3 Drawbacks to Using a Split System AC to Cool Office Data Centers

Split system air conditioners are not always the best option for office data centers because they are expensive, extensive to install, and often prohibited by lease agreements.

What is a Split System AC?

A split air conditioner includes two main components: an outdoor unit and an indoor unit—both of which must be interconnected through a series of pipes. The outdoor unit is placed near an exterior wall of the room/space the indoor unit is tasked with cooling. The outdoor unit is made up of a compressor, condenser coil, and expansion coil.

A split air conditioner requires less installation than a central HVAC system. Plus, split systems are quiet, efficient, and can be cost effective for certain applications. Still, they are often too complicated or impractical for office data centers for several reasons.

Your Lease May Prohibit It

If you lease your space, check the rental agreement before deciding on a split system to cool your data center. Many leases prohibit the installation of split precision-cooling systems and mini-split systems. The reason is because its rather invasive to install a system like this and involves running copper connecting pipes through the roof or an outer wall. 

While self-contained precision-cooling systems do not require external piping, they do include other invasive installation work, hence why they too are often written out of commercial leases.

Split Systems Can Be Expensive

The lengthy installation process includes sweating and brazing to attach pipes. Additionally, units are charged with refrigeration—adding even more costs. Self-contained precision-cooling systems do not need the same external piping, which makes them more cost effective (and less complicated) to install. But, they are pricier to purchase and often cost prohibitive. 

Specific Installation Requirements

Split systems require a separate condensing unit that must be installed outside the building. You’ll need a suitable location for this, as well as the appropriate weather-proof housing. Mini-splits are often the most complicated because of the difference in height, as well as the gap distance, between the outdoor condensing unit and the indoor evaporator, which cannot be too far.

This is a particularly pressing problem for high-rise buildings. Low-rise buildings may face similar issues if the data center room is on the opposite side of the building from where the condensing unit must be housed. Or, if the refrigerant piping must be installed over the wall. Many split systems don’t have enough power to pump adequate refrigerant to the appropriate height or distance.

So, even in some cases when budget and lease agreements allow for a split system, mechanics and space do not.

The Solution? Portable Spot Air Conditioners or Spot Coolers

Portable spot air conditioners offer a similar solution, albeit more cost effective and convenient. Plus, they are allowed in just about any leased space. Self-contained units are portable, but don’t doubt their ability to keep up with industrial and commercial demands. There are heavy-duty spot coolers made for around-the-clock use. In fact, some have a mean time between failures that is arguably longer than a comparable non-portable, fixed system.

There are two main types of spot coolers: air-cooled and water-cooled units. Water-cooled spot coolers earn points for greater efficiency, but they require high-power waterlines which come with additional installation concerns and the risk for leaks. They are often considered high-risk for IT equipment rooms. In which case, an air-cooled air conditioner may make a more reliable solution.

Portable spot coolers prevent equipment from overheating without having to run central AC through the entire building 24/7. In fact, some portable spot coolers are more durable than permanent systems.

Benefits of portable air conditioners:

  • Affordable (rent or buy)
  • Little to no installation—simply roll the unit in, and remove a panel from the ceiling to position the exhaust duct appropriately
  • Portable, quick and easy to move as needed—change location as needed to accommodate new developing hot spots, equipment changes, etc.
  • Safety and convenience features available

Rent water-cooled or air-cooled spot coolers from Cooling Power! Learn more