The key to reducing data center CO2 is to modify the airflow and cooling inside. The number of fans and cooling equipment needed can be reduced with the proper system design.

This approach will help cut down on energy consumption while at the same time reducing CO2 emissions due to power generation needed for the fans and chillers.

Why reducing data center CO2 is critical?

Data centers are becoming complex and massive energy consumers. According to IDC, worldwide IT spending is expected to double from $1.4 trillion in 2010 to $3.2 trillion in 2020. The amount of electricity consumed by data centers around the world is expected to grow from about 300 billion kWh in 2010 to more than 600 billion kWh in 2020 – a nearly 2x increase.

The world is quickly adopting new technologies like cloud computing and mobile technology, and the amount of data being processed and stored through a data center is expected to double within the next five years. The amount of CO2 being emitted by these centers is also expected to double, reaching 1.2 billion tons per year.

To put things into perspective, energy consumption by data centers is on track to exceed that of the aviation industry by 2020. In addition, data centers account for up to 2% of global CO2 emissions yearly.

We can reduce our impact on climate change by using renewable energy sources and adopting energy-efficient technologies. Another way to reduce emissions is to use more efficient cooling systems. The most widely used cooling technology in data centers today is air-cooled chillers.

These work by using up to 50% less electricity than the traditional cooling methods and are even more efficient when paired with evaporative cooling systems, which cool the air through the evaporation of water or another liquid rather than only through heat exchange with a cooler medium. This method uses 95% less electricity than standard air-cooled chillers and eliminates the need for water pumps.

Data centers are energy hungry.

Data center equipment generates heat constantly, which needs to be dissipated to avoid overheating components and permanent damage, resulting in loss of functionality and downtime, thus reducing productivity and revenue from your business or organization.

More than half of the energy use in data centers is attributed to cooling. The power used for fans and chillers accounts for much of the energy required—and all of it comes from fossil fuels, which creates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Some statistics show that more than 30% of CO2 emissions in the United States come from data centers.

A recent study shows a typical data center’s annual energy use is between 100 and 150 GWh. This is roughly equivalent to the annual energy use of 12,000 homes.

Inefficient cooling infrastructure is a significant source of data center CO2.

In many ways, the data center is a microcosm for any large organization. The same problems that prevent many companies from reducing their carbon footprint also affect data centers: it’s challenging to determine where to begin and requires fundamental changes in how you do business. But if you focus on improving airflow and cooling in your data center, you’ll reduce your overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously saving money.

Reducing data center CO2 through airflow and cooling

The type of cooling method used will depend on the equipment being cooled and the desired temperature for the room where the equipment sits. If an entire room is being cooled, there are a few options for how to go about it.

One way to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emission is to airflow and cooling. We can cool down a smaller area with less energy while maintaining temperature balance within the data center by increasing its airflow. This method can reduce the electricity needed to cool down a specific location.

This will reduce CO2 emissions within a particular period. Reducing server density will also shorten recovery time between outages, decrease capital costs, and lower maintenance costs by eliminating excess equipment not being used at any given time.

Airflow technology has been around for quite some time and uses fans to pull in cool air from outside and push out hot air within a space. This technology works by taking advantage of natural air pressure differences between two points in space and directing airflow accordingly. This method can be used with evaporative cooling systems to improve efficiency further.

The key is increasing efficiency. With optimized airflow, it is possible to have an operating temperature of 80 degrees with 55% relative humidity without using cooling units. The current standard for data centers uses air conditioning units to cool servers down to 68 degrees with a 30-35% relative humidity level.

Recommendation from The Uptime Insitute in Reducing Data Center CO2

The Uptime Institute has released nine recommendations for data center operators to reduce CO2 emissions:

  • Work with your utility provider and other partners on demand response programs.
  • Utilize renewable energy sources where available.
  • Change the cooling systems from pneumatic or water-cooled chillers to installing variable frequency drives on cooling equipment.
  • Remove older and less efficient cooling systems.
  • Use free cooling when possible.
  • Use variable frequency drives (VFDs) on air handlers and pumps.
  • Reduce water usage by installing VFDs on pumps and implementing leak detection systems. Water is typically used in a data center: for cooling, fire suppression, and makeup water for HVAC equipment.
  • Reduce peak power consumption through conservation methods such as turning off servers or powering down storage arrays.

Using virtualization can help save up to 40% in energy consumption alone due to its ability to match workloads with optimal server density and power consumption for each application.


We can build eco-friendly data centers with sustainable technology, including renewable power sources. They can also be made in ways that reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. Understanding how to increase efficiency in data centers is essential, especially for those involved in data center investments is essential.

The goal is to reduce energy consumption in areas that produce the most CO2. Older data centers often have the inefficient cooling infrastructure (that may also be poorly monitored) as a significant source of their emissions, so you should focus on reducing cooling costs while maintaining server room environments within acceptable ranges. One way to do this is using variable-speed fans instead of thermostat-controlled ones.

A good handle on your data center’s carbon impact is crucial to a sustainable business. As awareness of the issue grows, shareholders, customers, and other stakeholders will be asked about your company’s CO2 emissions. The factors contributing to CO2 output are power consumption, building size, and cooling infrastructure.

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