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    What's Your Battery Room Spill Plan?

    When is the last time you thought about the plumbing in your data center?  Likely, it is not often, but for your battery rooms it can be vitally important.  From day to day, most lead-acid batteries are stable, but a spill management plan can address the many safety, health, and environmental concerns long before trouble arises. 

    For an owner/operator to address a battery room's requirements, the spill management plan should address the hazards for each room specifically.  There should be a control area to contain an acid (electrolyte) spill and that area should not be part of any egress, especially not blocking an emergency exit.  The controlled area will likely have a barrier that can handle the physical stress of day-to-day access to the batteries as well as the chemical attack from a leak or spill.  Next there should be the means to neutralize the electrolyte, which can be done with absorption or through a neutralization system.  Lastly, the area will need to be cleaned, but this should be done very carefully for all of the same safety, health, and environmental reasons. 

    There are a few things to look for after a spill event.  If there is concrete that was exposed to the acid for a prolonged period, the structural supporting steel (rebar) within the concrete could have been attacked by the acid after it worked its way through the pores of the concrete.  While this is generally mild at the beginning, it can create a prolonged exposure of the steel that will degrade over time.  Multiple spills will compound this problem. 

    With a drain system, the acid will react with the metal pipe, with one of the products released being hydrogen.  Since the reaction is exothermic (releases heat), for a large spill there is the concern of trapped hydrogen igniting before it reaches any downstream neutralization pit or tank.  This can be addressed by keeping that tank or pit close to the source to prevent a long pipe from holding a lot of acid for a long period. 

    Environmentally, we want to make sure that a plumbing neutralization pit or tank can handle the acid spill and that the resulting waste will be acceptable in the sanitary system.  Sometimes marble chips can be used in a tank, but the concern is that the reaction with the acid will form a film that will prevent further neutralization and the acid will continue untreated.  The fumes from the acid reacting with the normal sanitary system should be dealt with by the sanitary vents; however the gases released are terrible for air quality and can be hazardous for anyone near the vent outlets until the acid is neutralized. 


    Water Mist or Gaseous Suppression?

    For data center fire suppression, this can be a tricky issue.  Which is more dangerous?  Which might hurt my IT equipment? 

    Having either system is not dangerous, and is much more desireable than no protection.  In this comparison, both are assumed to be 'dry' pipe systems, and therefore not a threat to IT equipment due to the most prevalent IT risk - human error.  Upon activation, a gaseous system will not damage equipment, and some owners will choose gas based on this factor alone.  A water mist system is not a threat unless the mist system is activated for a prolonged period, at which the micro drops of water begin to collect and become actual water droplets.  Actually, the larger water droplets aren't much of a threat either, unless you happen to have your equipment exposed instead of within typical server or blade cases.  These days, tinkering with equipment like that is just not done as much, let alone running with it out of the case for a prolonged period.  In a water mist system, the micro drops are about 25-200 microns, and due to the behavior of water at this small level it will not be conductive to make a short circuit on computer equipment as readily. 

    One of the big factors is also cost.  FM200 and similar systems definitely have an advantage in cost for data centers with less volume, perhaps up to about 2,000 square feet.  But at about 4,000 square feet, the cost advantage begins to weigh much more in favor of a water mist system.  This is because the mist system typically has a pump, no matter the size of the data center, that is included in the cost.  As the size of the data center increases the gaseous suppression system just balloons to match the volume needed. 


    Business law and the regulatory environment

    Over the past year I have learned a lot about business and the messaging components.  I have learned that there is a lot that goes into the process, from raw research to how communications firms translate that information to an informative message.  Having a business unit behind you to do all of this is a great asset, one which I have not had until recently. 

    Since I have been getting some external aid, I have learned much more about why and how to convey information.  There is the important process of presentation that is part of the public relations.  Doing this properly is the means to change, instead of spilling information onto the web and hoping others will grab and learn from it.  So it was with a great amount of trepidation from certain legal entities that the site was stalled, but not dismantled, until now. 

    Once again I hope to share and enlighten through this site.  I seek to empower others with information that can be used to improve facilities and their use of energy.


    Back Online...

    The GDCM is back, and will soon be posting freely to discuss the info you'd like to know more about.  I've learned way more than I would have liked about lawyers, corporations and posturing, but that's not what this site is meant to be about.  Until we get the rest of the kinks worked out here, feel free to track the GDCM twitter posts for the latest industry news. 


    Ice Storage Systems?

    The ASHRAE technical committee Datacom book series makes mention of ice storage for consideration.  While ice storage is useful if you have the up-and-downs that a normal office building has, it has much less application for a data center where load runs much more evenly throughout 24 hours.  The amount of ice stored would amount to the solar & building envelope heat gains, which, for a typical data center, is a small fraction of the overall load. 

    The use of ice storage may end up being a detriment for modern data centers, as the ice storage would require lower temperatures to create the ice.  Unless the ice storage was a separate system this may put critical machines at increased risk of failing.  The ice storage would need to be able to be cut out of the cricital systems operation, which means there is cost of controls and

    Ice storage pushes the chillers harder, which results in a higher kW/ton.  While this happens at night during the utility's off-peak hours, the increase in energy use would wipe out any savings during night time use.  The savings would then need to be derived solely from the day time operation when the ice is melted to reduce loading.  Unless the ice storage system is sufficiently large, the number of chillers operating during the day and night remains the same.  The only difference is the decreased load to the chillers as the ice is melted, and this would need to be examined against the reduction in the kW/ton and the cost during that time.  The extra pump energy should also be considered, and if the ice storage system should have a dedicated pump.  A simple payback/return on investment for a stand-alone ice storage system would likely be long.

    Lastly, how would the ice storage system release it's stored capacity?  It takes a much longer time to create the ice versus how quickly it would be to melt.  While the ice storage system has all night to create a batch of ice, the data center heat load could wipe it out in minutes, if the ice storage could melt fast enough.  Trying to use a trickle flow during the day's hottest hours would be one strategy, but doing so would be difficult to do and actually see the chiller load lowered.  If the ice storage system were immense as compared to the overall load it may work.  However, generating that amount of ice inside of 12 hours of night operation would require more chillers than the original load.