My lab environment sits within a closet in my home office. It is not a particularly large closet, but it has been decked out with its own air conditioning, extra insulation in all the walls, and a double-pane insulated external door. The goal? To keep the rack cool, of course, but also to prevent noise from leaking out to the office and the rest of the house.
I was successful in keeping the noise in my office below about 44 decibels (dB) until I had an issue with my AC unit that required the door to be opened and closed quite often. Even the door to the office (which is also an insulated external door) did not help much to keep the noise out of the rest of the house. The problem was that the bottom seal on the closet door had worn away with all the opening and closing. I was a bit mystified at first, until I looked for gaps and found a gaping one at the bottom of the door.
I have been measuring dB using SkyPaw’s Multi Measures iPhone application, according to which 44 dB is an average quiet house, 50 dB is an average quiet street, 70 dB is an average conversation, and 75 dB is the the inside of an average car that is not soundproofed.
My temporary solution was to take some foam sheeting (a long towel will also do). I rolled it up and stuffed it in front of the door opening. That really killed the dBs and brought things back down to 44dB or so, which is quite tolerable. Generally, a house with no one in it could be around 44dB.
Then, I went searching for something that would be automatic and professional grade, and would not suffer the same issues as my old door seal. After some looking around, I discovered the Acoustic Geometry Door Seal Kit. Its automatic bottom door seal attaches to the door and lifts the insulation away from the floor as the door is opened. This allows the door to open easily but also protects the seal from constant rubbing against the floor.
Before I moved to this location, I was also considering an APC NetShelter CX, an insulated soundproof rack that looks like a piece of office equipment. It also costs quite a bit, but to gain back my hearing, it would have been worth it.
The only real way to lower the noise I hear now (43 to 45 dB is a quiet house), I would need to change out my external door with double-pane glass for one that is triple-pane and filled with something that deadens noise, or to go with a solid-core door. But I do want to see all the blinking lights without having to open the door.
What do you use to have a quiet rack in your home lab? I would like to know other ideas, thoughts, and solutions. I am always looking for a way to keep my systems quieter!
Edward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is an author, analyst, developer, technologist, and business owner. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and TVP Strategy where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization.