Data Center | May 13, 2019

Don’t Overlook Data Center Lighting

Data centers are notorious for their inefficient use of energy. At the end of 2017, Forbes reported global data center electricity use to be about 416 terawatts (4.16x 1014 watts) or 3% of the total electricity consumed. This was 40% more than all of the United Kingdom and Forbes expected the consumption to double every four years. Yale’s Environment360 blog states that the world’s largest data centers emit nearly as much CO2 as the airline industry. These alarming figures have prompted the data center industry to take a hard look at energy consumption and facilities are taking action.


Data Center Energy Efficiency Efforts

PUE has collectively dropped over the last 10 years. Most data centers understand the need for hot aisle/cold aisle configuration, some attempt at airflow management, why CRAC units are overworked and the importance of containment. Despite these efforts, we still uncover gaps in facility energy strategy.

While a comprehensive approach is typically the right thing – bringing together several energy efficiency solutions (like lighting upgrades, mechanical system retrofits and airflow management) in one big project – we cannot underestimate the power of a solid LED lighting upgrade in a data center facility.

Standard LED Lighting Projects

Typical LED lighting projects start by evaluating the current space, engineering upgraded LED lighting solutions to achieve the right light levels or color temperature required and integrating controls based on occupancy or other perimeters for use. Data centers are no different.

The “game changer” for many data center spaces is occupancy and zoning sensors (besides fixtures that inherently use much less energy) because many data centers only need to be lit when personnel need to access the servers. This is especially relevant for colos whose space may be broken out among multiple clients and again, is only accessed occasionally.

Example Case Study – Data Center LED Lighting

We've worked with colocation facilities to evaluate energy use in multiple sites across the US. For one of our customers in New York, we focused on the lighting:

  • The existing lighting was retrofitted with efficient LEDs and advanced controls
  • Most of the fixtures were upgraded to have wireless networking capabilities
  • They now allow for granular high and low trim light levels
  • The added controls have occupancy and daylight harvesting capabilities
  • The data center manager can now regroup and zone fixtures through a handheld device, allowing much greater lighting system flexibility as customers move around or change over time

The data center facility will save over 200,000 kWh every year at an annual savings over $40,000 and the project pays for itself in less than 1 year.

Although LED lighting may be seen as “low hanging fruit” for data center energy use, it’s one of the simplest ways to upgrade a facility and immediately start seeing results.