The hidden challenge of humidity

The hidden challenge of humidity

One of the hidden challenges facing the global data centre industry is rising humidity levels, according to a recent report launched by temporary moisture and temperature control specialists Aggreko.

In January, extreme weather was witnessed across the globe, creating a number of challenges for data centres. From flooding in Asia to heavy snowfall in Europe, these patterns have highlighted a new risk for facilities across the world. According to Aggreko, in addition to the more immediate power disruption impact brought on by such severe weather conditions, rising humidity and long-lasting damage caused by moisture should be a key concern.

Outlined in a report – The Hidden Cost of Humidity on Site – the challenge facing data centres is how the drying process takes place, following a period of flooding or heavy snowfall.  According to the report, poorly managed moisture control can result in persistent damp and warping of materials, which can lead to long-term damage within a data centre.

Humidity levels are also a concern in the summer months, and figures outlined in the report indicates that many data centre ‘hot spots’ are particularly prone to high levels of humidity. Among the areas to have a higher average humidity level than the recommended relative levels include Dublin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and Helsinki.

In addition to issues encountered on construction sites, moisture, in the form of water vapour, can find its way into the smallest areas and spaces of any components. This in turn can leave corrosive deposits behind that continue to cause damage after drying. Aggreko is advising all data centre facilities – both in situ and those being contracted – to have an effective system in place to remove the moisture from the air.

Ryan Stanley, moisture control specialist at Aggreko, explains: “Moisture build-up is an inevitable outcome of extreme weather patterns and its correct removal is a serious challenge for data centres. Unfortunately, not all teams are making the necessary considerations to remove moisture from sites entirely, with common mistakes prevalent. 

“For many, the immediate reaction to rising humidity is to use dryers to remove the problem. However, while the issue may appear to be resolved, drying doesn’t always remove moisture from the atmosphere and can actually cause long-term damage, impacting the lifespan of a data centre.”

The report sets out a three-step approach to managing humidity effectively, which includes a combination of heating a site, circulating the air and removing with dehumidifiers.

Ryan added: “The process of removing moisture effectively is extremely sensitive and time must be taken to ensure it is managed properly. We would advise data centre operators – and those working on construction sites – to ensure the right approach is taken to avoid future problems.”

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