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Infrared Thermographic Technology in the Data Center
August 01, 2014
Written by Raymond Caponi

T5FM Engineering Series

Volume 1, Issue 1

Infrared Thermographic Technology in the Data Center

What is data center thermal imaging?

The use of infrared thermography or thermal imaging in the data center is becoming a widely-utilized predictive tool that’s vital to helping to ensure uptime at all levels. Power, cooling and support systems are all vital to the continuous flow of information in data centers, and performing predictive maintenance on critical support infrastructure is a must and should be considered a critical component when planning out your regular data center maintenance schedule.

How does it work?

All objects emit infrared radiation based on their temperatures; thermal imaging makes it possible to view equipment temperature conditions – which are invisible to the naked eye – with or without visible illumination. The hotter an object is, the more it radiates, allowing infrared imaging to differentiate between different objects and locate hot spots.

thermographic-camera

When viewed by a special thermographic camera (see image above) warm objects stand out well against cooler backgrounds; as in the photo showing a hot spot on a circuit breaker.

circuit-breaker-hot-spot

The photo above is showing an internal fault within a circuit breaker, or a possible loose connection at the lug.

Advanced notice of developing problems enables us detect issues early on, and to perform the necessary adjustments or repairs before costly, sometimes catastrophic failures occur. This makes the thermographic camera an excellent tool for predictive maintenance of electrical and mechanical system.

Infrared thermography in the data center

Electrical switchgear, Transformers and utility equipment, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), Generators, ATS (automatic transfer switches), control panels and breakers, as well as server systems and cooling systems should be checked with infrared thermography on a regular basis to detect irregularities that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Detecting irregularities in your data center’s critical support infrastructure in the early stages ensures prompt corrective action is taken long before costly system failures can occur.

thermal-imaging-power

Early detection allows you to prevent equipment failure and unplanned shutdowns that can be damaging to your company’s or customer’s data, brand, and reputation. Regular data center thermal imaging can provide benefits such as:

  • Identify and correct hidden problems before they become unplanned outages
  • Reduce risk of undetected degradation of components due to overloaded circuits or loose connections
  • Cost Savings obtained by preventing equipment failures and down time
  • Thermally mapping complete data center from sub-floor to ceiling
  • Verifying proper hot aisle / cold aisle operation, preventing short circuiting and bypassing of air flow
  • Verifying high density server farm cooling capabilities
  • Monitoring server rack temperature distribution patterns
  • Finding internal server fans which are inoperable or damaged
  • Is non-destructive and cost-effective

Incorporating thermal imaging predictive maintenance is an industry best-practice which should be seriously-considered when planning for regular data center maintenance.