back to article If you have a fan, and want this company to stay in business, bring it to IT now

Weekends are the time for fun in the sun – but before you get to that, The Register offers another instalment of our weekly On-Call column, in which readers share stories of being put under the hot spotlight of being asked to fix flare-ups, fast. This week, meet "Trent" who told us about his time as head of network operations …

  1. Catkin Silver badge

    Refrigerant or refrigerating fluid?

    It sounds like fluid and I can imagine that sitting idle behind an open fill valve until the circulating pump kicks in. Refrigerant would, I expect, vent immediately unless there's some strange check valve and the compressor operating boots the pressure over a threshold.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Refrigerant or refrigerating fluid?

      Could be a slow leak at a service valve. These Schrader valves are similar to the valves on your car or bike tires.

      There are typically two valves ... one on the hot high pressure side, and one on the cold low pressure side. If the itty-bitty o-ring that seals one or the other somehow gets damaged during service, it can appear to the tech that all is operating just fine ... but after the system has been running for a while, cycling on and off and generally vibrating, a valve can fail. An old AC tech once told me to always have the Schrader valves replaced when the system is serviced. Cheap insurance.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Refrigerant or refrigerating fluid?

        Yep, follow many HVAC channels on youtube along with the excellent Rainman Ray who does car repairs (incl A/C servicing). It's ALWAYS the same, the valves are pennies, the refrigerant is generally NOT, change the cores!

    2. twsm

      Re: Refrigerant or refrigerating fluid?

      We had a service engineer let some refrigerant out for about 2 seconds, it immediately set the fire alarms off.

  2. MiguelC Silver badge

    In my wife's lab, where they do climate modelling 24/7 on their on-premises servers, the air con died during a scorching summer period some years ago, quickly raising room temperature to high 50's. Their immediate solution was similar, although not that effective, as the outside temperature was over 40ºC, but the air con on the adjacent room was turned to its lowest possible temperature, doors wide open and some fans strategically placed to increase airflow between rooms. Instead of having one room at hellish temperature, they got two at purgatory levels, but it held their servers until maintenance came to fix it.

    1. Dimmer Silver badge

      New temp control system for the building was installed including one to control the units in the datacenter. After informing them to NOT connect it to the building control system, and I was assured that it was stand alone. Total B.S., as soon as Saturday rolled around alarms began to go off in the datacenter. It was connected to the building control system. We wired our own in to override it and hid it in the return air vent.

      During the process of building a new datacenter center. I informed the Air guy NOT to install heating strips. He tried to give me some B.S. about it was required by code. I told him, fine just don't wire it in. First cold spell, heater comes on and the combined heat from the overheating datacenter and the heat strips cause the fire dampers to seal and again no air.

      Also during this build, "Don't supply outside air. This is closed system". Later, the roof needed to be repaired and it was with hot tar. We were able to remove the firing pins from the halon system a fraction of a second before the they fired.

      "Please install a fan cutoff switch for cold weather". It may be 10deg outside, but the datacenter still needs to get rid of the heat. After 3 blown compressors, they finally listened.

      Each one of these incidents were by a different air guy. When you find a good one, treat them like a king your quality of life will depend on it.

      On a new install, ask your Air guy, "Upflow or Downflow". If he doesn't know what your talking about, FIRE HIM. If he says "Upflow" have security escort him from building. Any other option from Downflow will never work and it will be your bane of existence. Datacenter cooling is "Refrigeration" not "Conditioning". You don't want to mix the hot and cold air like in a home, you want to keep the heat separate and remove it.

      Hope this info will help some unfortunate sole out there that has not control but all the responsibility. CYA

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Which country?

        1. Dimmer Silver badge
          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Then I have a question about "air guy": From a lot "Germans living in US" and "US living in Germany" tube channels I know a lot of professions, like electrician, are not "Skilled education" or "recognized trade" - if I use the right word here. Does this apply to "air guy" as well? Anyone can say "Hey, I am an air-conditioning guy" or "hey, I start build houses how", just like that, and start doing it right away?

            Reason: You can't do that in Germany. Example electrician, the profession which normally does the ACs. You need to have a few years of education and training in a company to learn the theory and reality before you get a "Meister", a master of craft, in that line of business. I cannot tell about all of Europe, but most member countries are similar.

            1. Dimmer Silver badge

              You can work on your own system, or your rental property but working for hire you need a license.

              You will also need certification to be able to purchase certain items needed to install or repair the systems.

              And in an example of how screwed up our bureaucracy is, the “Railroad commission “ (yes, the train guys) is who you get your license from.

              1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                How easy is it to get the license? As easy as getting a driver license, easier, a bit or a lot more difficult?

                1. BOFH in Training
                  Happy

                  Different countries have different difficulties with getting a driving licence.

                  As I understand it, an hour is enough to get a driving licence in India for anyone, regardless of skill level, whereas in Singapore it can take weeks to months to get a licence (I heard of someone who had to retake the driving exam 8 times).

                  And there are countries where they are between both of those countries when it comes to getting a driving licence.

              2. Not Yb Bronze badge

                Hilariously, in Texas...

                In Texas, the "Railroad Commission" has absolutely nothing to do with railroads now. It's in charge of energy production and distribution policy. You do need to be licensed to do most kinds of repair for hire, but that's not ever stopped people from doing things they shouldn't.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              You need to be F-Gas certified to work on aircon in the UK. (Not that it's especially onerous to become cerftified, but bit too much faff unless you're going to be working on them regularly)

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    air CON

    That reminds me why I hate offices.

    The air con. Always something wrong with it.

    In some offices, you can feel that you are going to suffocate soon or die of overheating.

    And the lack of oxygen - there was always more people than air con specification permitted.

    By 2pm, everyone was pretty much in a coma on autopilot just to make it until 5pm.

    When you go out for lunch, you can see people leaving the building gasping for air.

    Complain to the building manager? Ha. "Our air conditioning is carefully maintained and we can assure you it works to the spec. We constantly monitor CO2 levels and ensure they are the most optimal."

    And when you negotiate dropping the temp by 1C, there is always going to be someone moaning it's too cold and they are freezing and they don't understand the concept of wearing a jumper.

    1. LogicGate Silver badge

      Re: air CON

      You have airconditioning?

      And you are still complaining? About 1C?

      Bah.. the snowflakes today

      1. Anonymous Custard
        Joke

        Re: air CON

        If you've got snowflakes, your aircon is set too cold...

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: air CON

          Snowflakes incoming around 12 - 1pm today - Nothing to do with aircon.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          "If you've got snowflakes, your aircon is set too cold..."

          It might be the right temperature, but the humidity needs adjusting.

          1. timrowledge

            Re: air CON

            At one of the labs I worked at in Silicon Valley we had an a/c failure that resulted in almost indoor snow conditions for a few weeks. People in heavy coats, fan heaters aimed at feet, the works. Combined with 30C outdoors it made for some pretty unpleasant sniffles as the sudden temp changes every time we entered/exited upset noses. “Vasothermal rhinitis “ my doctor called it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: air CON

        Men and women don't work at the same temp levels...

        Usually, the "optimal" temperature is set for men, so women get cold (as if their hands & feet did need that).

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          Nowadays the temperature usually seems to be set at something equally uncomfortable for both. The myth you bring up is also mostly bullshit. It keeps getting repeated and it's invariably based on a study from the early 2000s done in the Netherlands with a sample size of 16 women... Not exactly well researched. Other studies find far less of a gender bias. Men (on average, as a group) tend to be a tiny bit more biased to preferring slightly cooler temperatures, women (on average, as a group) tend to be a tiny bit biased towards warmer temperatures, but this says nothing about individuals. There's plenty of men who are cold at normal office temperatures and plenty of women who find them too warm. What tends to matter far more is men wearing full length trousers and button down shirts with full sleeves (and often an under-shirt or vest too) while women (especially in summer) wear an above the knee skirt or shorts and a light top with bare arms. Gee I wonder why they're cold...

        2. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          More strictly speaking, men's *clothes* have rather different thermal performance from women's clothes.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: air CON

      Pretty much everywhere I've ever worked there has been a long standing feud between two halves of the population that I can't mention without being accused of being sexist ... One side always says it's too hot, the other side always says it's too cold. Facilities says "set it all to 72F, that's what the HVAC is optimized for" ... and so we listen to pretty much everyone bitch about the temperature.

      Until one place I worked at upgraded the AC, and all the controls that go along with it (had to do with a couple of new clean rooms). Naturally, the folks installing all the new gear left all the old thermostats in place. They were no longer connected, so why worry about them. A friend of mine noticed one of the secretaries would inevitably turn one of these controls up, and then keep an eye on it from her desk. Within an hour, one of the engineers would stroll by & turn it down again. Then she'd turn it back up, and so on ... This dance went on all day.

      So we hatched up a Plan ... with the Boss's permission, we installed unconnected thermostats quite near both the secretary and the engineer ... and removed the one they were "fighting" over. Now both could happily set "their" temperature to whatever they wanted. It worked. Both were happy, and both commented how comfy the office was with the "new, improved" controls. People in their circle of friends made similar comments. The complaining about the temperature stopped, virtually overnight.

      That would have been the end of it, except ever since then I've installed faux thermostats for 'special" people. It has never failed to shut them up about the office temperature. However, be warned ... that type can always find something else to bitch about. Don't say I didn't warn you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: air CON

        However, be warned ... that type can always find something else to bitch about

        That's what lift shafts, stairwells, and open windows are for...

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          When it starts in a lift, you have to firmly say "NOPE.".

          Usually the person shuts up.

          If not, then you can go for the triple NOPE.

          If that doesn't help, just call security.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

            Re: air CON

            you don't seem to know the proper use of lift shafts at The Register, do you?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: air CON

              Go easy on him, he's only been here just under two years. He's still a n00b ;-)

        2. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

          Re: air CON

          That's what lift shafts, stairwells, and open windows are for...

          Simon? Is that you?

      2. I Am Spartacus

        Re: air CON

        I had that at an ofice I worked in. Two rooms in the office, each with its own thermostat, controlled by the HVAC plant in the basement. And it caused endless problems. One room would be boiling, the other like the arctic. The A/C engineer finally got them both balanced. All was fine until someone tweaked one of the thermostats because the temp was wrong. Nothing happened, so she tweaked it a bit more. Then the other team also noticed that their temp was wrong, so adjusted theirs. and the first team goit worse.

        It seems that the initial installers had wired the thermostats wrong. Each one was controlling he a/c for the other room.

        1. Flightmode

          Re: air CON

          It seems that the initial installers had wired the thermostats wrong. Each one was controlling he a/c for the other room.

          That's not "wrong", that's genius, that is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: air CON

            Evil genius you mean

            1. Flightmode

              Re: air CON

              The best kind of genius.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: air CON

            Chaotic Evil :) Love it

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          For fun, try an electric blanket with dual controls - flipped around.

          1. DropBear

            Re: air CON

            I would, but for some reason having my whole body covered in a thin insulator being the only thing separating it from a bunch of wiring at mains voltage genuinely scares the shit out of me.

        3. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          If I turned up the AC and it got warmer as a result I'd test my theory of the thermostat being screwy by cranking it all the way to the other side. That should prove things.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: air CON

        I worked for a radio group where I often came in late and then worked into the evening. It was quieter and I got more done, without constant interruptions after most people had gone home. Well one evening at about 11pm a call came through from the security guard on reception. In one of the studios being used to broadcast the aircon had failed could I please go and take a look before I went home. I walked up there and saw the security door wedged open which is never a good sign.

        For those of you who have never seen a radio studio close up, it is often a small room which has been isolated for sound proofing so very well sealed but not airtight. It is also filled with equipment which, like a server room makes a hell of a lot of heat. The young lady broadcasting from the studio was sweating and had stripped off a lot of her clothes. As soon as I walked I. She asked if I was going to fix the aircon and I said depends on what’s wrong but hopefully.

        In this building we had removed all the studios aircon panels and replaced them with a dial. This was because the panels were complex and the DJ’s didn’t understand them. So they would have it set to heating rather than cooling but then have the temperature set to 18c or lower. Then they would call and say it was getting too hot and someone had to go up to adjust the settings for them. The dial made it fairly idiot proof and removed the chances of trying to lower the temperature by heating the room up.

        The actual panel was still there outside the studio but behind a ceiling tile in the false ceiling. Once I’d found something stable to stand on I was able to reach the ceiling tiles. I looked at the panel and it was showing an error which was easily fixed by the equivalent of rebooting it. Once I’d done that (literally a couple of seconds later) I could hear excited squeals from the studio. Before I even walked back into the studio she was yelling thank you as the cooler air started to circulate.

        I was offered a very sweaty kiss and hug which I declined as she looked like I could be drowned in sweat. I said next time please call earlier if the temperature rises and don’t wedge the security door open it’s there for your protection.

      4. usbac Silver badge

        Re: air CON

        Many years ago, we had the same problem. This was back in the mid 90's. We ran a small ISP, and shared the same floor of an office building with a telemarketing firm. The thermostat for the entire floor was located in the hallway that ran between the two businesses. We had two racks of equipment in our office space, so keeping everything cool was a big deal.

        As the poster above mentioned, there are certain groups of people that will almost parish from frostbite at any temperatures below 85 F. We were constantly having problems with the temperatures in our office going higher than 90 F because the staff fro the telemarketing company would raise the temperature to ridicules levels.

        So, one of the other techs and myself went out over lunch to purchase a new thermostat. After hours, we came in and mounted it on the wall inside of our office space, opposite to the original. All we had to do was to temporarily remove the thermostat in the hallway, and then to punch a hole through the wall into our unit, and push the wiring out. We left the power connected to the thermostat in the hall so that it would light up, and would appear to function.

        The boss came in later in the day, and noticed the new thermostat on the wall. We told him what we did, and he thought is was funny as hell. His response was "ah, good idea".

        Later, there were crowds of people huddled around the thermostat in the hall, all looking puzzled. Then, by the afternoon, the problem came. We saw an HVAC contractors truck pull into the parking lot. We thought "oh, no". The HVAC tech removed the thermostat in the hallway, and immediately discovered the subterfuge. As a credit to him, he didn't say a word to the people standing around. He knocked on our door instead.

        We invited him in. He saw the racks of equipment in the corner, and the realized why we did what we did with the thermostat. We told him the whole story. He had a huge laugh from it. He left and told the telemarketing people that it was "working as designed".

        We moved out to better facilities about a year later. Who knows how long everything stayed that way.

        1. jfw25

          Re: air CON

          "higher than 90 F because the staff fro the telemarketing company would raise the temperature to ridicules levels"

          Well, if they were telemarketers, they were probably more used to boiling sulfur...

        2. katrinab Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: air CON

          I had to do a quick translation. 85°F = 29.4°C.

          I can confirm that that is a little below the correct comfortable room temperature of 30°C

          1. Giles C Silver badge

            Re: air CON

            Well for you maybe, I am sitting here with the heating in my house set to 19C, and in an office normally 20-22 is fine, mind you I used to work with someone who would be wearing a coat when it was that temperature in the office. My brother is even worse anything above 18C is too hot for him - and no we are not Geordies but come from the Fens….

      5. Dimmer Silver badge

        Re: air CON

        Ben there and done that! It does work.

      6. low_resolution_foxxes

        Re: air CON

        The problem is usually that the aircon is often blowing hot or cold, so people near the fans usually end up having chilly air blown over them

    3. Anonymous Custard
      Boffin

      Re: air CON

      We have something similar here. Rented building with general open plan layout, where the air-con initially worked fine.

      Then various managers decided they were so important that they needed their own little offices, and so at their insistence various stud-wall partitions got put up to make them their precious boxes to sit in. And of course it totally screwed up the airflow in the building, bits were now hot or cold, especially in aforesaid little boxes as of course they had airflow in from the ceiling but no outflow or specific control.

      Guess who now routinely complains that things are too hot or too cold...?

      1. disgruntled yank

        Re: air CON

        I spent some years working for a government contractor in Washington, DC. We were in a narrow slice of a building, oriented north-south. The project manager had an office on the north side of the building, getting effectively no sunlight, the most technical staff had an office on the south side getting sunlight all day, and everyone else was in between. Since the project manager had the choice on thermostat settings, the techies had hot summers.

        (And for a while everyone had a cold winter, until somebody noticed that hey, there was a LaserJet parked right under the thermostat.)

      2. Gazzat5

        Re: air CON

        When a tenant does a tenant fit out like this they are supposed to adjust the air conditioning (usually can coil units) grilles, returns, controls with approval of the landlord to suit their new layout.

    4. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: air CON

      What a great example of people imagining ludicrous nonsense. The oxygen content would have to drop so far, and be replaced by so much CO2, that people would get CO2 poisoning well before the shortage of oxygen became apparent. You're talking complete and utter rubbish.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: air CON

        You are correct of course, but nearly in all circumstances where people feel "they can't get enough air" they are actually reacting to increased CO2. 3% is seriously uncomfortable and 5% has a good chance of killing you even if the other 95% is oxygen.

        In contrast, someone in a tank of inert gas will probably keel over and die before they even notice there's not enough O2.

        1. l8gravely

          Re: air CON

          So how are you going to get to 3% CO2 in an office building? No one has a building that sealed unless you in a bio-hazard lab or something special like that.

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: air CON

            Playing with the fire extinguishers?

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: air CON

            large amounts of people in any space that's not getting active air replenishment is going to raise CO2 content to uncomfortable levels very very fast. And I think the poster above got his percentages off by a factor of 10. Acceptable levels are anything below 600 ppm, which is about 0.06%. Discomfort and drowsiness sets in at 0.1 to 0.25% (1000-2500 ppm), anything above that is going to cause more serious health effects.

            (Source)

            Normal CO2 Levels

            The effects of CO2 on adults at good health can be summarized to:

            normal outdoor level: 350 - 450 ppm

            acceptable levels: < 600 ppm

            complaints of stuffiness and odors: 600 - 1000 ppm

            ASHRAE and OSHA standards: 1000 ppm

            general drowsiness: 1000 - 2500 ppm

            adverse health effects may be expected: 2500 - 5000 ppm

            maximum allowed concentration within a 8 hour working period: 5000 - 10000 ppm

            maximum allowed concentration within a 15 minute working period: 30000 ppm

            The levels above are quite normal and maximum levels may occasionally happen from time to time. In general - ventilation rates should keep carbon dioxide concentrations below 1000 ppm to create indoor air quality conditions acceptable to most individuals.

            Extreme and Dangerous CO2 Levels

            slightly intoxicating, breathing and pulse rate increase, nausea: 30000 - 40000 ppm

            above plus headaches and sight impairment: 50000 ppm

            unconscious, further exposure death: 100000 ppm

            Carbon Dioxide Standard Levels

            The recommendations in ASHRAE standard 62-1989 are

            classrooms and conference rooms 15 cfm per occupant (person)

            office space and restaurants 20 cfm per occupant

            hospitals 25 cfm per occupant

            1 cfm (ft3/min) = 1.7 m3/h = 0.47 l/s

          3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: air CON

            I've previously related a personal experience about what happened with too little O2 but without CO2 to lt you know there's a problem here.

            It's surprising how little you actually notice a lack of oxygen if there is no build-up of CO2!

        2. midgepad

          CO2

          We breathe out 4% CO2.

          It doesn't take noticeable extra effort to maintain that with an inspired tension of 1000 ppm (0.1%) rather than the 300ppm it should br or the 420 ppm it currently is outdoors.

          Other factors account for feeling uncomfortable.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: air CON

        I've always found the phrase "I'm going to get some air" a little weird.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          Never heard of Perri Air?

      3. Noram

        Re: air CON

        From memory the human body doesn't detect lack of oxygen, it detects raised CO2 levels via a nerve bundle in the airway, hence why things like lack of pressurisation in an aircraft can be such a killer, you're suffering from a lack of usable oxygen but the body doesn't recognise that and because it's low air pressure (with not enough O2 in it) your bodies normal warning system doesn't kick in.

        It's the same reason that you need specialist monitors if you're working in certain storage areas, or underground, your body simply doesn't register O2 levels and unless it's an increase of CO2 you might not get any warning from your bodies lack of oxygen (IIRC one of the reasons climbers are advised/meant to watch each other, and above a certain height moves more slowly to allow for that lower oxygen level).

        As a couple of the other commentators have said, you put out more than about 4% co2 in your breath, in many modern buildings that are designed to be "energy efficient" one of the ways they do it is to make the building more air tight, so if you increase the number of people in it, or in rooms that don't have adequate ventilation you get a raised CO2 level that can be noticed.

        You can buy the monitors these days quite cheaply*, and since Coivd people have been using them as a simple way to measure ventilation (if the co2 level is rising it tends to indicate poor airflow), and people are finding that in some buildings you're getting co2 levels hitting 3-4000 parts per million, so approaching 10 times the normal levels (o2 levels might not be dropping dangerously low, but you're going to notice that it's "stuffy" and when you go outside how much better it is).

        I've seen several people note that just getting into an aircraft can see the CO2 level hit 2-3 times normal almost instantly, and if it's parked up waiting to move (with the ac etc off, as they are like to do to save money on fuel) it's hitting 3,500 parts per million or more before settling down again once they're in the air to maybe just 3-4 times normal atmospheric levels.

        *I've seen some really cheap ones for about ~£30 that apparently work quite well, and one that seems to be highly regarded and very portable for about £200 (which I think can log to a smartphone app).and seems to be a favourite of various scientists for their own personal use (apparently it agrees with their lab gear, but has a much shorter life)..

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          In most cities, if you want fresh air, then you got to open a window and stick your head into a building.

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          Word of warning if you're going to buy a CO2 sensor, make sure it actually lists containing an NDIR or other direct CO2 measurement sensor. There's a lot of cheap sensor out there that correlate a few cheaper sensor measurements (VOCs and Hydrogen, using a MOS sensor) into a makeshift "it's approximately this" CO2 level, but they're not very accurate at the best of times and get worst towards the higher ranges (usually referred to as estimated CO2 (eCO2) or CO2 equivalent (CO2eq).)

    5. short a sandwich

      Re: air CON

      A similar experience in a flour mill control room. Engineer says this is perfectly sized for your environment. Being slightly aware of the calculations needed and where to find the information to do a slightly better job. I pointed out that the machine supplied was one third the output it should be (for just about meet the spec control of room temperature for testing purposes) and possibly one quarter of the output for a bit of reserve on the warmest days.

      Engineer bitched a bit, manglement spent the money on the just about adequate solution and we were able to test flour at the correct temperature for the rest of my time there and be comfortable when the roller floor was running in excess of 30C.

      1. nintendoeats Silver badge

        Re: air CON

        Just for my own interest, what does one test flour for, and how?

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          I'm guessing it may involve particle size distribution - we do the same with plastic powder.

          It's done with stacks of sieves.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: air CON

          I'm guessing here but I would reckon it would be moisture and possibly size, as you use much finer flour for Pasta than you do for Bread.

        3. Korev Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: air CON

          Just for my own interest, what does one test flour for, and how?

          Using equipment connected by a cereal port...

          1. mdubash

            Re: air CON

            Would that be a Hovis-232?

          2. Solo Owl

            Re: air CON

            They should update to Universal Cereal Bus (type C, of course).

        4. herman Silver badge

          Re: air CON

          Gluten content is one important parameter.

    6. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: air CON

      One office I worked in had perfect air conditioning and each area in this open plan office was served by a unit in the ceiling. The company moved in in the Autumn and the system worked absolutely fine throughout the winter. There was fresh air added in through vents as well and everyone was happy. Then when summer came around one floor of the office building and only one floor was inundated with flies, nasty large black ones. We couldn’t understand why but it was a problem that needed a solution and so all the vent screens and filters were checked. We also installed a butchers fly zapper on one Friday night putting all the blinds down in an attempt to get as many of them as possible. Came in on the Monday and it was amazingly fly free on that floor, we had killed the lot with the zapper. It didn’t last long though and the flies were back by the end of the day. That was a real puzzle and made us wonder where they were coming from and getting in.

      Eventually we found a woman on that floor who had her desk next to a window. During the day she opened this window she confessed and this was obviously how they were getting in. We asked if the temperature was different, was there any issue with her particular space? No she had just opened it to “Let some fresh air in as it gets very stuffy.” which caused some amusement. We explained that the air wasn’t just static in the office it wasn’t a closed loop system. The air brought in was better quality than an open window because the dust, other particles from the busy road below and flies had been filtered out. We showed her the black particles that surrounded her window ledge that were absent everywhere else. She didn’t seem convinced but we told her it was dangerous to have it open, despite the fact it was double glazed, didn’t even open a foot wide and there was a plexiglass baffle to prevent things falling out. Someone then looked outside her window and on a ledge below there was an ex pigeon. This has expired some time ago and the thing was crawling with maggots and flies. Source found the problem was eventually dealt with. The windows were then locked shut with a key in a break glass holder in case of emergencies at each end of the wall.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: air CON

        What good is a "break glass in case of emergency" key to windows that don't open more than a foot (and apparently quite far off the ground)?

    7. Fred Daggy Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: air CON

      Heatwaves are always good for stress testing any air con. In a former gig, I was working in the male-dominated IT and Finance area. IT strategically located near the server room. Corner office (nice), with 2 lots of big glass Windows.

      Come February, a string of >45C degree days in a row with a "hot northerly". Not unusual for the place nor time of year. But someone trimmed the trees nearby the IT office - Bushfire prevention.

      Now, IT didn't mind it warm, but suddenly we were on Satan's summer holiday. Nothing but very effective Silicon Dioxide between us and Sol. And the aircon was losing the battle, badly. So we asked for the temperature to be put down a weeny bit. Because we could bbq a couple of snags on any surface in the room.

      Cue howls of protest from the far end of the building. "But we're cold" countered with "We need it down, we're dying and you can put on a jumper" ad nauseum. So a meeting was held. IT stripped down to the underwear (while still wearing mandated tie), walked in to the meeting dripping (like, 60c sauna dripping) held up soaked shirts. CEO ordered the aircon to go as low as it could.

      Some Window tinting and additional shades were added shortly after that point too.

    8. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: air CON (Too-Hotties vs Too-Coldies)

      In the fights over the thermostat, people usually forget that: if it's too cold for them, they can put on a sweater to feel warmer. If it's too hot for them ... the office dress code usually prohibits them from stripping down to feel cooler.

      (Given all the comments about air conditioning, we need a snowflake icon, or headshot of Cirno from the Touhou PC games.)

    9. G.Y.

      humidity Re: air CON

      At one place, there were always too hot/too cold complaints; the staff ran around with a thermometer -- but never measured humidity.

      By the way, one employee cycled to work, hung her wet sweatshirt out to dry -- and 9+ hours later it was still wet.

      I suggested the thermometer be replaced by an astrology book -- no less accurate, and more interesting.

      1. ITS Retired

        Re: humidity air CON

        Too many people have no idea that humidity has an affect on comfort. It's cool outside, so they open windows in their air conditioned space. Never mind 95% humidity and the fog outside.

        Eventually, the ground sourced heat pump gives up because the circulating fluid is the same temperature going into the ground, as coming out. Winter did not remedy the problem, as the A/C didn't last through the spring.

        It happened in an office I worked at. Manglement and their unair-conditioned lake cottages was the basic cause..

  4. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    But everybody else was less than impressed by our actions and people bitched about it for a considerable time afterwards," Trent told On-Call.

    So they weren't his fans then...

    1. jake Silver badge
      Pint

      Boo! Hiss!

      Have a beer :-)

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Boo! Hiss!

        Cheers!

  5. ColinPa

    Whoops goes the cooling

    We were a development lab. We had some building work next to our machine room, and a digger dug through the main pipe from the air conditioning units to our building. It took a week to fix (getting the replacement pipe was the problem)

    So no air con - and all but critical systems were shutdown. Also our building had no windows (why do you need them when you have aircon) so the offices soon got very warm with all the warm bodies.

    This was before the days of being able to work from home. Some managers were enterprising. Some held meetings in the nice outdoors, under the trees. Other managers said "please work from home - and review the documentation". So people took the paper manuals and reviewed the stuff relevant to their area. Lots of stuff got pruned, and there was a lot of new content.

    So overall it was not too bad an impact ( besides the sweaty bodies)

  6. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
    Pint

    Cooling

    We had some variable-speed drives housed in a switchroom which had air conditioning to keep the inverters cool. The inverter rating was about 500 kW so there was a few kW of heat to dissipate. Well the AC was good at cooling the filtered air extracted from outside......but...... The problem was that the site was a sewage works and a bit pongy...... The characteristic 'bad-egg gas', hydrogen sulphide, is very corrosive to copper. These inverters and cabinets had been carefully constructed with uncoated, high-copper-content wire and strips of copper to keep local losses to a minimum but inadvertently creating a huge surface area. Which promptly corroded..... and the corrosion product is conductive.... and flaky..... Inside, the cabinets had a thick layer of black copper sulphide (other spellings are available). All aided by polluted, external air being forced through the cabinets albeit cooled. After a couple of years, gosh it was a mess and the consequential short-circuits were spectacular.

    Tinning the conductors could only be a partial cure (tin corrodes as well) so a new closed-circuit cooling system had to be installed with bigger coolers and standby in case of failure. We were fortunate that we had specified the requirements for the cooling air...... But when it was warm/hot weather this was the best building to be in as it was odour-free and blissfully cool.......>

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Cooling

      That's why we don't allow untreated outside air and inside air to mix in situations like that.

      Properly engineered modern air handler systems are truly marvelous to behold.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Cooling

      I'd question the wisdom of air cooling motor/servo drivers of that power level with AC air to begin with. Very inefficient. An air-water cooling system with a dedicated water cooling loop would make more sense. Keep the pongy gasses outside and efficiently cool your kilowatts with water (or other liquid coolant). More compact and probably more efficient than an air cooling system.

      1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

        Re: Cooling

        You are right but this problem was not cooling per se, as the panels would normally be cooled by ambient air and door-mounted fans. Atmospheric pollution attacking bare metal, (and warm metal at that), is more difficult to address. It is not usual to hermetically seal switchgear such as starters and control equipment on power drives. Modern practice on these sites is to contain or hugely dilute the source of the corrosion. At the design stage.

        In sealing the building against ambient air changes, the issue of dissipating heat becomes a building problem. The consultants chose to install AC running in ducts under the ceiling.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "people bitched about it for a considerable time afterwards"

    Of course. What Trent should have done was shut everything down so as to not inconvenience the desk drones. Customer Satisfaction ? That only counts if I can get a yearly bonus, or better yet, a raise out of it.

    There is no I in Team, right ? Well, there obviously was no team there either, so I it was.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once upon a time, long ago..

    .. in Cambridge, when the Internet was still a new idea, someone had not yet come up with the idea of a URL and days were spent using telnet, gopher and other malarky ..

    .. we had the exact same problem. At an ISP. Which was addressed with grabbing fans from wherever they were found. Which was also because of a dead airco. Which some of us knew on account of being in the hottest corner of the building. Which we kinda caused ourselves because most of us ran two systems, one Linux (Slackware, just to date this scene) and one with some Windows variant (I think it was 95 because it still needed an IP stack added to work properly and Doom was played the network was always tested with IPX traffic.

    I think they were 80486 or something - you still had to set drive geometry in the BIOS if you wanted something to work.

    Anyway, I think the ops team managed to keep things from melting out of the racks but I also know it was close..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: (Slackware, just to date this scene)

      /checks computer os

      What, today? :-)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: (Slackware, just to date this scene)

        Every day, for nearly 30 years.

        Slackware is the oldest continuously developed distro, and for more than one reason.

        If you haven't tried it recently, try it again. I'll bet you'll be surprised.

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Once upon a time, long ago..

      > I think it was 95 because it still needed an IP stack added to work properly

      That was Windows 3.1 / 3.11. Windows 95 has IP stack in the system, nothing extra needed (except Kerio Firewall I'd say).

      Windows NT always had IP stack since it first 3.1 version.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Once upon a time, long ago..

        "Windows 95 has IP stack in the system"

        Not unless you sprung for the "Plus!" pack. Microsoft still didn't "get" the Internet at that point. Some can make a pretty good argument that they still don't.

        "Windows NT always had IP stack since it first 3.1 version."

        For extremely small values of IP stack. Quite frankly, it was the worst approximation of a TCP/IP stack that ever shipped commercially. A small portent of things to come.

      2. John PM Chappell

        Re: Once upon a time, long ago..

        Jake's mostly covered it, but just to say that '95 definitely didn't have TCP/IP built in until later, and early NT didn't have it, and for a long time what it did have was notoriously bad. I think NT 4 late SPs fixed that.

        It almost certainly was Windows 95, given the time he identified and the mention of '486 based PCs.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Once upon a time, long ago..

          As for Windows 95: Yep, I was wrong there. The first Windows 95 I came in touch with did have TCP/IP built in without "Plus" since I avoided it before. So it must have been either 950a or 950b. I SUSPECT it was 950b since it brought DOS 7.10 with FAT32 allowing larger drives, and for medium size drives less wasted due to smaller cluster sizes. Before that I stayed with Windows 3.1/3.11 with either Trumpet or later the official TCP/IP package.

          But Windows NT 3.1 had TCP/IP from the beginning, at least that is what Wikipedia says, including a second article. Was an MS-bought-add-on-update package to install as "protocol", but it was officially available. NT 3.5 included it right from the start without such tricks - though "add protocol" has to be clicked and chosen from the list. Same with NT 4.x, TCP/IP built in right from the start, just click "add protocol".

  9. mhoulden

    One hot summer our office air con broke down. Quite a few people plus a couple of server rooms meant it wasn't the coolest at the best of times. We hired a few temporary free standing coolers to make the place a bit more workable. I was talking to someone next to one of them when it decided to spring a leak. When a cloud of white gas starts coming towards you, you move. A couple of minutes later it tripped the fire alarm and the place was evacuated.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I bought one of those portable air coolers during the heatwave last summer. What a masterpiece of engineering.

      The cold side pulls in air from the room, chills it down and blows it back into the room. Then the hot side sucks in that nice cool air, heats it back up to its original temperature and blows it out of the window through a flexible pipe. So it uses masses of energy and the net result is no different to a fan blowing air out of the window. The room doesn't really get any cooler.

      The solution of course is to run some tumble dryer hose from the window to the intake of the hot side. It's a little better but still not very effective.

      The half-in half-out, window mounted units are presumably better but hard to get in the UK, and most houses have the wrong sort of windows for them. A proper split system costs a bit too much when you consider how few hot days we get in a year.

      1. nintendoeats Silver badge

        We rented an apartment a couple years ago, and it was sight unseen because of the pandemic. The listing said A/C.

        What that meant was they included an anemic and extremely loud portable A/C unit. To be clear, this was not a partricularly cheap apartment.

        We only stayed a year.

        1. TimMaher Silver badge
          Coat

          Re:The listing said A/C

          I misread that as Anonymous Coward.

          Ah well.

      2. david 12 Silver badge

        What a masterpiece of engineering.

        There's a lot of different options available, and no good documentation or reviews. If you collect the condensate, and use it to cool the hot side, then you can get good energy transfer with low volumes, and it doesn't matter where the air intake is.

        More commonly, what you get is iced-up cooler coils, an overflowing condensate tray, and piss-poor energy transfer.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Window AC

        "The half-in half-out, window mounted units are presumably better"

        Modern ones actually work quite nicely (if properly sized!), and use less power than you might think.

        "most houses have the wrong sort of windows for them."

        As long as you can bolt a bracket or two to the outside wall to support them, they will work with any window that they physically fit into. True, you might need to install some sort of blocking material to fill open spaces within the frame, but not taken up by the AC unit, which can get ugly, but what price to pay for cheap comfort? Note that they are usually only good for cooling, they don't work both ways.

        At the house in town, we use cheap metal shelf brackets as supports, and 1" closed cell foam insulation cut to size and painted to block the open space. Works nicely.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Window AC

          Thats the point, uk windows tend to be on a cantilever hinge type thing, and often don't open to 90 degrees or greater, so a window A/C just physically won't fit... we have to resort to other methods of cooling, join me for one, there's one in the icon for you.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Window AC

            Yeah, my windows are multi function. Turn the handle 180deg and the top of the windows opens inwards leaving about a 15cm gap at the top. But turn the handle only 90deg and it opens fully like a door. I'm not sure those type are allowed under safety regulations these days, almost certainly not higher than ground floor. Judging by the neighbours, upstairs windows all seem to open outwards about 15cm at the bottom.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Window AC

              Those things are bloody hard to work too... unless you're used to them. I see a failure mode where they flop down on one pivot at the bottom (right or left) then fall off and kill someone

              1. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: Window AC

                I have those sorts of "turn and tilt" windows too and yes, if you're totally careless that can happen. But since they open inwards you'd be hard pressed for them to fall hard enough to kill someone. Most of the time you're just left holding a window at an awkward angle as you loudly shout "get back in you bastard thing" at it while trying to operate the latch and position the window correctly at the same time.

                The great thing about them is that if they get in the way you can just pull the entire moving window frame off the wall and put it somewhere out of the way. (if you have to install an aircon unit for instance, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!)

      4. jake Silver badge

        Mini-splits

        "A proper split system costs a bit too much when you consider how few hot days we get in a year."

        Mini-splits would be ideal for the British Isles ... they are heat pumps that work both ways. Cool air in the summer, warm in the winter. And they are usually very, very quiet and last virtually forever, if you keep the service up at the proper intervals (mostly just filter changes/cleanings and pressure checks). Well worth the money, IMO. Also, contrary to popular belief, they can be installed by the homeowner (at least here in the US).

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Mini-splits

          They can here in the UK too*, the only bit that may require a sparky is the supply to them, unless they can run off 13Amps (most specify 16A circuits, because they're designed for Europe, where most places other than the UK and IE have 16A outlets) . I suspect they'd actually be ok on 13A sockets on a 20 or 32A circuit (the usual) but manuf's might kick off about warranty claims.

          *the pregassed/pre evacuated type where you simply clip or bolt the line set together then open a valve on the condenser unit.

  10. trevorde Silver badge

    Freezing in a heat wave

    Worked in a company in Perth, Western Australia where there was a fire exit door next to the air conditioning thermostat. Every lunchtime, people would use the fire exit as a shortcut to the car park. Every time someone opened the door, the thermostat would get a blast of hot air. As a result, the air conditioning was working flat out after lunch. It might have been 42C outside but inside we were being blasted by 6C icy winds from the air con!

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Freezing in a heat wave

      This has always been my experience of office building aircon.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Freezing in a heat wave

        "This has always been my experience of office building aircon."

        Same here, office A/C has always been a very toxic generator of infinite coughing and sneezing ! I even monitored how it's actually a drug to some ...

        One day, in a very hot country, where 50C temperatures are largely common, outside of winter, the meeting room was freezing cold so we went ahead and stopped it entirely.

        After 3 hours, temperature was ok, however, one colleague (quite strong aussie, who was working in the country for 20 years), began to almost fall unconscious: sweating like he was basically going to fall apart, going to the A/C controls, babbling "need A/C on" !

        He switched it back on to freezing cold. I remember seeing the current temp in the room at the moment: 23 degrees Celsius ! So, not really anything to fell unconscious for, unless you've been exposed to A/C for half of your life !

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Freezing in a heat wave

      Easily solved by the liberal application of a clue-by-four or other suitable LART.

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Also had the overheated server room thing.

    Luckily no damaged equipment.

    There's equipment on the market which'll monitor the temperature, and will send an SMS/email/alert as soon as the temperature exceed a certain pre-set level.

    Good to have.

    1. Julian 8 Silver badge

      Unless you are outsourced to a company, and once the original staff have left or been let go, it leaves the outsourcer to check all the notifications in the NOC mailbox.

      When they don't, the DC, SAN's and multiple servers will melt down and destroy disks

      Your first warning is when your vmware tells you a lot of servers have just gone down and then your SAN management tells you, you have lost disks, cartidges, shelves etc.

      Oh, same said outsourcer never checked the notifications for backup's so were unaware they had been failing for ages.

      Also, never tested any restores - I mean, why would they ?

      Yes all in the handover docs they were given by the team who used to monitor all that.

      Won't go on about the tools that existed to see the various systems that were "shutdown" as no-one was in the office anymore to see big blaring warnings on screens

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      I cobbled together a temperature monitor when the aircon (since repaired) was playing up, using a grotty spare laptop and a USB temperature sensor.

      I keep meaning to do something better with a RasPi but haven't got the required round tuit.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "I keep meaning to do something better with a RasPi but haven't got the required round tuit."

        Over-kill. Use an Arduino. Or to really save money, breadboard up an ATmega328.

        Or perhaps just purchase one pre-built for a couple bucks and be done with it.

    3. navidier

      This is not a radiator!

      > Also had the overheated server room thing.

      Me too. AC tripped after a power glitch, and the little optics lab where our server rack is located heated up to somewhere north of 40 C. There is a passageway past the end of the room with people coming and going. The wall between the lab and the passageway heated up, as did the air in the passageway. When I discovered the problem, several people mentioned, "Oh, yes, I noticed it was warm when I went past." But did anyone check why it was warm? Of course not! So there's now a sign on the wall, "This is not a radiator! If the wall is warm call xxxx.".

      > There's equipment on the market which'll monitor the temperature, and will send an SMS/email/alert as soon as the temperature exceed a certain pre-set level.

      I got a USB thermometer stick off Amazon, found software on the Web and compiled it, with a cron job to log the temperature every five minutes into a file on /var/log and to send me an email if the temperature goes over 25 C. I also use "ssh -Yf <me>@<server> xterm -e tail -f /var/log/tempmon.dat" in a small window in my cygwin-X install on my desktop PC.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes rather annoying when you work for a cheap company that buys normal air cons not designed for server rooms, that suddenly stop working if he remote battery dies (I wish I was joking)

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Ah yes, like the telecomms room on a south facing wall of a the motel I worked at in the early noughties in wisconsin, 200 line PABX (a mitel sx200 for anyone interested), and the cable tv amps, etc. Normally didn't get too warm, but there was a small 110v window type a/c jammed through a hole cut in the wall. It did precisely nothing for the heat in there, which fortunately didn't ever cause any equipment damage (most pabx's and cable tv gear are designed for hostile environments) but working in that room (it's where the programming console for the system was) often required stripping down lol

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I remember years ago, one of the night staff has smashed a window of the comms room to let out the heat after the air con had failed.

          It was pointed out to him that this was telecom equipment with a temp range that encompassed Siberia and the Sahara and the air con was merely there to allow humans to work comfortably in the room

          (I think McD uses similar kit for warming up their apple pies)

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            The thought was there LOL

  12. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

    I thought at first this was going to be about a sudden upswing in the usage of fans (and surreptitiously sourced portable aircon units) overwhelming the power supply. Which is what happened to our office in the summer before lockdown.

  13. Tony Gathercole ...

    Fans and Damp Towels

    In the summer of 1987 or 1988, I remember the H&V failing in the computer room where we ran some of the key IT systems for parts of a major petrochemicals business on Teesside on a collection of large DEC systems (DECSYSTEM-20s, Clustered VAXen etc). Not only did we grab as many fans as we could find/buy, but we had the external doors open and wet towels flapping in whatever breeze was available to try to keep the humidity up and the temprature down.

    Fortunately, within a couple of years we were able to relocate the services into the new regional computer centre then being built about 500 metres away. Must have been quite flexible H&V in there as within 20 years all the systems had been removed and it was being used as an archive store for documents and other media!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TVC

    Years ago when the BBC first started broadcasting TV digitally we had an "apps room" on the 6th floor of TVC with all the kit*. The aircon was problematic and we engineers found the best way to keep it cool when the AC failed was to open doors on either side of the room to the outside world and allow a through flow of fresh air - even warm summer air was effective enough to stop it overheating - sometimes we "borrowed" a dirty great fan** from the studios to assist the through flow if there was too little wind outside.

    I often wondered if we really needed AC and could have just coped with appropriately ducted outside air - maybe not when it gets to 40 degs.....

    *OK the Coding and Muxing was elsewhere....The area had once housed the first standards converters which took up several bays/racks - all now possible in less than 1U...

    **(fans are/were used to dry the studio floors after painting)

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: TVC

      I’ve posted this before but……

      Worked once for a UK media business that was based in Central London. We had during the dotcom boom a plan to update and revamp our online offering quite substantially. To do this we hired some talented people and had our own kit separate from the main server rooms (by one floor) for work before it was installed elsewhere both in the building and elsewhere. A small room with very good aircon was chosen for storing the now powered up equipment because it was one of the few places where the floor was reinforced enough to take the weight.

      We had a system for out of hours call outs, someone had written a small prog that alerted reception something had failed and they then called the out of hours mobile number. There was I think one call out in the middle of the first week when a cleaner switched off something by accident. These things happen but are annoying and so a High Voltage Danger of Death sign was placed on the door. The cleaning staff were also told not to go in and this was fine with them as they found it too cold in there. So we get to that weekend, I'm on call the phone rang and they said they're showing multiple failures. I got in (I was nearby) and found someone left the door open and things overheated and thermally cut out. This was during the summer so the building air conditioning was working overtime and that had cut out too at one point. I reset everything and went back shopping.

      Next weekend I was on call again (lucky me) and the same thing happened, had a call from reception "multiple failures". I was a bit further away but I was able to get in quite quickly. This time the door's closed but the aircon is off and it's a far cooler day. Again I reset everything and went home and heard nothing all the rest of the weekend. This pattern continued for two more weeks when whoever is on call is phoned with multiple failures. This seems malicious now so I suggested locking the door, with the key being held on reception in the key safe for access if needed. Doesn't seem to stop it though and the key has never left reception so it's a bit of a puzzle. We viewed the security camera footage and no one was seen near the door so all very mysterious.

      The next weekend I'm the unlucky sod who will get the call and I realised from reviewing the call log on the phone that they're all coming in at roughly the same time ±5mins. It happens at around 6pm on the Saturday and I decided I'm going to catch whoever is doing it. I got in at 5pm got the key and unlocked the door the plan being to wait for the miscreant to come in and I'll surprise them. I take a book and a chair and settle down all Columbo/Poirot/Jessica Fletcher style to wait for the handle to turn. At 17:30 there was no handle turning but mysteriously the aircon died and the room started to warm up. I started digging into the aircon options and discovered that whilst there isn't an auto on time set, there is an auto off. No one (and certainly not the person who was given the responsibility) had bothered to check if the auto off was set because the auto on wasn't.

      The person concerned who was supposed to check was made the "voluntary" on call person for the rest of the time we had the kit on our floor. Then the week after it had gone to the main server room etc, this person was still in possession of the phone when they should have handed it back. As it was a weekend the boss called reception and asked them to call him and say there were "multiple failures" showing again. He made it halfway in before realising that he'd been right royally had.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TVC

        "The person concerned who was supposed to check was made the "voluntary" on call person for the rest of the time we had the kit on our floor."

        You spelt "voluntold" incorrectly.

  15. GlenP Silver badge

    I've ended up doing similar in our previous premises, computer room door open with fans blowing air in from the air conditioned office, after the inadequate and poorly installed* computer room aircon failed in very hot weather. Inevitably there were complaints about the office being too cold!

    *Poorly installed as in mounting the "external" part of the unit inside a factory building, directly above a plastic extruder (so hot) and below the steel roof.

    1. Little Mouse

      Similar situation here, many years ago. But, through trial-and-error, we discovered that using fans to blow the hot air out cooled things down far more quickly than using fans to blow cold air in.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Similar experience here. The reason: The room to be cooled is usually a lot smaller than the outside area and sealed. So blowing cold air in mixes instantly with the warm air pushed out, you create a loop. The other way around does not have that push-poblem, the warm air gets much further away before the mixing kicks in.

  16. John70

    Have you had to co-opt supplies from around the office to keep IT alive?

    Yes. Many many many years ago. This was when a HP-UX box was sat in a corner. Didn't have a dedicated server room at the time.

    So when it got hot in the office, all the fans were "relocated".

  17. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Told this story a few times before, but a friend of mine used to work for a small Cable TV shopping channel.

    His company was interested in streaming their content, and I'd just done rather a lot of work in streaming for my employer, and had learned a lot about it. So, he invited me to go to the firm and set up a demo system on the test version of their website..

    In theory.

    I went out for beers with him on the Friday, and we arranged for him to meet me at the station the next morning. I don't drive, and the office is not on any bus routes, and was a long way from the local station, so he drove me.

    The building was empty apart from a couple of guards, so he signed me in and we went to the server room. This was a small room, packed with servers and was eerily quiet.. There was a small wall mounted air conditioner that had failed. I don't know how warm it was in the room because the thermometer on the wall topped out at 40 deg c, and it was well above that. It was hot enough that any action involved sweating. Obviously, all the hardware had overheated and shut down.

    We opened every window and door we could around the room, and got every fan an extension cable we could from every office in the building, pointed all the fans at the server room, turned them.

    As we couldn't do anything until at least some of servers were down below their shutdown temperature, we went to the local pub. Because we needed to be sober, and it was early, my friend bought us both full Irish breakfasts with all the trimmings, and soft drinks on expenses. We spent a couple of hours at the pub, then went back to find the room was still uncomfortably hot (still above 40 degrees) , but were able to get most of the servers back online.

    I was able to set up my demo, and while they opted not to go ahead with it, they still paid my >£300 for my time, so I got a very nice monitor out of it.

  18. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    If companies don't keep their IT staff cool in summer, they shouldn't be surprised when...

    ...they leave to work for OnlyFans.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: If companies don't keep their IT staff cool in summer, they shouldn't be surprised when...

      Nice one Sir

  19. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    that's but a blink of the eye

    At my last gig, during height of the supply chain strain, we had the arico go out in our main server room. We did our due diligence of opening windows, pinching every fan in the building, strategically placing pinched fans to move as much cooler air as possible. Then the airco engineers came, they spoke with the head of facilities. His entrance to our office, spoke volumes, but the news was worse than let on. There were no spare parts, the unit was EOL'd the previous year*. There were none to replace the unit with our needed specs at the time. Estimated time of delivery 1 week! We rented portable airco units and industrial fans, and limped through the week. After installation, one day after to be exact, it conked out. Facilities manager is furious, the engineers come back, there's no coolant in the damn thing, they fill it again, test it, and once it's blowing cold air again the leave. A week passes and same thing. A week passes and same thing assuring us the found the issue. A week passes and same thing. Fearing they will lose the account**, they send out the senior installation\trouble shooting engineer. Within one cup of coffee, and 10 minutes of checking around, he finds another valve that's not closed properly! He closes the valve, fills the system again and all was well. My ex-colleagues haven't mentioned another outage, I'm still in regular contact ;-}

    *This was the second piece of equipment that went EOL, and when we needed service, we got dumb looks instead. Wouldn't sales be interested in warning something was being EOL'd.

    **Oh boy, did they lose the account, and I'm sure it wasn't small potatoes. The were responsible for the HVAC for the entire campus, 3 buildings

    icon - I just worked there...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Datacentre heater

    We had a "fun" time when some maintenance work was done on a DC cooling unit. somehow during the work, the technician managed to reverse the cooling and heating controls. I have no idea why it needed to have heating circuits. Once it was bought back on line, it started to blow warm. As the room got warmer, the aircon was instructed to increase the cooling; so the unit increased the heating of the airflow.

    The other unit in the room was still trying to cool, but could not compete with the heater. Lots of servers shut down that day. Some never to start up again without components being replaced, others proceeded to fall over over the next few months. I think that more than half of the discs had to be replaced over the next 5 or 6 months. It is not always an immediate death you see but the lifespans of many components can be severely shortened by a cooking session.

    Posting anon as I believe that the customers were not all told about why there was an outage.

  21. Andy Taylor

    I am pretty sure I have told this story before. My dad managed the telemetry systems for Thames Water in the 1980s back in the days when they had a 24/7 control room where a duty controller would watch over their domain *and take calls from the public* as well.

    At some point the decision was made to install air conditioning and a suitable unit was plumbed in and commissioned. A week or so later my dad went in to see how they were getting on.

    "This new airconditioning is rubbish" was the response. On probing further, he established that it was blowing hot when they wanted cold and vice versa.

    Further investigation revealed that they didn't understand the controls. They thought the snowflake icon meant "when it's cold" and the sun "when it's hot", not "blow cold air" and "blow hot air".

    My dad moved the control to the correct position and all was well again.

    Another story from a little later - I used to do a bit of contracting work for Thames Water (thanks dad!) and was asked one day to visit a water treatment works where their shiny new SCADA system wasn't working too well. On arrival I found a PDP-11 sitting in the middle of the main control room which was a massive glass walled room which wouldn't look out of place in a Bond film, but was not air conditioned. The ambient temperature was that of an average greenhouse.

    I quickly realised the issue was the poor PDP was overheating, this was fixed by installing some portable cooling, I forget exactly what they did, but it was enough to reduce the machine's temperature to within the operating window.

  22. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    overzealous aircon

    My aircon story,

    When travelling on Greyhound Buses the stations were far too cold due to the aircon employed. We had to go sit outside in the sun , but even this would result in a blast of icy air whenever somone opened the door to enter /exit the station.

    This would result in me thinking of yelling "hey! shut the door! i'm cold " ... while outside!

  23. TooOldForThisSh*t

    Helpful Owner

    When I worked for a computer reseller back in the early 90's, we had a row of servers that ran our business in a classroom so that they could also be used for demonstrations for training classes. A couple of Netware servers, a Unix box and a couple of purely training systems. Normally with all those fans running we could hear them running down the hall, but one Monday morning the room was deathly silent. Seems the store owner came in on Sunday and discovered the HVAC had failed and deciding to be helpful turned OFF all the equipment to prevent it from overheating. Took a couple of hours to bring everything back online. Once the HVAC was repaired we posted a sign above the equipment with staff phone numbers to call first.

  24. adam 40 Silver badge

    Non adjustable thermostats

    Our entire office has temperature sensors for the A/C and heating, but not adjustable, by us anyway. Only by facilities manglement.

    So there's a can of freeze-it spray to turn up the office temperature when it's too cold, and a tupperware container for hot water to place under it, for when it's too hot...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electricians would not believe us.

    Because we were sticking more kit into a server room, management were persuaded to buy a second air cooling system for it.

    It was specified that this had to be on a separate line from the original. The idea was that if one keeled over, the other one would work harder while sending panic emails to us. We were not informed that, to save money or something, that bit of the spec was removed.

    The next time there was a generator test everything seemed to go OK. Later, however, we found that servers were getting slower and slower. I headed down the building to have a look. As I got closer I heard a lovely howling noise. It was every system fan on every server running fit to launch a Jumbo Jet!

    Because the department of bright ideas had both cooling systems on one line as soon as they were both turned on by the successful generator test the overload tripped and turned them both off!

    All I could do was lean on a lot of off switches! The servers were way too hot to tough. A quick call to my colleagues and we switched on the coolers 1 at a time, a lot of fans borrowed cooled the place down to comfortable Mediterranean levels before too long.

    We explained the problem to management only to be rubbished by the manager who I suspect had come up with the money saving wheeze in the first place.

    Eventually, it was admitted that when you switch those things on, they have an initially higher pull. Two together was too high for the surge protector or something. For the next few months, we kept someone in the room for the generator tests and someone would go and turn things back on for unscheduled ones.

    1. H in The Hague
      Pint

      Re: Electricians would not believe us.

      "Eventually, it was admitted that when you switch those things on, they have an initially higher pull."

      Known to anyone with a modicum of electrical engineering nous as "startup surge".

      Which inspired the invention of startup sequencers, and softstart units.

      Have a good weekend, and may it include --> (well, wine in my case <insert statutory lack-of-wine-icon rant>)

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: “Wine”

        Or whine perhaps.

        If you look at it, through a glass darkly, you could imagine that it is a pint of sweet desert wine with a froth of Armagnac and whipping cream on top.

        Just an option.

  26. Stoneshop

    A fan of fans

    First case: computer room with six 11/785s, two 8650s, couple of 11/750s and mVAX 2's, and two PDP 11/70s, with their assorted disk and tape units. I happen to be in there when suddenly the soundscape changes, although at first it's not clear what caused it, then it hits me that the low rumble of the aircon is missing. Which means the kit present is adding several tens of kilojoules per second to the room that should be taken out again but aren't. Sprint to the sysadmin pen, and alert those present to the problem. A couple go on a hunt through the offices, seizing whatever air moving equipment they come across, the others start shutting down anything not utterly indispensable,with only a few comms devices and the systems they connect to left running. It's the only time I saw a thermograph needle move.

    Second case: small computer room, with not even that much equipment (couple of mid-size Alphas), but it was in a wooden barrack with a black tar-paper roof directly over it. And half the cooling capacity was out of order due to an unfixable pinhole leak. To try and keep sufficient cooling capacity they had installed a pair of garden sprinklers underneath the heat exchanger, and warm summer days required the tap being turned on around 10 o'clock already. Hot summer days would see a double door being opened to the outside, and four large floor-standing fans pointed at it. The tap, and the door when open, could often not be closed before 20:00, which must have been a nice overtime earner for one of the contractors. Suggestions to dump some buckets of white paint on the roof, or put a couple of rolls of reflective bubble foil over it were dismissed with "this is a temporary building" (but also because "overtime", obviously). Similarly a timer-controlled valve. And the overtime claims would easily have paid for fixing the aircon, or a replacement. As it was a government site it should come as no surprise that the situation was still unchanged five years on.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. GBE

    It got so cold out that the servers overheated

    One winter day about 35 years ago, we were all toiling away at our DEC vt240 terminals, when we got notice that all of the servers (a few VAXes of various flavors plus a CDC 6600 or three) were going to have to shut down. It was getting too hot in the basement server room.

    The server room was cooled by heat exchangers that were supplied with cold water from chillers on the roof. Apparently they hadn't mixed enough anti-freeze into the water, and when outside temps got down to around -20F, the water in the rooftop chillers froze solid. That cut off the cold water supply to the basement. With no cold water flowing through the heat exchangers and no windows to open, the server room started to overheat. We all twiddled our thumbs for the rest of the day.

  29. StargateSg7

    20 Degrees Celcius in Dublin and complaining about the heat?

    Please do come down to Arizona where it can get +50 C in the deep desert! ha hah hah hah hah hah ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!

    20 Celcius IS considered air conditioning down here in Snowbird Land!

    Could be worse! My friends in the frigid prairie lands east of Edmonton, Canada had -43 C (i.e. on the negative side of the temp scale!)

    a few hours ago so you could say a Data Centre probably SHOULD be located there for cooling purposes!

  30. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Confusion

    I worked in a large office with horrible air con. At last they got someone in to check the wiring. He found two problems:

    One, the controller in the left part of the office controlled the temperature in the right part and vice versa.

    Two, one controller was upside down. When you turned it to get the temperature up it went down instead. In the other half of the office.

    1. Not Yb Bronze badge

      Re: Confusion

      Stayed in a hotel, during slightly busy season, and got their last room. To get the A/C to cool down the room, I had to set the thermostat switch to "heat".

  31. alister troup

    Building electrics were getting checked over the weekend, I wanted to come in and confirm everything was okay, except new supervisor wanting to show his in charge position said very specifically I was in NO CIRCUMSTANCES to do so, as they were not working on the server room

    Yeap they weren't, just they killed the power to the five a/c units and only one restarted

    So the first notice we got was when a network link went down.

    We I opened the door the wave of heat hit me and I just grabbed every floor standing fan and opened windows to move the heat out before restarting the a/c units.

    We lost a couple of HDs that were in the top of a rack another great idea of the idiot,heat rises mate so put the stuff that needs to be cooled most at the bottom so it can suck in coldest air & stuff that can work with warmer air put at top

  32. hmas

    Brings back bad memories

    One of my worst jobs was a stint as regional IT Manager for a group of recruitment agencies. If the recruiters themselves weren't enough of a challenge, the 'server room' made up for it. A long thin cupboard with 3 full racks of kit and two wall mounted Aircon units blowing cold air over the top of the racks from a 90 degree angle. Useless. We had to lease 2 portable units to keep things working over Summer. I'd have to rush into work each morning hoping they'd lasted the night and the Infra hadn't toasted overnight.

    I lasted 5 months before I decided I'd had enough of the place and was lucky enough to get head hunted. Ironically just around the time the server room was moved to a colo DC.

    A few months after I left I heard that they had experienced a raft of major outages caused by SAN failures. I wonder what could have led to those?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The joys of being the first in the office in the morning, and cheap telecoms companies.

    I was one of the two "on call" tech support people, so I was a key holder and had an alarm arm/disarm fob.

    I started work early on two days of the week and one of the morning tasks was to check the condition of the server room, which on this day was "Southern Sahara" in its temperature.

    The server room was behind two "secure" doors, both with push button locks. It had 8x42u racks of old 4u servers in the early noughties, so power was really being used and converted to heat.

    On opening the first door into a storage area, I realised it was warm.

    On opening the inner door the billowing hot air dried my eyeballs in a couple of seconds.

    Cue the running about to get fans to blow the heat out of the room before it got any worse.

    We had to keep some of the systems running due to the time of (the financial) year - customers were in the "spending what's left of the budget before we loose it from next years budget" mode in April / March.

    Turnover got up to about £1m per day on some days.

    I vaguely remember it was a problem with "a bloke on a digger" that caused the power problem for the AC.

    This is not to be mistaken for the telecoms company that had the aircon unit above their Exchange server.

    The aircon that had a leaky condensate vent pipe...one release of magic smoke later and the email for all of their customers went down.

    The P45 printer sprang in to action for the tech involved and a restore on new hardware was started by the new tech.

    All was well for a few weeks, then the same thing happened as they had not repaired / moved the aircon...

    The P45 printer was given another airing, this time for the supervisor (IIRC)

    The new server was installed in a different location.

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