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Server Room Water Sensor with Automatic Power Off Switch?

Posted on 2016-09-10
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Last Modified: 2016-10-05
I have a client with fire sprinklers in the server room. I need the power supply to the racks turned off as soon as the fire sprinklers are activated.

Does anyone have any suggestions for an automated server rack sensor that will turn off the power supply going to the rack when it sense water?
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Question by:wmtrader
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by:Dr. Klahn
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The company that installed and services the sprinklers should be able to install a flow switch in the sprinkler branch serving the server room.

Then contract with an electrician to take the line from the flow switch and connect it to a breaker panel shutoff.

If there are UPSs handling the servers, then cut the power between the UPSs and the servers instead of at the breaker panel.

It would be desirable to delay dropping the power 15 seconds or so, and have the flow switch connected to a digital input that the servers can monitor so that the they can quickly clean up and do an emergency shutdown.

This will also kill the servers when the sprinkler company tests that branch, so an override switch is desirable.
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by:wmtrader
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I can't get the client to install a flow switch or a breaker panel.

There are currently 4 UPS in use, they are using the APC SMT1500 Smart-UPS.

I am looking for a flood sensor power switch that I can place between a PDU and each of the APC SMT1500 Smart-UPS.

Or an add on to the APC SMT1500 Smart-UPS that will turn off the power going to the devices plugged into it when water is detected.
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by:Dr. Klahn
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Thanks for the additional information.

My opinion, which is only an opinion, is that the client wants the sprinkler company on his side from the start.  They have probably run into this issue before and they may already know how to address it.  If the client is unwilling to do that, since the client is probably a business and there is legal exposure all around, you might want to:

a) Consult a licensed electrician to find out whether the intended solution meets local electrical code.  Some locales are extremely strict.

b) Ask the client to check with their insurance provider to see if an electrical code violation would cause policy problems in case of a claim.
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by:wmtrader
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You lost me.
Are you saying that the flow switch is required by code and it should already have been installed?

I personally don't know if a flow switch for the server room is there or not.
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by:Dr. Klahn
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Sorry, I see I did not make myself clear.

If done with the assistance of the sprinkler company and a licensed electrician, the result will meet electrical code.

Any other way may not meet code and there may be unwanted consequences.
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by:wmtrader
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What I am looking for is a sensor not unlike these
http://avtech.com/Products/Sensors/Flood_Sensor_24_Cable.htm
http://www.apc.com/shop/bm/en/products/NetBotz-Rack-Sensor-Pod-150/P-NBPD0150

Something that can send a signal to an inline power switch to kill power if it senses water.

A device like this does not require a license electrician.

I am looking for advice on selecting a sensor, a controller and an inline power switch that can work together to detect water, send a signal to an inline power switch to kill power to a rack.

I see some stuff from APC, NetBotz, BTI Computer, Control by Web and many others.

I lack experience in selecting the correct hardware and I am looking for advice on what to buy?
It does not need to be from one of the vendors I mentioned above.
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by:rindi
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Not trying to answer the actual Question here, but rather give some advice. Server rooms shouldn't be protected by sprinklers against fire, the damage caused by the water can be greater than what a small fire can cause.

You should rather protect it with gas, something like carbon dioxide, that replaces the oxygen in the room so that the fire can't "breath" and extinguishes itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaseous_fire_suppression
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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OK rindi thanks but we (IT guys) all know that.

It is the small business owners who set things up with fire sprinklers in their server closet/room that we IT guys must deal with.

And no, they are not going to spend $50,000 to $150,000 to fix it.

Yeah yeah yeah I know, tell them the cost of not fixing it. Give the client the cost of replacing equipment and being down for days.

I would not be on Expert Exchange asking for advice on an alternative solution if telling the small business owner why "water sprinklers in the server room is a bad idea" actually got them to fix the problem.
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Expert Comment

by:DanCh99
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What you need is a leak rope to detect the water, but you need to tell your client that this is basically a choice between being executed by firing squad or hanging.  

If you cut the power HARD as soon as it gets wet, your servers (especially with raid arrays) will have disk corruption.   Presumably it will take quite a few seconds (if not minutes) for the sensors to respond, so then you've got wet servers anyway.  Which in itself is a significant fire risk.  And I would never turn on a soaked server ever again.  

If you do want to turn the servers off safely, you need to use something like a netbotz unit to issue controlled shutdown statements to the servers.  Which takes time...

The only option to minimise risk (at a minimal cost) is to have the sprinklers in the room removed or capped off.  Get your local fire department or insurance company round and they should make your client see sense.  

The proper solution is something like FM200 fire suppression, but that's probably a 20k spend for even a small room.
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Expert Comment

by:Marck911
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may I ask how much are they willing to spend?
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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I am probably going to use an APC NetBotz
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by:Marck911
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I can provide you with a low cost idea I have tested.

just place a device we configure near alarm system. plug into network cable o even wireless and send a shutdown command to all devices on network including servers and workstations.

the device won't exceed 100$.

let me know if you are interested.
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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Yes what is it?
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by:Marck911
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well you could use a Raspberry Pi with an input card and whenever the alarm triggers we set up a script with a shut down command for all devices. anyways I live in Spain but I can get it by Amazon configure that device and send it to you
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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This could be an interesting experiment. How much is your Raspberry Alarm Pi?
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Expert Comment

by:Marck911
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OK let's say:

devices:
100$ approx.
delivery cost after testing:
 depends where you are and Currier.
my work: 200$

things I need to know:
alarm signal voltage
building voltage
devices to shutdown
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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I live in California.
I would expect it to be 120 volt but I will need to get that info from my client.
There are 4 Windows servers, 1 Cisco SG500, 4 APC 1500SMT smart UPS and a KVM switch.
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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What are Gigs?
What is Live?
Where are they located on the EE website?
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Author Comment

by:wmtrader
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never mind I found them
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Expert Comment

by:Marck911
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I've sent you a message. You could also ask for my help in live. Marck911
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Accepted Solution

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wmtrader earned 0 total points
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I have found that the APC Netbotz system satisfies my requirements
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Author Closing Comment

by:wmtrader
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None of the suggest solution addressed my requirements and many of the experts comments where opinions
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