Load Banks for Data Centers

Whether it is mission critical business or basic web searches, there's a general expectation that data and systems are always available. There is no convenient time for downtime when you need access to data.

The concept of system availability, or “Uptime,” was developed by the Uptime Institute. They were founded in 1993 and have defined many availability terms including the tier classification system for data center infrastructures. There are many aspects to achieving the highest levels of availability including redundancy in power and cooling systems. The load bank is a critical tool in helping to deliver Uptime. It plays a key role in commissioning, operations and maintenance of the critical infrastructure systems that are key to ensuring continuous availability.

Data centers need reliable power and cooling infrastructure to achieve the expected Uptime. Power losses can translate to significant downtime for data center owners and their customers, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue. One important way to avoid downtime is the use of load banks for testing critical systems. 

Load banks are devices that test and validate a variety of power sources to ensure they are functioning as expected. Load banks are used across a variety of industries for this purpose, but how exactly can they be used to the benefit of data centers?

Data Center Challenges

Data centers face many challenges on a daily basis, from monitoring and provisioning to security and customer service. However, one constant challenge behind it all is maintaining critical infrastructure systems. Data centers rely on having a consistent and reliable supply of cooling and power, and threats to these systems can be costly for the data center and its customers. Some of the biggest challenges that data centers face are:

  • Power testing: New data center construction must be tested to ensure that new cooling and power system installations work as designed before they go live with their service. Load bank testing for data centers can be a solution in this area. Load banks allow data centers to install and test their critical systems before they go live, helping them identify and fix any problems.
  • Optimization: Data centers consume a great deal of energy, so optimization can be an excellent means of controlling costs. Load bank testing allows for testing and optimization of cooling & power systems. 
  • Equipment protection: Data centers rely heavily on having a consistent source of power. Even small fluctuations from the internal or external environment can develop into critical errors that can overload and damage equipment. Load banks can help identify potential sources of error, so surge protective equipment can be installed in the right locations.
  • Consumer trust:  A key ingredient to establishing a robust, highly available infrastructure is to leverage testing best practices including load bank testing. Uptime helps creates consumer trust and loyalty. 
  • Minimizing downtime: Ultimately, the biggest challenge to any data center is downtime. You can reduce downtime in data centers by utilizing load banks to thoroughly test cooling, generators and other critical power sources to prevent outages from happening.

Load Bank Utilization in Data Centers

There are traditionally four main applications of load banks in data centers:

  1. Commissioning: Commissioning is the process of ensuring that all critical infrastructure are installed, tested and operating according to their design. Load banks serve as a "test run" of the initial design and for normal operations. Data center commissioning identifies all potential issues and ensures that components either work properly or are replaced before the data center goes live. 
  2. Maintenance testing: Back-up power supplies are critical for data centers, protecting the center from costly downtime. To ensure these critical power management systems are ready to go in the event of a blackout or brownout, generators need to be rigorously maintained. Part of this involves maintenance testing, which can be done using load banks. Load banks effectively stress electrical systems for periodic testing purposes, ensuring efficient operation during power outages.
  3. Expansion: Data centers often expand to meet the growing needs of customers. With any expansion, however, comes the need to grow power resources. Load banks can be used to simulate power usage with the expanded requirements, ensuring the power infrastructure is up to the task. Load bank testing for data center expansion is beneficial since it identifies shortcomings and provides data about problem areas.
  4. Component replacements: Load testing is an effective way to verify components within a circuit. Load banks may be used to test all components, especially as components get older and are more likely to fail. With regular testing, such problematic components can be identified and replaced before they contribute to an outage.

LBD specializes in advanced digital controls and the networking (RS-485/Ethernet) of load banks specifically for data center applications. If you're curious as to which type of data center controls and load bank configuration will be best for your company's applications, work with a specialist like LBD to determine the best option for your needs.

Load Bank Commissioning Applications in Data Centers

In addition to maintenance testing, load banks are used to commission the data center's critical power and cooling infrastructure. These critical systems include the following:

  • Back-up generators: Many data centers have an on-site generator to supply power during outages. These generators must be regularly maintained and tested to ensure they function properly during an outage, which can be accomplished with frequent load bank testing.
  • HVAC systems: Overheating server racks can be a catastrophic problem for data centers, which is why proper heating, ventilation and air-conditioning is essential. Load banks can be used to test these HVAC systems. Load banks do this by producing heat similar to that produced by server racks and monitoring the reaction of the HVAC system to the heat produced. 
  • UPS systems: Uninterruptible Power Supply or UPS systems are standard for the majority of data centers, serving as a back-up power source if main power supplies fail. UPS systems serve as a bridge for when the main power fails and the back-up power sources start, ensuring that service isn't interrupted for those few minutes. Load banks help test and validate these systems to ensure they are functioning as expected.
  • Server racks: As part of the commissioning process, designers look at the system design, room design, equipment placement and HVAC systems. These can be tested by using lower-capacity load banks that are built to fit into standard server racks, acting as simulations of servers. These load banks produce the heat and power consumption of servers, creating a lifelike representation of how servers would act within the given environment, so the entire setup may be tested effectively.
  • Substations: Load banks can be used to test the capacity and verify the relays of substations, ensuring the power output is reliable and able to meet the data center's demands.
  • PDUs: Power distribution units or PDUs are devices used to help control and monitor electrical power within a data center. Load banks are often used to test PDU functionality and ensure that all racks are receiving the power they need to function properly.
  • RPPs: Remote power panels or RPPs are used together with PDUs to allow a sub-feed from the PDU directly to a rack system. The RPP is often tested separately from the PDU to ensure it is managing incoming power effectively.


Choose Load Banks Direct

If you're looking for load banks for your data center, Load Banks Direct is a manufacturer you can trust. LBD strives to be your complete solutions provider for load banks, providing superior quality at competitive prices. With over 20 years of operation and 100 years of experience shared between our experts, you can trust LBD to provide the custom solutions you need with customer service you can count on. 

Whether you need a freestanding, portable, mobile or server load bank, LBD provides industry-leading, robust, compact and lightweight designs. Request a quote or contact us today.

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