A data center cooling system is operated in a first mode; it has an indoor portion wherein heat is absorbed from components in the data center, and an outdoor heat exchanger portion wherein outside air is used to cool a first heat transfer fluid (e.g., water) present in at least the outdoor heat exchanger portion of the cooling system during the first mode. The first heat transfer fluid is a relatively high performance heat transfer fluid (as compared to the second fluid), and has a first heat transfer fluid freezing point. A determination is made that an appropriate time has been reached to switch from the first mode to a second mode. Based on this determination, the outdoor heat exchanger portion of the data cooling system is switched to a second heat transfer fluid, which is a relatively low performance heat transfer fluid, as compared to the first heat transfer fluid. It has a second heat transfer fluid freezing point lower than the first heat transfer fluid freezing point, and the second heat transfer fluid freezing point is sufficiently low to operate without freezing when the outdoor air temperature drops below a first predetermined relationship with the first heat transfer fluid freezing point.