Air Quality in Data Center

Air Quality in Data Center

Maintaining good air quality in a data center is crucial for the optimal functioning of IT equipment and the well-being of personnel. Although poor air quality doesn’t immediately lead to disaster, unlike failure to maintain temperature, servers are susceptible to air pollutants.

The air in a data center should therefore be free of:
  • Particulates: Dust, pollen and other particulate matter clogs up air filters as well as depositing a layer of dust on electronics components and heat sinks.
    Gasses: Volatile organic compounds (VOC) and sulfur dioxide corrodes components and solder joints, leading to unreliable operation and failures.
    Excess Moisture: High humidity leads to condensation. Condensation results in mold growth and short circuits.


Here are some precautions to take and the impacts of poor air quality in a data center:
  • Impacts of Poor Air Quality:
    Equipment Failure:  Dust and contaminants can accumulate on hardware components, leading to overheating and increased risk of equipment failure.
    Reduced Efficiency:  oor air quality can impair the efficiency of cooling systems, making it challenging to maintain optimal operating temperatures.
    Increased Energy Consumption: Inefficient cooling systems may result in higher energy consumption, leading to increased operational costs.
    Data Loss or Corruption: Overheating caused by poor air quality can contribute to data loss or corruption, impacting the integrity of stored information.
    Downtime: Unplanned downtime may occur due to equipment failures or overheating, leading to disruptions in services and potential financial losses.
    Health Concerns:  Poor air quality can pose health risks to personnel working in the data center, causing respiratory issues and discomfort.
    Maintenance Costs: Regularly dealing with equipment failures and addressing the consequences of poor air quality can result in increased maintenance costs. By implementing these precautions and understanding the potential impacts of poor air quality, data center operators can ensure a healthier and more reliable environment for their IT infrastructure.


Precautions for Maintaining Air Quality:
  • Air Filtration: Use high-efficiency air filters to trap dust, particles, and contaminants. Regularly clean or replace filters to ensure they remain effective.
    Humidity Control: Maintain humidity levels within the recommended range (typically 40-60%) to prevent static electricity and minimize the risk of corrosion.
    Temperature Management: Keep the data center at a controlled temperature to prevent overheating of equipment and maintain optimal performance.
    Proper Ventilation: Ensure adequate ventilation to promote proper air circulation and prevent the buildup of heat pockets.
    Sealed Environment: Minimize the entry of outside contaminants by sealing the data center environment as much as possible.
    Regular Cleaning: Implement a routine cleaning schedule for the data center space, including the floors, ceilings, and equipment.
    Monitoring Systems: Install air quality monitoring systems to detect and address any deviations from the recommended standards.
    Equipment Placement: Arrange equipment in a way that promotes efficient airflow and minimizes the risk of hotspots.


Guideliness for the Air Quality in some of the Data Center Standards:

AHSRAE Guidelines for Air Quality
The American Society of Heating and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) TC 9.9 is a technical committe within ASHRAE which focuses on data center environments. TC 9.9 recognizes the importance of air quality within the data center. They encourage the monitoring of air quality, and advocate for an effective air quality management plan. In 2011 ASHRAE published a comprehensive guide which details strategies for air filtration, leak detection, and monitoring, titled Particulate and Gaseous Contamination Guidelines for Data Centers

Uptime Institute Tier Levels and Air Quality
In addition to ASHRAE, Uptime Institue have issue specific standards for their different tier level certifications. Tier III and IV requires stricter air quality management than lower tier levels. Higher Tier data centers usually contain higher level, mission critical equipment. Therefore downtime caused by air contaminants can mean vital systems are unavailable. Tier III and IV are required to maintain a filtration rate of 99.9%, which means no more than 0.1% of contaminants can be present in the air.

ISO cleanroom Air Quality Standards
ISO 14644 is a standard for air quality in clean rooms. Data Centers who wish to aim for the highest level of indoor air quality may choose to adopt ISO 14644 classes, which range from Class 1 to 9. The lower the class number the higher the air quality. Below are some highlights of the different classes.
• ISO Class 1 does not have any particles greater than 0.2 microns in size.
• ISO Class 2 does not have any particles greater than 0.5 microns in size.
• ISO Classes 3 and 4 do not have any particles greater than 1 micron in size. ISO Class 3 has fewer than 8 particles 1 micron in size, while    ISO Class 4 has fewer than 83 particles 1 micron in size.
• ISO Class 5 does not have any more than 29 particles 5 microns in size.