Tiling The Linux Benchmarking Server Room For Lower Temperatures

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 31 January 2016 at 04:23 PM EST. 21 Comments
Two weeks back I wrote about Brainstorming Further Cooling Improvements To The Linux Benchmarking Room with the idea of replacing the vinyl floor tiles and underlayment and using porcelain tiles directly on the concrete slab for helping to absorb some of the heat during the coming summer months. That project is moving forward.

Thanks to all of those who providing feedback on the earlier post and confirming the idea that it should work out... Here's a quick update today. My wife and I started this weekened on the project, but in just finding time to work on it on the weekends and needing to do it in sections due to not being able to move out all of the server/PC equipment down there, it will be a few weeks before completed -- just in time for the warmer summer months.

I went with Marazzi porcelain glazed tiles 12 x 24-inch that I've used before to great success. I was contemplating whether to use a tile underlayment like Schluter Ditra, but ended up deciding against it: Ditra is very expensive, it would cut down on the heat transfer, and not entirely convinced by the benefits in this basement application. The floor is very level, the foundation is about 20 years old rather than freshly laid so it should have settled much by now, etc.

With skipping the Ditra, I went for FlexBond mortar that's supposedly specialized for crack prevention. This should also be useful given the heavy server racks resting on the floor... FlexBond is supposed to protect against cracking caused by minor in-place surface movement. No additives besides water need to be mixed with FlexBond.

Today was tiling the storage room next to the server room, where all of the extra PC components and such are stored. In a week or two will then move onto beginning the server room a third or half of it at a time.

With all of the heavy racks on the floor, utilizing the wife's patience to ensure each tile is laid well and evenly. I haven't yet decided whether I will try to find some material to place under the server racks themselves atop the flooring. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to post away in the forums. The casters on the StarTech 42U racks are wide and with ensuring the tiles are going down well, hoping there won't be any problems with cracking the tiles. With regard to moisture in the basement with the floor tiling, I run a dehumidifer anyways in the summer so that shouldn't be an issue.

It will be interesting to see how effective this is in the summer for lowering the cooling costs of running all these daily Linux benchmarks. The Seek Thermal Android thermal imager should come in handy for looking at spot temperature differences.

If anyone has any questions or new ideas, feel free to post away in the forums. Will update again in a few weeks when making more progress. For those new to Phoronix, this article should make more sense after reading Turning A Basement Into A Big Linux Server Room and A Six Month Redux After Building A 60+ System Basement Server/Computer Room.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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