The Goldilocks of Humidity: How Humid Can a Data Center Be?

IT Technicians inside Data Center in San DiegoRoom temperature is often the biggest concern when establishing a data center. After all, hardware frying itself because of poor cooling systems is a common occurrence. There is, however, another, bigger threat in the air: data center humidity levels.

The right level of humidity is an especially tricky metric. It’s a measure of air quality affected by temperature and a host of other factors. So, what is the perfect humidity for a data center? More importantly, how do you achieve it? Would you need a reliable dehumidifier installation for your server set up, for instance?

The Perfect Humidity

Achieving the perfect humidity level is difficult, simply because no single acceptable level exists. In fact, humidity over the entire area of a data center is hard to measure, much less control. Furthermore, ventilation in many centers separate hot and cold airflow. Water moisture varies between both paths. Pressure and, to a greater degree, temperature directly affects humidity.

Guidelines Exist… But they’re not Achievable for Everyone

A great guideline for server engineers would be the suggested values of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The 2011 standards suggest relative humidity as an effective measure when coupled with dew point. The dew point is an even more complicated measure. It combines several indoor environmental factors, such as pressure, humidity, and temperature, to show at which point air moisture turns into water droplets.

Monitoring is not as Easy

Varying temperatures across the server room makes humidity harder to measure. This makes ASHRAE’s standards harder to follow. In addition, air pressure is also beyond most data centers’ control.

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A Little Humidity is Essential

Although too much moisture is harmful to hardware, the absence of humidity can be just as damaging. Humidity in the air, after all, is crucial in diffusing electrostatic charges. Without it, sensitive electronics will generate sparks and damage the equipment.

No Single Solution

Humidity, especially in average conditions, does not present itself as a big problem for server centers. Nonetheless, it could cause major hardware failures. The best way to approach the humidity problem is through a custom solution. Because of unique surroundings, different data centers will face different humidity problems. While guidelines give engineers a range to work with, they will only find the perfect climate while on the job.