Economizers Offer Customers “Free” Cooling – and Present a Big Opportunity for Partners

One of my colleagues at Schneider Electric, John Tuccillo, is also chairman of the board and president of The Green Grid, an organization that’s all about increasing data center efficiency. The organization does lots of good work and produces some helpful information, including a recent survey on economizers.

Economizers are air conditioning systems that take advantage of outside air to help cool a data center, in the process using less power to operate traditional cooling systems. They present a real opportunity for channel partners who can successfully educate customers about how the systems can reduce their data center electric bills, providing rapid ROI.

That’s where the survey comes in. The Green Grid surveyed 115 facilities and IT folks about their use of economizers. I believe our channel partners can use what they found out to help build a strong case for economizers.

On average, those respondents who use economizers have seen a 20% decrease in energy costs since deploying them, along with a 7% decrease in maintenance costs. For some, the savings are far greater, with 7% reporting energy cost reductions of 50% or more and 21% saying costs have dropped between 25% and 49%. That translates to big money.

The 7% decrease in maintenance costs is interesting, and perhaps non-intuitive. But the reason economizers decrease maintenance costs is pretty simple: if you’re not using your traditional air conditioning units as much, and not working them so hard when you do, they don’t wear out as fast and need fewer repairs.

Given the savings they’re getting, it shouldn’t be too surprising that customers are pretty happy with their economizers. The respondents were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with various aspects of their economizers on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best. They were most happy with the reliability of their systems, with an average score of 8.38, while financial savings came in second at 7.69.  Users were also quite satisfied with the coordination between their economizers and mechanical cooling systems (7.62), maintenance costs (7.55) and their actual usage time (7.46).  Nearly 75% of respondents said they’d be very likely to recommend their economizer to others.

But there’s more good news. While the conventional wisdom used to be that economizers would only work in cooler climates, that’s no longer the case. For one, ASHRAE recently revised its guidelines for the temperatures at which data center equipment can operate, edging the high end temperatures up a few degrees. And, taking the revised guidelines into account, The Green Grid recently published new maps showing how many hours you can expect to use economizers depending on where your data center is located.

The upshot is most data centers can use economizers most of the time, in many cases upwards of 95% of the time. Even in Las Vegas, which you’ll recall is in the middle of the Nevada desert, Schneider Electric has a customer using economizers to great effect.

To learn more, check out The Green Grid white paper 41, “Survey Results: Data Center Economizer Use.” I think it’ll help you build a solid business case with customers for why they should consider an economizer system. Another great resource is APC by Schneider Electric white paper 136, “High Efficiency Economizer-based Cooling Modules for Large Data Centers,” which gets into the pros and cons of different types of economizers. There’s a real opportunity here for partners who understand the benefits of economizers and can explain them to customers.

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