All posts by alanlachapelle

Earth Day

So I know a few people are still following my blog. I haven’t posted much since I joined AWS as they have some more restrictive policies about contributing to blogs, but I did want to take another moment to acknowledge Earth Day.

Despite what many might feel as some new policy shifts that will be damaging to our environment, I still believe there room to celebrate. Renewable technologies keep growing and developing, creating many great blue collar jobs as well as helping to solve our energy problems. Every year, the technologies which might enable a 100% renewable future get stronger and that possibility becomes more likely. Although some scary points have been crossed with regard to CO2 and other scary indicators, developing and exploding countries are planning for and pursuing renewable futures. China and India are great examples in that although for sure they are still getting a lot of power from fossil fuels, they are looking to the future and very real problems about our carbon powered existing are literally in their face every day. They understand action must be taken and they are working towards the future.

While US nuclear power has hit major setbacks (Fukushima disaster has certainly pushed public opinion against it, and the bankruptcy of Westinghouse / Toshiba will have significant implications), it’s use continues to expand in China as a bridge to a fully renewable future. Research into increasingly safe, stable, affordable and appropriate sized reactor designs continues, and in perhaps in another 15 years a cost feasible path forward for nuclear in the US might exist.

Solar costs are continuing to fall (becoming attractive even in the absence of subsidy), and growth of capacity in wind continues. Countries that are 100% renewable do rely on hydroelectric or hydrothermal power, but many others are addressing a considerable portion of their energy needs through solar and wind power, while tidal sources are being developed further.

Storage solutions are improving which some day may facilitate intermittent sources like wind and solar to power our constant energy demands. The most ambitious of business magnates are even thinking about how to colonize other planets.

So once again, there are many reasons to celebrate again this Earth Day.


Earth Day has come and gone again…

Another Earth day has passed. While we are a few minutes closer to midnight (, some things are looking up.

While I work hard to save energy in my daily life and in my career choices, sometimes I can feel a little helpless. I know I accomplish some significant things, but then I watch some documentary about the slash in burns in Indonesia, and how they are just complete carbon bombs and it almost feels like whats the point. While I probably can’t get the planet to kick its palm oil habit, I’ll still do everything I can to save water, electricity and money.

I think we are finally seeing the impacts of our actions on the environment, and California and its drought (whether its cyclical or human influenced isn’t the point) are showing the nation the pain of running headlong into running out of a resource. I mean, things are really, really bad there. The drought extends to other areas of the country ( but the fact is that the state that produces an incredible amount of produce and dairy for the world is running out of water. It’s scary is what it is.

I think we’ve been taking electricity and petroleum seriously for quite some time, but we really need to start taking water seriously. Where we expend lots of water to reduce our electricity usage, we are going to have to start paying attention to the trade off (does the use of water on site offset the use of electricity and its use of water at the source).

We all make trade offs, raising supply air temperatures is a trade off on energy and equipment longevity, using water can be a trade off between even higher inlet temperatures and water consumption, we trade off availability to use energy savings modes in UPSs, and we trade burning dinosaurs for the assurance that the generators we rely on will start when we need them.

Evaluating those trade offs, as a publicly traded company, means measuring the decisions to maximize shareholder value. Using the best data we have and the best, the most thorough evaluations, and prudent brave decision making, the free market will help determine a green path as limited resources become scarcer and more expensive. Taxes and regulation can help ensure that true costs are accounted for (for example, extra taxes on coal burning power to account for the human health costs, the permanent environmental impacts from the coal ash, and the global warming impacts) but they often end up leveraged by particular special interests and fail to represent the true costs.

So how can you win? Well there are solutions that win on all fronts. Using VFDs and slowing down all your fans, for example, is on way to drive down consumption. It represents what I would call a win-win-win, less energy used, less water required for a cooling plant, and ultimately more reliability in cooling plant as the load from the air handlers fans is lower and reserves more capacity for IT cooling. Being smarter and better can help you find these win-win-win situations, and it also makes you look really good to your coworkers.

Just some incoherent thoughts, you know I like to ramble on earth day. Its hard to talk about my work too much anymore (we are very tight lipped at AWS) but I am still out there doing the good work, I promise!

A “Fan”tastic Post

Are you a fan of fans? Centrifugal (I prefer to call Centripetal but that’s a tale for another day), Axial, Cross flow, whichever you like, fans can prove to be a challenging topic. A recent series in the Ashrae Journal discusses industrial fans, but what got me thinking about the topic of fans was a much smaller situation. PC computer fans.


Your standard 120 mm PC fan is a fairly homogenous product, but there also exist other fans in the same frame size with considerably higher energy use, cfm, and static pressure capability. These fans can be used to cool equipment, like say a bitcoin miner or a 4U server, sometimes coupled with a direct chip to water to air setup (something like this).

So which use of fans is best? 1 really impressive fan (like this) or 2 run of the mill fans stacked or 2 run of the mill fans next to each other (like these). The single fan consumes 30 watts, while the 2 fans consume 4 watts each. The 30 watt fan moves 240 cfm, while the cheapo fan moves 70 cfm. How much air do you need, and how much static pressure do you need? These fans get slapped in an application but they won’t move that same air volume with any resistance. That’s where the fan curves come into play.

Fan Curves Continue reading A “Fan”tastic Post

The myth of the 15-ton compressor

For those of you that don’t know I started in the industry as a facilities technician, then within three months became a site lead mechanical engineer. One thing that always perplexed me was the persistence of the 15-ton (or any nominal sized refrigeration component) compressor. Even today, working as a regional engineer over 3000 miles of data center footprint, I still deal with this from people who should know better.

Continue reading The myth of the 15-ton compressor

The Hidden “U”

Shocking Revelation: Containing and controlling your airflow is crucial to optimizing the performance of your data center cooling.

More Shocking Revelation: Many data centers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on physical separation, yet fail to blank what I call “The Hidden U”.


This makes me a happy panda

IMG_20140814_142306and this makes me a sad panda…

Continue reading The Hidden “U”

Immersion cooling: That’s how I learned Portuguese that one summer, right? (updated)

No, not quite. Immersion cooling has been around for a long time. Most commonly, you might recognize the large fins on utility power transformers. They are cooled by immersion, with the heat radiated by those fins. Its only recently, perhaps the past 15 years, that the concept has been applied to personal computer cooling mainly by hobbyists trying to do something different and cool, but ultimately likely being a little disappointed as other more mainstream technologies gave them their “bleeding edge” computing performance. Even more recently, this concept has started to be applied to data centers. Continue reading Immersion cooling: That’s how I learned Portuguese that one summer, right? (updated)

Got any Smart Ideas?

I just received the check from our major project at the CH2 data center in downtown Chicago. A $544,000 rebate for validating our energy savings is a pretty impressive feat. The projects included VFDs on DX Cracs, modifying the BMS and economizer, installing hot aisle containment, installing lighting occupancy sensors, and upgrading the cooling towers with new fans and new evaporative media. They tell me this is the biggest check they have ever issued and we are doing a big presentation ceremony in a few days to celebrate this projects successes. Big congratulations to the team I worked with that made this all a reality, Dan Fargano, Travis Nelson, and Jason Brick.


PUE 1.0: Mission Impossible. But how low can you go?

Everyone knows how hard it is to continue to improve PUE. I’ve even included a graphic representation of how spending can influence your PUE:spendvspueSo we all know our struggles, and as the industry matures it becomes easier to increase efficiency under a given budget constraint. But the general idea, that every dollar spent has less impact than the dollar before it (save for some hurtle points) in general will hold true.

Continue reading PUE 1.0: Mission Impossible. But how low can you go?

Another Tool in the Toolkit – Pumped Refrigerant Economizers

Do you want to have the impact of an air side economizer without the negative side effects on air quality while avoiding the humidity lock out hours? Well there is a new product on the market that might have just what you need. The Pumped Refrigerant Economizer is a clever way to economize without using water or fresh air introduction. So what does this Pumped Refrigerant Economizer do?  Continue reading Another Tool in the Toolkit – Pumped Refrigerant Economizers

Earth Day!! What’s a data center to do?

Earth Day Flag

Happy Earth Day! I just wanted to take some time to acknowledge this occasion and what I think it means to data center operators.


Earth Day started around 1970 and when it gained traction, the idea was to educate and inform while celebrating our planet. Well in that vein, I did some reading today on energy efficiency and conservation. Where else, besides in heavy industry, do we have the opportunities to save millions of kWh a year? Lots of different estimates of energy consumption exist, but roughly 1.5-2% of all energy is spent in data centers in the United States (good luck finding a solid source for that number). And as IT becomes a bigger sector of the economy, so too has the consumption of data centers increased. These old centers give us so many opportunities.

Continue reading Earth Day!! What’s a data center to do?