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Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

Posted June 06, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: data center nerdalize waste heat

Several years after I moved from Western New York, Yahoo built several unique data centers north of Buffalo. Local press hyped the fact that Yahoo modeled the data centers after chicken coops and used this unique shape to guide cool air into the buildings. Apparently the company saved money and energy by replacing chillers and air conditioners with cool wind, which is abundant between lakes Erie and Ontario.

For several years, Dutch startup Nerdalize has been working on doing the exact opposite: using excess heat from data servers to heat residences and other buildings. The company first produced the eRadiator (shown here), a data server that produced about half the heat of a conventional radiator. They installed eRadiators in five homes but they were found to be slow and unable to heat even a single room.

Nerdalize’s latest project looks to install servers to heat water supplies in Dutch homes. The company is planning on adding installations to 42 Dutch homes beginning this August, but over 3500 people have signed up expressing interest in their own installation. A Nerdalize business description calls the arrangement a “win-win-win:” companies can save 30-50% on their data services, customers will have free heat after the cost of installation, and each heater will supposedly prevent 3 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

While Nerdalize is one of the first companies attempting to commercialize server heat, they’re not the first to conceptualize the idea. In a 2011 paper, Microsoft proposed installing servers in homes and businesses for use as “data furnaces.” This idea proposed adding a metal server cabinet to a home’s existing ductwork and was more or less identical to the route pursued by Nerdalize.

While server heaters / data furnaces are a cool idea, there are still a host of questions and unexplored issues. Seeing as the average Joe’s home is far less secure than a conventional data center, how will companies feel leasing out their data services? How will a Nerdalize customer feel about having to schedule techs to fix broken servers?

All told, using cold wind to cool servers and using server heat to warm houses are both pretty cool ideas. But time will tell if the latter is scalable or practical.

Image credit: Nerdalize

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#1

Re: Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

06/06/2017 10:25 AM

I did the same thing during Christmas holiday shutdown one year when I had to work to finish a project. The building maintenance had shut down the heat and my computer was a welcome source of warmth.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

06/06/2017 12:57 PM

Was it enough to keep you going?

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Guru

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

06/06/2017 2:20 PM

Just barely!

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

06/06/2017 4:10 PM

I have this image of you huddled around the exhaust with your hands out, like an impoverished Dickens character huddled around a dying fire.

Speaking of heat, when I worked at IBM the lawyers forbade to use the term "laptop" on the site. The reasoning: someone might think that "laptop" implied that it was OK to put it on one's lap, where the heat might cause burns or more to the point cause a lawsuit.

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Guru

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#5

Re: Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

06/07/2017 9:03 AM

So what do they do with them in the summertime when they don't need the heat in that area?

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Startup is Turning Waste Heat From Data Servers Into Warmth

06/07/2017 11:16 AM

Apparently they also equip each server with an exhaust duct and switch it to that when the heat isn't needed.

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