible tube for the front of the unit, where the cool air flows out. You can use this to snake into a server rack or over a wall and direct the air exactly where it’s most needed. Or simply leave that tube off and let the unit push air out the vent directly like a normal air conditioner.
In terms of raw power, the SRCOOL12k can produce 12,000 BTUs of cooling power, which is impressive in a 68-pound unit that is 32 inches tall and 19 inches wide. It plugs into a standard outlet and uses R410a refrigerant, which is not ozone-depleting. In our testing, it was able to lower the temperature of a 300-square foot room by five degrees in less than 30 minutes. But even more impressive, when the air was directed down the tube at a switch enclosure that was dangerously overheating, it brought the temperature of that unit into the green range first and then provided cooling to the rest of the room. That’s pretty much a perfect performance example for a spot cooler. This is one little unit that provides a big chill for a room or directly over valuable equipment — or both.
And the SRCOOL12k is smart, especially for a chiller unit. You can set it to turn on at specific times during the day or night, so it can start up or shut down on its own. And if there is a power failure, all your settings aren’t lost. The SRCOOL12k remembers what you programmed it to do, so when power is restored, it will resume normal operation without any further intervention. It’s practically fire and forget, and that is very rare in a unit like this.
But the coolest thing about the SRCOOL12k is the price. At just $959 each, it’s the perfect portable solution whether you need to set up spot cooling in a specific area, such as a cramped wiring closet, or to have a unit handy to maneuver into trouble spots. We were so impressed with the SRCOOL12k that we got one for the GCN Test Lab to help eliminate a trouble spot of servers in a tightly packed rack. Once it was set up, it began directing cool air at the hot spot like a fire engine spraying water on a fire. And since we’ve set it up, we have had no problems, and we have not had to touch the cooler either.
The SRCOOL12k is our choice for September’s product of the month. It may be starting to get a bit cooler outside, but your infrastructure’s hot spots are still as warm as ever. In fact, once your building shifts from air conditioning to heat, things could get worse. Do like we did in the lab and take control of your own temperature destiny with a SRCOOL12k, and you’ll be playing it cool, too.
Tripp Lite, www.tripplite.com