Blanking panels may look fairly basic but they play a vital role in Data Centre cooling optimisation and airflow management best practices. When combined with other airflow management best practices they enable energy efficiency gains to be made at CRAC level that leads to reduced operational expenditure.

Most Data Centres are laid out in a hot-aisle-cold-aisle format where the rear of server cabinets face each other to form the hot aisle. The heat in the hot aisle is generated from the hot exhaust air coming out of the rack mounted IT equipment. This hot air is guided into a ceiling plenum where it is returned to the CRAC units to be cooled and re-delivered to the data centre to supply the front of the server cabinets and cool the equipment.

To get the most efficient performance within the Data Centre it is important to prevent hot air from mixing with the cool air delivered to the front of the server cabinets.

With air looking for the path of least resistance it is important to follow the best practices of the 4R’s of Airflow Management and prevent cold & hot air from mixing. At raised floor level this is achieved through the use of raised floor grommets. In this article we focus on the first step at rack level that prevents hot exhaust air from circulating back to the front of the rack where it can mix with the cold air, causing the air at the front of the rack to rise in temperature and in severe cases cause hot spots.

With server cabinets increasing in size to store more IT equipment, making sure that the space within them is managed correctly will play an important role on their efficiency. Empty rack space between the mounting rails, where there is no IT equipment installed, is a prime area where hot exhaust air can escape and mix with the cold air cooling the equipment. In some cases, the air entering IT equipment can be made from up to 40% hot air that has re-circulated to the front of the rack. This means that IT equipment isn’t being properly cooled and can affect its efficiency. Over an extended period, it can also affect the life span of the equipment. This problem can be easily solved through the use of blanking panels.

The images below show the before and after effects of installing blanking panels into a server cabinet that contains gaps between the installed equipment.

Blanking Panels Before and After Installation diagram

Not only do the blanking panels help prevent the hot air circulating back to the front of the rack but they also help regulate the overall temperature of the hot air that is returned to the CRAC unit.

Which Blanking Panels are best?

With such a wide variety of blanking panels available which is the best solution to use? Metal blanking panels were the standard option available from rack manufacturers. These would take time to install as they required the use of screws and cage nuts. Whilst metal panels serve a purpose and provided a solution there are now tool-less solutions such as HotLok or EziBlank that provide a more efficient and easier solution. HotLok blanking panels are available in 1U or 2U variants and are easy to install and remove thanks to their integrated finger grips. The panels have built-in clips that attach to the mounting rails, and also feature cantilevered sealing vanes that provide a touch-tight seal to adjoining panels or installed equipment. This virtually eliminates any gaps where hot air can escape through. EziBlank is supplied as 6U blanking panel sheet and enables large areas of a rack to be blanked off very quickly. The 6U panels are scored at individual 1U intervals enabling the required amount of blanking to be snapped off for greater flexibility. Both solutions provide a quicker and easier solution than the traditional metal panel.

So, if you are looking to achieve energy savings without breaking the bank, by making quick gains in the optimising of your Data Centre’s cooling then join the Great British Blank Off and get blanking.

For more information and assistance in improving your airflow management please contact us to discuss any issues or requirements you may have.