Have questions about Aisle Containment?

Over the past 20 years, Cool Shield has collected a number of questions that our clients have asked about aisle containment in their data centers. Whether beginning to do research on Aisle Containment or seeking to expand an existing facility we have invited our clients to pick our brains in order to get the best information from an experienced resource.

If you have a question and you don’t see it below, please contact us.

Can I install my own aisle containment solutions?

The short answer is yes, you can install your own Cool Shield solution. However, in most instances we do recommend installation by one of our trained installers. Even though all components are cut to size and we do provide detailed drawings, each site usually has unforeseen challenges during installation. Our experienced installers have encountered and overcome many obstacles and can make sure your project functions as designed. A professional install will cost more up front but can provide better and faster returns by ensuring effective containment.

How do drop away panels work?

The process by which drop away panels work is as follows: Drop away panels are thin plastic panels which in turn have a low melting point. At 135 degrees the panels, which are framed by the Cool Shield Channel, will start to shrink at the edges. This causes the panels to fall to the ground. They are very light weight and pose no risk of injury. Most temperature activated fire suppressions systems activate at 150 to 175 degrees so the panels will be out of the way before a discharge. It is important to note that drop away panels are not smoke activated. We recommend checking with local fire inspectors prior to any purchase.

Does Cool Shield offer FM Global rated solutions?

Yes. FM Global products relates to a flammability standard set forth by insurance companies. Some insurance companies either require the use of FM approved materials or provide a discount if they are used. It is a rather stringent standard with relatively few approved products but Cool Shield does offer FM 4910 rated solid and drop away panels.

Does Cool Shield have solutions which meet NFPA 75 requirements?

Yes. Cool Shield offers both strip and panel solutions which comply with the NFPA 75 standards. We can also design and implement solutions with release mechanisms which can integrate with the fire control panel. Your Project Manager can work with you on a compliant design for your specific application.

What is NFPA 75?

NFPA 75 is the Standard for the Fire Protection of Information Technology Equipment. It is their first standard which specifically provides guidelines for aisle containment. It recommends the type of materials which should be used and the proper methods for removing obstructions if there is a smoke or fire event. It is important to remember that these are standards only and the final approval of any design or installation is at the discretion of the local fire inspector.

Can I use fusible links to prevent my strips or panels from obstructing fire suppression?

Yes. Standard fusible links are the least complicated and most cost effective option for removing obstructions at a specified temperature. We have used them on dozens of installations. However, some fire marshals have concerns about the operability of standard fusible links because they are temperature activated only and do nothing if there is smoke. NFPA 75 does not support the use of standard fusible links however, some customers still choose to use them. We recommend you discuss the use of fusible links with your local fire marshal before making a purchase.

What are fusible links?

Fusible links are typically composed of two pieces of metal held together by a chemical compound. At a specified temperature the compound will lose adhesiveness causing the two pieces of metal to separate. The standard fusible links that we use are UL rated to separate at 135 degrees. Electronic links work the same way but are heated to the release point by an electrical wire instead of the ambient air. They can be wired to the fire control panel or other relay.

How will aisle containment affect my fire suppression system?

Unless there are both smoke and fire sensors inside and outside the isolated area, the containment will create an obstruction for both water and gas based suppression systems. Our Project Managers can assist you in determining a plan to overcome this issue. We recommend that all customers discuss their containment plans and design with their local fire marshal prior to purchase.

Can I attach the containment system to my drop ceiling grid?

Yes, however you will need to determine the load bearing capacity of your ceiling grid and compare it to the weight of the containment system. You will generally not want to exceed more than 50% of the weight capacity of the ceiling. We can use lightweight panels or strips to keep weight as low as possible. We do have many other mounting options if this is not feasible.

Which is better, hot aisle containment or cold aisle containment?

The short answer is that both HAC and CAC are nearly equally effective because they prevent supply and exhaust air from mixing. Cold aisle containment (CAC) provides excellent control over supply temperatures to optimize CRAC set points. Hot aisle containment (HAC) returns warmer air to CRAC units which can increase cooling capacity. The best approach for your data center will be dictated by your site conditions. At most existing sites, it is easier to implement a CAC solution because there are typically cable trays and other obstructions above the hot aisle. It is also very difficult to implement hot aisle containment if there is not a return plenum. Our Project Managers can help you determine which approach would be most effective in your data center.

How much money will I save by implementing aisle containtment?

If properly installed you can expect 20-50% reduction in cooling costs. Each site will be different due to the site conditions, cooling infrastructure, rack density and other factors. Efficiency is maximized if the cooling systems with variable speed fans and there is a good return air path.

What is Aisle Containment?

Aisle containment in the data center requires that cabinets are aligned in a hot aisle/cold aisle layout, preventing the supply and exhaust air from mixing. Containment panels or strips create a partition to isolate either the server supply air (cold aisle containment) or the exhaust air (hot aisle containment). Successfully preventing the air from mixing significantly increases the capacity and cooling efficiency of the cooling infrastructure.