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Hot or Cold – Which Aisle Containment Should You Choose?

One of the most expensive aspects about maintaining a data center is in keeping the equipment at optimal temperatures. However, with a proper aisle containment structure set up within your data center, you can effectively minimize power consumption, cut down on costs, and reduce your carbon footprint.

An aisle containment, in effect, is a physical barrier that enables the efficient flow of air within the data center by ensuring that hot and cool air do not mix. There are two kinds of aisle containment, namely hot aisle containment and cold aisle containment. Let’s take a look at both:

Hot Aisle Containment

A hot aisle containment (HAC) channels the hot exhaust air released from the data center equipment and directs it towards an AC return vent. As hot air rises by nature, it is captured by a drop-ceiling void, from where it goes to the AC vent, without mixing with the cool air.

The major benefit of a HAC is that it increases cooling efficiency by 30% or more. In addition to ensuring that the cool air is not compromised by the hot exhaust, it also ensures that the hot and dry air reaching the AC increases its cooling capacity, sometimes even doubling the cooling tonnage.

Cold Aisle Containment

A cold aisle containment (CAC) creates a uniform flow and supply of air with doors at the end of each aisle and partitions along the ceiling. In this manner, a CAC prevents the cool air from the air conditioning from leaking outside, while eliminating any hot spots within the aisle.

Additionally, a CAC system enables the effective utilization of the top 15% of the server racks which are usually left empty as they lack consistent air supply. With a CAC in place, server racks can be utilized to their full potential, reducing the cost per square foot of the data center.

Which Aisle Containment should you choose?

Although both hot and cold aisle containment primarily do the same thing — prevent hot and cool air from mixing — they are different in the following ways:

In terms of implementation, an HAC is ideal for data centers with both raised floor and slab environments but relatively difficult and more expensive to implement in an existing data center setup. On the other hand, a CAC is easier to implement and is typically less expensive. A CAC, however, is also more prone to air leakage (from the raised floor and openings under equipment), making HAC the more effective option that generates more savings.

Based on the above criteria, the general expert recommendation is that existing data centers opt for the easy-to-implement cold aisle containment system, while new data centers can be planned with the provision for hot aisle containment.

When it comes to your specific data center and its containment needs, it is best to decide after taking the available space and the existing setup into consideration. To check for the feasibility of either aisle containment and to know which one is best for your data center, consult Hardy Racks today!

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