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Planning your ceilings for better temperature management at your data center

Temperature and humidity – they’re crucial factors at a data center. And one of the ways you can ensure environmental factors are contained at safe levels is with the right kind of ceiling.

The right ceiling solution promises proper airflow management, load carrying capacity, and adaptability to the data center. 


While choosing the right ceiling solution for your data center, there are two key factors to keep in mind.

Factor 1: Height of the room

One has to keep in mind that the height of the room plays a vital role in effective temperature maintenance. The minimum height requirement for a data center is nine feet, provided the detailing of hot and cold aisles is correct. If not, then increasing the height of the room will help to provide a low resistance path to the hot air returning to the computer room.

A higher ceiling is also advantageous in case the cooling system fails as it reduces the rate of temperature increase. This will give enough time to make efforts to bring down the room temperature before systems start shutting down. A high ceiling though is not an alternative or a replacement option to airflow management, it just aids the cooling process.

Factor 2: Choice of aisle containment

When looking at ceiling solutions, one must also consider what kind of aisle – hot or cold — you are choosing for your data center. A hot aisle containment directs hot exhaust air released from the equipment towards an AC return vent. As hot air rises, it is captured by a drop-ceiling void, from where it goes to the AC vent, without mixing with the cool air.

A cold aisle containment (CAC) on the other hand creates a uniform flow of air with doors at the end of each aisle and partitions along the ceiling, thereby eliminating hot spots within and preventing cool air from leaking outside.

Having taken these factors into consideration, here are some common ceiling solutions that you can choose from.

Acoustic Ceiling

Acoustic ceilings are a type of suspended ceiling. They are easy to install, durable and cost-effective and dampen ambient noise.

Basically, in this type of ceiling metal strips are hung from the room’s actual ceiling and individual panels of sound-absorbing material are placed in sections. This arrangement helps to hide heating and cooling ducts. They are also highly reflective, which means they allow more light to reflect back into the room, saving money in energy costs.

Drop Ceiling

A drop ceiling is a secondary ceiling, hung just below the data center’s main ceiling. It may also be referred to as a T-bar ceiling or false ceiling and is commonly used in residential and commercial applications. In fact, they have been used in England since the 16th century to aid acoustics.

Installing a false ceiling in your data center can help to optimize cooling efficiency as it reduces the quantity of air that needs to be cooled, especially in rooms with high ceilings.

A point to note is that for a drop ceiling the plenum area – which is the area provided for ventilation — should be at least 2 feet high to allow for airflow, which means that the overall height of the ceiling needs to be 11 feet at least.

Drop-away Ceiling

A drop-away ceiling is an overhead enclosure on a data center aisle that ‘drops’ to the floor when it is triggered by heat. It will basically fall to the floor to allow fire suppression methods to reach the components located within the server aisle.

This is because the ceiling panel is made of thermoplastic, which on heating does not melt, but contracts to the point where the panel falls out of the frame to the floor, causing the top of the enclosure to be open. This allows the nozzles attached to the ceiling of the data center to extinguish a fire.

These are popular because they can be custom-made to a data center room specification.

As you can see, installing the right ceiling is essential to keeping the data center at its optimal temperature. Hardy Racks can help with your data center design decisions and guide you to assess options to determine the best solution for you. Contact us today!

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