Grounding Panelboards for Data Centers

According to research, nearly 90 of all the issues related to IT equipment installation are internal to the facility, while only 10 percent are related to electric service. It is also important to point out that 75 percent of all issues arising within a facility are related to grounding or making appropriate grounding, which directly affects the reliability of IT equipment system performance.

panelboards for Data Centers

There are three main dangers when working with electricity:

  • Electric shock to the individual working with the system
  • Equipment damage from transient voltage
  • Data contamination from noise voltage and currents in grounding connections

Safe grounding is not only a requirement according to OSHA and the NEC (NFPA 70), it is an obvious danger to those who work within a data center or server room on a regular basis when not completed properly. The electrical inspector local to the IT facility or business will have the ability to enforce any or all code requirements within the local jurisdiction. When in doubt of which specific code requirements apply, it makes the most sense to hire a power professional who is well schooled in all specific code requirements as well as safety best practices. There are multiple specifications with NEC 250 that require consideration to ensure a safe electrical environment.

There are a number of considerations that directly affect panelboards for data centers. For example, NEC 384-20 states, “in panelboards, equipment grounding conductors shall not be connected to a terminal bar provided for grounded conductors (neutrals) unless the bar is identified for the purpose and is located where connection is made from the grounded conductor to a grounding electrode conductor as permitted by Article 250.”

In general, panelboards for data centers up to 100A utilized for IT equipment should have an insulated grounding conductor the same size and run in the same raceway as the feeder conductors. In panelboards for data centers that are >100A, the insulated grounding conductor should be in accordance with NEC 250-95, however, the grounding conductor should never be smaller than #4. If the panelboards for data centers are not used at the point with neutral and equipment ground are connected, then it is important to separate neutral and equipment ground buses.

These are just a few examples of the complexities associated with proper grounding of all IT equipment housed within a company’s data center. Ultimately, whenever changes to power systems within a data center are required, it is always smart to bring in a power professional and someone with an expertise in the specific and unique electrical requirements a data center presents. Power systems related to use in a data center are very different from common household electricity, thus should be treated with a higher level of skill in IT power needs and components. This way the data center can not only function at peak performance, but in a safe manner as well.