Small Cell: The Closet-Sized Data Center

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The 2018 American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) conference was held right here in Chicago in January. 

In recent years ASHRAE has focused on developing and enhancing strategies for energy efficiency in heating and cooling systems.  At the same time, the fastest growing branch of the industry has been in data centers which, with their huge cooling loads and power demand, are energy hogs. 

In fact, they are so energy-intensive that utilities such as ComEd have programs dedicated exclusively to helping data center operators reduce their loads.

In the telecom industry, the ever-growing demand for bandwidth requires more equipment, and yet energy efficiency standards have continued to tighten.  We need to start thinking about our in-builds, shelters, DASes, and any other project requiring HVAC as closet-sized data centers. 

There are many features that data centers and small cells share that differentiate them from others facilities including:

  • Very high sensible load (heat from equipment) but low latent (dehumidification) load
  • Critical infrastructure: requires battery backups and redundant HVAC systems
  • Different temperature and humidity set-points than human comfort, requiring specialized equipment
  • Continuous load: unlike workers in occupied spaces, the equipment doesn’t punch out and go home at night.
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Because of these similarities, many of the techniques used to measure performance and energy savings of data centers can be applied to the small cell world.

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