Running an 80,000 square foot data center is complicated. Using a highly automated PLC controlled 2800 ton chilled water system with water side economization to cool the colocation floor is even more complicated.

We use an evaporative cooling method to transfer IT heat load into the air through our cooling towers. This sophisticated solution requires a lot of water, and naturally the city charges us for the supply of water and, in our case, and equal amount for the sewer. This was contributing to a significant water bill each month.

Unlike most businesses, the majority of our water supplied doesn’t get flushed down the drain, and as we started exploring this issue more our Director of Facilities Engineering said, “You know, it’s possible we could save quite a bit of money on the water bill, but it would require some detailed planning, the city’s approval and about 13,000 dollars. I’ve actually been working on that, do you want to see?”

A few things to know about our capable data center staff – we’re especially skilled at detailed planning and creating efficiency.

We met with our city officials and convinced them we should not be paying the majority of our sewer charges based on the make-up water we add to our cooling system each day.

We prepared a cost savings analysis and it became very clear that it would be well worth the $13,000 dollars required for us to carry out our strategy. We formulated a plan to install the deduct meter on the cooling tower make up water line to account for the evaporated water. This required us to isolate the building from the main water supply until the meter was installed.

Within a few billing cycles the efforts began to pay off as the average monthly bill dropped by over $1200/month! We achieved significant savings based on the ingenuity of one of our employees and certainly a good investment with an ROI of about 11 months.

There are some key takeaways for any of us in business or technology:

  1. Efficiency sometimes exists where you don’t expect it. Look for waste – of time, resources, or – as in our case – the status quo.
  2. Creative problem solving sometimes means flipping the problem on its head. For us, and particularly our Director of Facilities Engineering, that meant thinking differently about how we use water, how our use is unique and specific, and who else to involve (like city officials) to develop a plan to solve the problem.
  3. Strategy is crucial to success. Solving the problem meant first truly understanding it, analyzing the costs and benefits of investing in a solution, communicating to the city officials, a willingness to invest, and planning technical work like meter installations.

A great data center – or any business – will take this same kind of care and attention to efficiency with its customers, the unique problems or issues they might be trying to solve, and the solutions they need. Sometimes what’s required doesn’t come off a shelf, but requires resourcefulness, inventiveness, and ingenuity.