By their nature, data centers are very dependent on electricity. These technology havens need kilowatts that may run into billions of hours. In 2020, data centers will use 140 billion kWh in a year. This will siphon over $13 billion from the pockets of American business owners.
While this is a considerable amount, lighting by itself eats 5% of the electricity used by a data center. And while it is a small quantity, efficiency in lighting can help data center owners to save on energy costs. Boosting energy efficiency through light sources also reduces other expenses associated with lighting. Maintenance of light sources with short life spans, for example, may cost a data center a lot of cash.
LED data center lighting lasts longer and creates better work environments for staff. The efficient light sources benefit the technology housed in the center. They are safer and friendly to electrical components.
How to Make a Data Center Lighting System Efficient
1. Install a Lighting System That Allows for Precise Light Usage
In many a data center, the spaces are often expansive areas to light. Technicians may be in and out without turning off the lights. They may leave the lights on because they think that there is another person in another section of the room.
Data centers want fantastic Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE) levels. The Telecommunication Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers recommends LED data center lights. Changing out the older light bulbs makes the center more energy-efficient. But in this situation, introduce innovative light control features. This ensures large spaces use the least light with the highest lighting efficiency.
Two examples of high PUE are the North Carolina and Oregon Facebook data centers. These data centers have intelligent and networked LED light systems. This cuts down light usage by up to 70% compared to traditional fluorescent light systems.
The LEDs are better at usage efficiency, they pair with intelligent lighting controls. They check the occupancy of a room and its temperature as well. The system optimizes the lights for efficiency, dimming them when necessary.
Motion sensors placed in each fixture light spots where a technician is. The system's central application turns the lights on and determines the intensity. Spot lighting is, thus, a perfect example of efficient, economic lighting.
2. Use Energy-Efficient Light Fixtures
Data centers, like other commercial spaces, relied on fluorescent lighting technology. But fluorescent bulbs are inefficient. They waste resources and time compared to LED data center lighting. Compared to fluorescent bulbs, LEDs use 40% to 80% less electricity.
A leading infrastructure adopted LEDs by retrofitting and cut energy by 65% per year. 6,000 LED tubes installed at two of its data centers in New York, replacing the older T12 fluorescent tubes.
The new lighting system provides lighting efficiency, better light output, and longevity. LED lights will last three times longer than fluorescent bulbs, cutting down costs.
3. Use Light Fixtures with Longevity
Today's fluorescent tubes have special features like dimmable ballasts. But they still have drawbacks that make them less preferable than LED lights. No matter the advancements in fluorescent tubes, they will diminish.
In the spotlight design, lamps have to withstand twice the switching compared to conventional lighting. The older lights switch on and off according to when technicians are in and out of the data center.
The diminished life problem brings about another issue. Maintenance costs data centers vast amounts of money. A fluorescent tube generally lasts approximately 6000-7000 hours. They're affected by multiple starts. Data centers with fluorescent tubes have hundreds of them. So once they start to fail, maintenance becomes a costly, continuous procedure.
Also, once these tubes get replaced, they can’t go into trash. They have toxic mercury in them, so the disposal process is complex. The seperate disposal prevents environmental degradation from mercury contamination. If the maintenance crew breaks a tube, the toxic substance could leak out and affect the workers.
LEDs do not experience burnout or decreased light output. Unlike fluorescent bulbs whose light levels decrease rapid due to wear and tear. To ensure that a data center with fluorescents stays operational and safe, the maintenance staff has to relamp.
LED lights, however, are built to last. The construction is robust. The materials used to make them preserve not only their lamp life but their light quality as well.
LEDs do not have fragile, delicate parts like fluorescent or HID bulbs do. They have strong and durable components that don’t break. What’s more, these materials are 100% recyclable. The lights do not contain hazardous mercury, so they do not need a special disposal process.
LED data center lighting lasts a decade, providing high-quality light without burning out. The lights have a life expectancy of up to 100,000 hours. This beats out fluorescent tubes and HID lamps by at least five times.
Fluorescent tubes begin to lose the light quality quarter-way into their lifespan. They lose most of their useful light as they age. LEDs have a high lumen maintenance percentage (70%). This means your data center will have fewer maintenance costs in relamping.
4. Use Lighting Technology with the Least Heat Output
The Telecommunication Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers recommends the use of LED lights. In these environments LEDs are 100% dimmable, use less electricity, and emit less heat.
While lighting utilizes a small fraction of the energy in a data center, it does impact cooling costs. In data centers, HVAC systems use 25-40% of the energy. The electricity used by cooling systems in a data center is second to the data center core equipment.
The high amount of electricity used by HVAC systems presents a fantastic energy-saving opportunity. Fluorescent bulbs emit 90% more BTUs of heat per hour compared to LEDs. A data center needs a HVAC system – whether the lights are on or off – to get rid of the heat generated by the machines. The other role is to counteract heat emitted by light bulbs which are often left on for safety purposes.
LED lights might initially cost more to install. But they have design advantages that help reduce a center's HVAC heat load. For one, they are 100% dimmable. The amount of energy they use reduces or varies depending on need. This works out for HVAC loads. For instance, if your light fixtures cut down energy use by three watts, they will cut down one watt off the HVAC load.
Energy-Saving Lighting Solutions for Data Centers
A multitude of data centers have lighting systems that ensure light is on demand. Another thing that requires continuous light is the center's video surveillance system.
Most surveillance systems rely on video with enough light to work optimal. In fact, the better the light quality, the better the activity. These cameras do not need massive amounts of light to operate optimal.
It is possible to dim light to 20% of its capacity and still provide enough light to surveillance systems. The light can then adjust to full intensity when there is human activity in the data center. LEDs boast a wide dimming range and their lighting mechanism is not affected by dimming.
Dimming with LED in Data Centers
Make sure your fixture is equipped to dim. Not all LED fixtures are dimmable, and need a 0-10V dimmable driver. Smaller bulbs, like LED Pars, use a triac dimming system that work with compatible wall mounted dimmer switches.
Use White on Surfaces
The typical data center has endless rows of black equipment, black cabinets, and a lot of cabling. For years, data center equipment designers utilized black for equipment and racks. But it’s now emerging that the use of white on the surfaces in a data center can help save energy.
In a data center where lights are dimmed and turned off to cut energy, black surfaces can be a visual challenge. With lights low in intensity, the dark equipment becomes hard to view. To prevent this, most centers place auxiliary lights in the cabinets. Others install angled light fixtures in the equipment rooms to end this problem.
There are instances where special lighting might not make everything visible. Technicians can use headlamps or flashlights when tending to machines. The white data center design is on the rise as it helps organizations to save a little more energy.
If a data center has 5500 square feet and uses ~475kW of electricity for its IT equipment, how can it reduce its load by 30%? A load reduction of this size would signal a 5% total reduction in light usage in the data center.
Doing this without impacting the technicians, use white equipment with white cables that reflect light. Rather than absorb it as black does – this can make a huge difference. White cabinets also makes the room look spacious, brighter, and more visible. Meaning that you will need less light than you would in a black room to see.
Dark walls absorb higher quantities of light; so it is more meaningful to give the walls a lighter color. The ceiling should also have a bright color for better reflectance. When buying wall paint, a manufacturer will highlight the Light Reflectance Values.
White paints, of course, have the highest LRV, as high as 80%, while black paints have the lowest, at 5%. Paint colors with high LRVs ensure less light is needed in the space from artificial light. The Light Reflectance Values of 80% in white color can help save up to 30% in lighting costs.
White cabinets absorb less light. Rooms appear brighter and create contrast for the black colored technology in them. This assists the techs to see better without flashlights that may hamper accessibility. Human errors reduce, making the technicians more efficient.
Advantages of White Surfaces in a Data Center
- Energy efficiency thanks to white surfaces’ capability at reflecting 80% of light. This will help save up to 30% of the energy spent on lighting in a data center.
- Neutral colored surfaces increase visibility. In dimmed light the technicians do not have visibility problems. Since white makes other colors more visible, the staff can see dark apparatus inside the white racks.
- Technicians will have an easier time during equipment installation. The maintenance crew also has an easier time working on panels, fans, and servers in light colors.
- The data center will have a fresh look that will make it unique in a sea of data centers utilizing dark equipment.
Creation of Light Zones
It is crucial to put in place a lighting design that considers the light usage needs of the data center. For instance, technicians working with machines need more light levels than surveillance cameras. Light fixtures in a data center should also be placed between cabinets and above the aisles.
There are three general lighting levels for data centers:
- Level 1: Unoccupied Zones
These are areas where surveillance cameras are placed. They do not need intense, bright lights. Dimmable LED data center lights can install to ensure that the cameras work.
- Level 2: Entry Zones into the Data Center
The light levels should be enough so technicians move in and out of a safe space. Entry points need motion sensors that activate the light closest to the person entering, lighting up aisles. Zone 2 lighting should enable safe movement through the center. Also enhance identification through surveillance cameras.
- Level 3: Occupied zones
These zones should have enough light to ensure their maintenance is carried out smoothly. The horizontal plane's light levels should be 500 lux, while those of the vertical plane should be 200 lux. These levels should apply for data centers measuring 1 meter above a finished floor.
A study conducted by The American Society of Interior Designers revealed that over 68% of employees dislike the lighting in their workplaces. The dislike, the society found out, was not a matter of personal taste but ergonomics. Light is actually the cornerstone of ergonomics, and is overlooked.
In the past, data centers used green or blue fluorescent lights in dark-colored rooms with black walls, cabinets, and ceilings. But these lights affected the morale of the staff. Forcing frustrated workers to bring their own task lights to enhance visual accuracy. And the ambiance as well.
Insufficient light is also a big problem like causing the techs eye strain. These health problems such as headaches turn to fatigue, leading to lowproductivity. Dim lights also cause a lack of focus and drowsiness.
So, bright light, the standard in most workplaces, causes eye strain and migraines. It is usually caused by fluorescent tubes installed in large numbers to cut dark spots. Poor lit or over-illuminated spaces can affect cortisol levels. Resulting in stress and an inability to balance and stabilize energy levels.
Natural light is the best deterrent for these effects brought on by imbalanced artificial light. It can boost technicians’ mood, hormonal balance, and energy levels. This means that there will be fewer illnesses and absenteeism will reduce. Many data centers, by design, do not have enough natural light. So there's a burden on the light designers to create an optimal lighting system.
The fixtures in a data center needs to provide light that doesn’t glare and controlls by dimmer switches. Dimmers combined with LED data center lighting fixtures produce daylight-quality light, are perfect.
Task lights can be used on desks when overhead lights are dim, increasing energy savings. The beauty of task lights is they combine minimalist looks and energy efficiency in one.
Color temperature is not only an aesthetic choice. It also creates a healthy and comfortable work environment for data center technicians. The color temperature of a light fixture will impact not only the mood but the space’s emotional nature. It is an indication of the light's appearance to the human eye.
CCT is measured in Kelvin (K), and low color temperatures of around 2700K are yellowish. The yellow light decreases as the color temperature rises towards the 3500K mark. A high color temperature, 5000K and above, has a blue-white appearance. Higher Kelvin color temperatures are labeled cool while lower CCTs are labeled warm. The color of the light is usually a telltale sign of its temperature.
Color Temperatures for Different Applications
2300K - 2700K
Light with a yellow hue is often in residential, hospitality, and restaurant applications. It helps create a warm, cozy atmosphere.
3000K - 4000K
This color temperature range is often in libraries, offices, data centers, and retail stores. It has a productive and business aspect to it. The color temperatures are also perfect for areas where there's detailed tasks.
This color temperature may come off as intense. It's used in warehouses, manufacturing, and industrial applications. It helps the employees in these areas to focus on intricate details. Cool white light has a clean aesthetic and is best for tasks that need visual correctness.
Choosing the proper color temperature for your data center
Choose either 4000K or 5000K for interior spaces. 4000K is a slightly warmer, less white light and good for indoor spaces.
Color Temperatures for Data Center Functions
Ambient light color temperatures
Warm color temperatures are preferable for setting a cozy atmosphere. These are color temperatures between 2700K and 3000K. With different types of ambient light fixtures installed like cove and downlights, ensure both are the same color temperature for a harmonious feel. For data centers with white reflective surfaces, color temperatures of 3500K to 4000K are better suited. They accentuate light surfaces. The neutral white color temperatures also have an energizing and mood-lifting effect.
Task light color temperatures
Task lighting adds more light to enable the carrying out of visual tasks. This should help create better contrast and should be between 3500K and 5000k. Task lighting fixtures should also have a high color rendering index value of at least 90. LED data center lighting has high CRI values and is perfect for this purpose.