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Keeping Cool

Climate technology - Taking the Heat Off

High-Tech equipment doesn’t like changes in temperature – which is why it is essential to stay cool.

In the classic movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ the main character George Bailey, played by James Stewart, is given a unique chance by his Guardian Angel to find out what the world would have been like if he’d never been born.

As anyone who has seen the movie will know, George Bailey is shown a nightmarish, alternative reality, where his town, family and friends are considerably worse off without him.

Of course this is only fiction but, by applying this scenario to something that is generally taken for granted, you can better appreciate its value. Air-conditioning is a perfect example. Over the years it has developed from being a luxury to a must-have. For some time it’s been a feature of many American homes and is standard in most modern offices, shops and cars. But, more importantly, it is essential for maintaining precise temperatures in computer rooms, laboratories and other areas containing sensitive technology.

High-Tech with low tolerance to changes in temperature or humidity

“Computers have a low tolerance to changes in temperature or humidity,” explains Mark Shutler, Managing Director of GEA Denco, part of GEA Heat Exchangers. “If the air is too dry computer chip boards can crack and if it’s too wet there is a risk of bacteria, which has the same effect."

A computer room is generally kept at 21°C, plus or minus one. If the temperature went up to, say, 31°C it would have a negative effect within an hour, with computers crashing and possibly losing data.

If this were to happen in a bank’s data center customers would not be able to use their cash and credit cards to pay for purchases or even withdraw money from ATMs. A global catastrophe would soon ensue.

In the case of weather centers, computer data failure could have disastrous consequences for airlines that rely on the information they supply. Similarly, if the computers were to crash at any central airline ticket center, passengers would be unable to buy tickets or check-in at any airport.

Worst case scenarios unlikely to occur – due to GEA

It would be even worse for hospitals where accuracy of equipment is vital. Also drug manufacturers require strict temperature and humidity control to ensure that medicines are made to the same standards.

The good news is that the worst case scenarios are unlikely to occur. “We ensure that systems are reliable, properly designed and maintained,” says Shutler. “It’s usual to have at least one extra unit to act as stand-by and to allow for maintenance.”

GEA Denco air-conditioning

GEA Denco is arguably the UK king of cool, with more than 50 years’ experience in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of air-conditioning solutions across all market sectors. You will find GEA Denco equipment in major banks, telecommunications centers, industrial facilities, weather centers, government buildings, offices and shops around the UK. Currently, its biggest contract is at the new Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport, set to open in 2008.

GEA Denco has seen its business double over the last seven years, as the demand for taking the heat out of day-to-day living and ever more sophisticated technology increases.

But is all this artificial cooling good for the environment? “Air-conditioning works on a refrigeration cycle and it is commonly believed that refrigeration gas is harmful to the environment,” says Shutler. “But in fact modern refrigerants have zero ozone depletion potential. The negative is the energy it uses, so the key is to ensure effective use of electricity with efficient compressor technology.”