Using Data Centers as a Heating Source

by Sean Shado    |   

Researchers have raised questions about how to make data centers more efficient. More specifically, scientists have posed the question: “What can data centers do with wasted heat?” Studies conducted at Villanova University show that data centers are responsible for using 2% of the total amount of electricity generated.  Ed Turkel from HP speculates that if data center power usage worldwide were represented by a single number, that number would constitute the fifth largest power consuming entity on the globe.

Analysts have chastised the traditional methods of cooling down data centers. Using fans and refrigerants can constitute up to 50% of the total power usage by data centers. A popular idea among city planners and data center architects is to displace the heat in efforts to redistribute it to other entities that may need the heat. This allows organizations located near the data center to enjoy a cheaper method of warming up their facility without having to turn on their own independent heating systems.

The city of Seattle already has a plan to reuse data center heat. In fact, Seattle has already begun building pipes that remove the water that the data center uses to cool its equipment. Other cities such as Munich and Vancouver also have plans to use heat generated from data centers.

This method of recycling heat generated by data centers is starting to come out of the fringe and become more main stream. Telecity’s data center in Paris already uses this technology to heat an on-site Climate Change Arboretum. In Switzerland, IBM recycles their excess data center heat by diverting it to the nearby Uitikon center. The Uitikon center takes the heat and disperses it to their swimming pool. IBM also mentions that the heat from the data center could be used to heat the equivalent of 80 homes.

IBM representative Elisabeth Stahl mentions, “Through adopting this final level of the IT energy efficiency hierarchy, we can build a scalable, flexible, and green data center that is dynamic in its infrastructure.” Stahl continues on by saying, “Through this ‘self-actualization’ we can potentially save on energy costs; as a producer we might also even be able to make money as well.”

Water cooling data center equipment seems to be the best way to move heat from the data center into a controlled environment. Advances in water cooling technology will only benefit the end goal of administrators using data centers as a heating source.

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Sean Shado

Sean Shado