Free Air Cooling and economization are growing in popularity. We’ve seen a growing trend among our clients that have already started or are considering using Free Air Cooling as an alternative. It is an attractive option to reduce carbon footprint and energy consumption and lower operating costs.
There are many details to consider to have a smoothly running operation. We have observed several issues regarding the existing FAC units, ranging from the type of fans to the control system, how these systems are initially installed, how they interact, as well as the operations and engineering teams. This has led many organizations to rethink economization and have second thoughts about whether this could help reduce operating costs and meet their carbon reduction targets.
Many of these poorly designed systems tend to quit, especially in winter and cold environments, making the overall implementation quite unattractive. Another issue discovered was that customers spent a lot more time on filter replacements and dealt with frequent alarms.
PLC has worked with multiple telecom carriers in Canada, as well as globally, and has been continuously evolving its FAC and economization techniques.
Our solution is a combination of:
- A selection of the correct FAC units such as split Free Air Cooling or package Free Air Cooling
- Implementing the proper control systems
- Using artificial intelligence to analyze and predict different scenarios and make adjustments as time passes by
At the PLC group, we have conducted trials with multiple carriers over the last three to four years to identify the appropriate solution for Canada’s broad geographical span.
Seasonality is another contributor to systems performance or malfunction. For example, there is a higher risk of filter clogging near construction sites or railway tracks, resulting in a significantly reduced filter life span.
PLC Group has partnered with AIRSYS for their significant global experience in ICT cooling. One of their systems’ key advantages is the variety of free cooling systems covering a broad spectrum for different conditions and applications.
AIRSYS also offers combination units with heating and air conditioning options with high sensible cooling and inverter compressors. We work with our customers to conduct various trials and hence identified the rightsizing of the unit. The control system developed by PLC has been improved over time, providing dynamic set points with filter life prediction, filter save mode, and site-specific adjustments.
Another issue identified by the PLC Group’s analysts was that many of our customers were only focused on using the Free Air Cooling while not paying attention to the heat loss at the site. The drawback was higher energy bills in winter times due to significant heater usage.
To tackle this issue, PLC has developed various algorithms for heat re-circulation to minimize heat loss.
Even though most of these deployments are for smaller sites such as shelters, many of our customers have started using it for large cable head-ends and central offices.
Another advantage has been maximizing the use of FAC, while minimizing the need for conventional mechanical cooling that has contributed to reducing the energy and maintenance costs, as well as the impact on the environment.
We have also provided augmented control systems to our customers that seamlessly integrate with their economization and maximize the ROI.
To reach the best results, we use various techniques, including the rightsizing of the unit from AIRSYS, such as package Free Cooling or Split Free Cooling. As mentioned above, we use the PLC state-of-the-art control systems and AI techniques to maximize the filter life.
We use differential air pressure switches that provide the filter’s clogged percentage instead of the conventional non-intelligent buzzer alarm that goes off when the filter is clogged. This helps with better planning of the maintenance visits.
We also use an air filter protection device from AIRSYS to temporarily stop the Free Cooling/economization and reverts to mechanical cooling if available. This can significantly enhance the filter life by many folds. Our data analysis team continuously looks at the data and creates the algorithms to maximize benefits to the customer.
At least three of our large customers with thousands of telecom sites around the country have now deployed these systems. As a result, they are benefiting from energy reduction of at least 25% on average. The maintenance costs are significantly lower as our solution requires far fewer trips to replace filters and other costs associated with maintenance-related issues. Many of our customers have now taken advantage of the government-backed programs that recognize and provide financial support and rebates for reducing their carbon footprint.
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