The headquarters and data center at Home Depot. | Photo courtesy of the Home Depot.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory headquarters and data center. | Photo courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Data centers come in all shapes and sizes. Many are embedded within multi-use buildings. Some are small enough to be tucked away in closets, while others take up an entire floor of a building. Numerous data centers are even large enough to fill up an entire building.

No matter the sizes, data centers are increasingly important to our nation’s energy and information infrastructure. As our personal and work lives increasingly revolve around technologies that connect to the internet and instant information, data centers are consuming more energy to keep up with our requests.

So the next time you type in a Google search, hit send on an email, or download some music, be informed. Take a look at ten facts to know about data centers energy use and national efforts to improve data center energy efficiency.

1. The vast majority of Americans own a computer or use the internet on a regular basis. Approximately 85% of American households have a computer, 70% are connected to the internet and 75% of American adults use social media.

2. There are about 3 million data centers in the United States. That’s 1 data center for every 100 people. Scattered across the nation, these energy intensive complexes require a lot of power and electricity to run the internet—at big costs.

3. Data center energy use has grown rapidly in recent years. And it’s expected to continue to grow. In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed about 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, representing more than 2% of all U.S. electricity use.

4. Data centers provide an opportunity for improving U.S. energy efficiency. If all U.S. data centers were 20% more efficient, we could save more than 20 billion kWh by 2020 as a nation. That translates to roughly $2 billion in cost savings.

5. Most data centers are housed in small- and medium-sized businesses. Many data centers are small server rooms and closets found in a variety of buildings owned by small and medium businesses and organizations. Others are located in multi-tenant data centers, which are increasing in use. The larger data centers owned by the major cloud providers and national super computer centers comprise less than 10% of the server market.

6.  In a typical data center, every kW saved with IT equipment can potentially result in nearly 2 kW saved in powering the data center. The additional savings can be obtained by applying best practices such as hot and cold aisle isolation, managing airflow, and raising the temperature within the ASHRAE recommended range.

7. Data centers upgrade to new IT equipment every three to five years. New IT equipment is generally more efficient than the older equipment that it replaces. As partners refresh their IT equipment they can also make improvements to the infrastructure.The Department of Energy is working with data center owners on improving efficiency of infrastructure to complement the work they are doing on the installation of emerging IT systems or technologies. Half of the energy supplied to a typical data center is used in the cooling and power infrastructure.

8. A significant percentage of government electricity usage comes from data centers. The Department of Energy estimates that 10 percent of the federal government’s electricity use goes to data centers. 

9. Better Buildings Challenge data center partners are leaders in their industry. There are 21 partners pledging to improve the efficiency of data centers which altogether are currently consuming more than 120 megawatts of power. These partners include national laboratories, federal agencies such as EPA, DOD, SSA, and companies including CoreSite Realty Corporation, eBay inc., Facebook, and Staples. These partners join more than 200 organizations already partnering with the Department of Energy to achieve 20 percent portfolio-wide energy savings and share successful strategies that will maximize efficiency over the next decade.

10. Across the country, Better Buildings Challenge partners have completed upgrades to more than 9,000 facilities. Of these facilities, 2,100 buildings improving efficiency by least 20 percent, and another 4,500 by at least 10 percent, compared to their baseline years. Partners are saving 2.5% on average annually for a total of 36 billion BTUs of savings or $300 million since the program launched.

To learn more about the Better Buildings Challenge, visit our website.