California Company Shines in a Growing Market
Data Aire of Orange, California is an expert in precision air control and energy management solutions. The growing firm designs systems that regulate temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide (CO2) in indoor spaces for a very diverse client base.
A pioneer in developing air-conditioned computer rooms, Data Aire anticipates a prosperous future working with companies in traditional sectors and startup firms in newer markets such as the legal cannabis trade.
The company’s proprietary products fall into the following categories: floor units, ceiling units, wall units, heat exchangers, system controls and accessories. Sectors served include libraries and archives, telecom and colocation, financial, government and utilities, healthcare, indoor agriculture, education, laboratories and entertainment.
“Our primary sector is Datacom—anything related to data communication. That can happen in a number of different spaces—telecom, colocation, enterprise and wholesale data centers,” explains Vice-President and General Manager Eric Jensen.
Data Aire does not do “comfort cooling,” Jensen is quick to point out. Comfort cooling refers to air conditioning systems in offices and private residences that keep temperatures moderate for the people inside. Datacom cooling systems, by contrast, maintain stable temperatures and low humidity in high-tech environments featuring servers, computers, networked equipment, and similar. The goal is to protect expensive gear and vital data. Data Aire also specializes in process cooling equipment which is used in non-computer settings such as labs, archives, medical imaging rooms, manufacturing and indoor agricultural operations.
Data Aire isn’t just a design firm; it also manufactures the cooling solutions it develops. “The products are ours and the combinations of individual configurations are just about endless,” explains Jensen.
The company headquarters and engineering staff are based in California, and manufacturing is split between its Orange facility and a maquiladora in Texas/Mexico (a maquiladora is a factory near the Mexican border that makes goods, usually for export, in a duty and tariff-free manufacturing environment).
Three of Data Aire’s main products are the gPod, gForce Ultra and InterpretAire systems. The gPod grew out of social developments in the United States: “When marijuana was legalized in Colorado a few years ago, we responded by developing the first ever purpose-built grow room air conditioning system. We started delivering in 2014. It’s been evolving ever since,” says Jensen.
“Traditional systems in grow spaces use a combination of comfort cooling and dehumidifiers. Our solution is all in one… We [also] have CO2 control,” explains Jake Seuser, Product Development Specialist.
Indeed, gPod precisely controls and monitors cooling and heating, dehumidification and carbon dioxide distribution in grow rooms. gPod operates on a 24/7 basis and offers Internet remote monitoring capability, so cannabis cultivators can keep tabs on their operations from afar. Mold—a huge concern for any indoor farming operation—is largely eliminated. “By inherently controlling humidity [the gPod] prevents mold. Mold is one of those topics that the growers are really adamant about,” states Seuser.
He adds, “It’s the precision of the unit that sets it apart. A lot of growers will depend on typical air conditioners and very basic dehumidifiers. [The gPod] brings it up a notch. It involves controllers, proprietary software—things you don’t really see anywhere else. They definitely set it apart.”
As for marketing strategy, “We’re selling this throughout the United States— and just about anywhere marijuana is currently legal. We’ve sold from Maine to Hawaii and Puerto Rico,” states Seuser.
The gForce Ultra system also exemplifies Data Aire’s innovative spirit, albeit for a more staid market. According to Data Aire, the gForce Ultra is the industry’s very first computer room air conditioner that incorporates variable speed control into its design. The system was developed for changing times in the technology sector.
“There’s a tremendous need nowadays for flexibility, scalability and energy efficiency – and those are the three things we had in mind when developing the gForce Ultra. It takes computer room air conditioning to the next level… It comes with variable speed and variable capacity technology all in one,” states Jensen.
The gForce Ultra offers a Variable Frequency Drive Controller (VFD) designed to match temperature set points and eliminate temperature swings. An Electronic Expansion Valve (EEV) controls refrigerant flow to the coil, maximizing energy efficiency while the system’s Backward-Curved Plenum Fans are more reliable and cleaner running than traditional fans. Using gForce Ultra can result in significant energy savings—an important consideration for many clients, as Jensen notes.
The InterpretAire system, meanwhile, offers humidity and temperature control for medical imaging rooms, laboratories, libraries, archives and museums. It can be programmed to maintain precise, consistent temperatures and levels of humidity.
The common thread across all of these solutions is the company’s Data Alarm Processor 4 (dap4) control system. Data Aire describes dap4 as “the industry’s fastest and most advanced microprocessor controller available.” It contains a control module and display module and offers user-friendly programming and functionality.
Data Aire emerged out of a company called Supreme Aire. Initially, Supreme Aire “was heavy into cold temperature refrigeration” in supermarkets and the like, reports Jensen. In the early 1960s, burgeoning computer giant IBM recognized the need for air cooled spaces to maintain its equipment. Existing air conditioning units that kept offices cool wouldn’t suffice; IBM needed something specifically designed for computer systems.
IBM “approached HVAC manufacturers… Supreme Aire was one of the ones they approached, to co-develop the first computer room air conditioning unit,” recalls Jensen.
Supreme Aire responded by creating Data Aire in 1963. At first, Data Aire was merely a company brand, focused on computer room air cooling systems. “Data Aire was there at beginning of the computer room air conditioning age,” notes Jensen proudly. Corporate acquisitions followed and today, Data Aire is a thriving business, not just a brand.
Jensen attributes Data Aire’s longevity to “focus… we’ve stayed focused throughout the years. We know where we play and that’s where we develop our expertise.” He notes that the firm is growing and is particularly eager to expand its engineering team. As for new hires, “We want someone who’s a lifelong learner – people who are intellectually curious. All the rest can be developed or worked on,” says Jensen.
Data Aire offers a number of benefits to employees, from medical, vision and dental insurance to paid time off, life insurance, 401(k) accounts, profit sharing, short and long-term disability insurance, reimbursement for tuition, health and wellness programs, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and more. The company’s culture stresses “creative problem solving and integrity,” adds Jensen.
Data Aire is ISO 9001:2008 certified and has “a number of processes in place” to maintain quality standards, he continues. “We do a mixture of process improvement and inspection. Everything that we produce is functionally tested prior to going out the door. We have a pretty rigorous check-list that we put our equipment through and most of our parts, spares and replacements as well. [We have] a central hub for our quality management system. We monitor returns, we monitor our own internal test reports, we monitor rework, we monitor our non-conformances and we extend the same standards that we have internally to our vendors,” Jensen explains.
Testing is done in the Company’s Aire Lab™ which is certified to Intertek standards (Intertek is an international standards body). In addition to extensive testing, Data Aire offers training programs (done either at the company’s office or a regional training center near the client). The company website contains videos, technical manuals and product literature offering details about various solutions. Customer testimonials are also available online, from a variety of satisfied clients.
Data Aire keeps an extensive inventory of parts and components on hand, in case customers require replacements, and offers tech support and upgrades as well. Equipment installation is typically handled by outside mechanical contractors.
As for suppliers, “ideally, we look for ones who follow our same set of priorities, which are safety, quality and on-time delivery. It doesn’t do me any good to be given something on-time if it doesn’t work. You’re not a sustainable vendor for me if you’re not treating your people well and creating a safe environment,” states Jensen.
In terms of future developments, Data Aire continues to improve and refine all its existing products, says Seuser. “We’re working on enhancing our outdoor heat exchanger line to reduce the footprint and reduce the total amount of refrigerant needed on site. A reduction in footprint has its obvious benefits. A reduction in refrigerant required is an environmental concern,” adds Jensen.
Besides having a detailed website, Data Aire promotes itself using social media, trade shows and advertisements. That said, much of the company’s promotion comes down to “word of mouth. It’s a pretty tight industry. In a lot of the verticals we play in, whether Datacom or agriculture, a lot of it is word of mouth. You build your brand within those specialized spaces,” says Jensen.
Data Aire remains poised to continue benefiting from excellent word of mouth, as it adapts to new trends in technology and society alike.