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Product Insight

Mind the Gap – The importance of gap-free data center containment door systems

By Subzero Engineering CEO, Larry Mainers

We need a “Mind the gap” philosophy in airflow management, especially containment doors.

No visit to London England is complete without seeing the London Underground, or as it is affectionately called “The Tube”. The tube connects the greater part of London with 270 stations. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to get around London town.

In 1969 an audible and/or visual warning system was added to prevent passengers’ feet from getting stuck between the platform and the moving train. The phrase “Mind the gap” was coined and has become associated with the London Underground ever since.

“Mind the gap” had been imitated all over the world. You will find versions of it in France, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Delhi, Greece, Sweden, Seattle, Brazil, Portugal, New York, Sydney, Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, and Japan.

It is my hope that this phrase can be embraced by the data center industry. Gaps in airflow management and especially when containment is deployed are an easy way to lose both energy and overall cooling effectiveness. We need a “Mind the gap” philosophy in airflow management, especially containment doors. Why doors? Because of the door’s moving parts it is less expensive for manufacturers to leave a gap then to have a door that fully seals. Data center managers who “Mind the gap” should insist on door systems that don’t leak.

Just how important is it to “Mind the gap” in your data center containment system? One way to see the importance of eliminating gaps is to take a look around your own house. How many acceptable gaps do you have around your windows? Do you conclude that since the window is keeping most of the conditioned air inside that a few gaps around the windows will not matter much? I doubt it. The fact is, utility companies have been known to provide rebates for the use of weather stripping to ensure a ll gaps are filled. Gaps equal waste. Over time any waste, no matter how small, ends up being substantial.

Gaps become an even more important area to fill when you consider that most contained aisles are under positive pressure. Positive pressure can increase the leakage fourfold. A cold aisle that is oversupplied should move air through IT equipment and not aisle end doors.

It’s important that we all “Mind the gap” in our data center containment doors. In this way we both individually and collectively save an enormous amount of energy, just as the world’s mass transit systems, like ‘The Tube’, do for us each and every day.