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Free cooling for telecoms and data centres in challenging conditions

5 min read
Insights Air Maze Greenland

Data centres and telecoms shelters are reliant on an optimum temperature to reduce the risk of costly equipment outages. In this article you’ll discover why free cooling has become the most effective solution in terms of both effectiveness and energy efficiency. You’ll also learn how our AirMaze solutions make free cooling possible in some of the planet's harshest environments.

What is free cooling?

Free cooling is a method of lowering the temperature inside a building by using cooler fresh air from outside. Unlike mechanical cooling methods, such as air conditioning, free cooling doesn’t require a compressor or refrigerant technology. This is a simpler, more easily maintained and energy-efficient way to cool data centres, telecoms facilities and other buildings or shelters housing technical equipment.

Types of free cooling technology

Turbulent free cooling

The preferred choice for larger buildings or shelters that house more technical equipment with a greater heat load, turbulent free cooling circulates cool outside air throughout a space. This delivers the same amount of cooling to every corner of a room before it is extracted.

Displacement free cooling

Quieter and more energy-efficient than turbulent free cooling, displacement free cooling is more appropriate for smaller facilities. Because these units operate with low airflow and low fan speeds, and concentrate the volume that is cooled, the energy consumption is considerably lower than turbulent free cooling.

Because of its significant cost savings through energy efficiency, an increasing number of data and telecoms shelter manufacturers are designing their buildings to fit the specifications of displacement free cooling units.

How do telecoms facilities and data centres benefit from free cooling?

These types of facilities already have significant energy consumption from powerful servers and electronic equipment. Even small improvements in energy efficiency can result in huge savings in running costs over time.

Because of the relatively simple principles, easy installation and no need for intricate ducting systems, free cooling offers exceptional reliability with relatively low maintenance.

An outage is a costly problem that is commonly the result of overheating. If there is an outage in a data or telecoms facility, it is a race against time to get equipment working again. The longer servers are offline, or essential electronics are failing, the more expensive the damage – both financially and in terms of customer loyalty.

How can they protect their free cooling units in remote locations

While free cooling units are incredibly easy to install and set up, data and telecoms facilities operating in far-flung corners of the globe will likely have extreme climates and harsh weather conditions to take into account.

Subjected to rain, wind, snow, ice and sand, free cooling units need to be protected. It is also important that these outside elements are not introduced to the facility through vents in the free cooling unit and damage servers or electrical equipment.

Designed specifically for this purpose, Dantherm’s AirMaze panel solutions protect the air path clogging with wind-driven sand, rain, snow, leaves and even nest-building animals in the most extreme regions of the world.

Operating in climates that could not be further apart, the two customer stories below are great examples of the extremities in which AirMaze panelling can operate effectively.

Tele Greenland, Cape Farewell

To reach our clients at Tele Greenland, a Dantherm Flexibox free cooling unit, fitted with our AirMaze panel, undertook a two-day journey by Airbus, Dash 8 and helicopter before arriving in Cape Farwell – one of the most extreme locations for weather and climate in Greenland.

“Our cooling equipment is often installed at remote locations with extreme temperatures and dramatic weather. We therefore need to deliver solutions that perform in every relevant aspect. This includes withstanding the many shifts and alternative means of transportation that are often required."
Tobias Netz, Dantherm Group

To protect the free cooling unit from the extreme weather conditions that are a common occurrence in Cape Farewell, the AirMaze was the first choice for TELE Greenland.

"We chose to add the AirMaze to protect our installation from rain and snow. It has the added advantage that we don’t need to change the filter as often as we used to. Service and maintenance are both time-consuming and expensive out here.”
Bo Christensen, Project Manager at TELE Greenland

Etisalat Group, Dubai

Free cooling might be the last type of solution you’d think of installing in a location that is notorious for extremely hot temperatures and a high level of sand in the air. However, only a slight fall below the ambient temperature is needed for free cooling to be affected. In this case, Etisalat Group combined free cooling with their air conditioning set up. This means that their energy-efficient Flexibox unit would take over energy-intensive mechanical cooling whenever the ambient temperature was below the temperature inside the facility. Even in the scorching climate, the total annual savings using this method amounted to a massive 49%.

“We were surprised to see savings even during the hottest months of the year. With these results, we will have ROI in less than 2 years. We strongly recommend this solution and plan to use Dantherm Free Cooling for our sites in the region.”
Mr Salem Al Mannaei, VP/Infrastructure Management at Etisalat Group

For this site, the AirMaze Panel was used for both air intake and outlet, trapping coarse-grained sand before it gets to the filter, where the finer-grained sand will be caught.

This solution was put to the ultimate test in 2015 when a major sandstorm hit Dubai. Despite the storm lasting just over two days, the shelter was kept sand-free and maintained full operation.

The shelter survived the sandstorm very well. The shelter inside was kept clean - not even fine dust entered.”
Mr Khalid Ginawi, Engineer at Etisalat Group

For more on the benefits of free cooling for telecoms, data centres or other facilities housing delicate electrical equipment, and to learn more about Dantherm’s AirMaze solutions, contact our team using the form below.

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