Weird But True: You can Air Condition a Computer

In this blog segment, we’re going to look at all the weird things you don’t expect to see in the HVAC Industry. Now, you might be expecting us to post something like a hand cranked air conditioner or maybe some weird sound-based chilling system. Well, not today! Today we’re going to talk about how you can air-condition a computer, because no one else in our circle of friends and competitors has!

 

WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

For computers, like many, many machines, cooling is essential. The little bits of silicon in your computer can run up to about 100 degrees Celsius before they start to lose performance. That’s about the redline on most CPUs. When it gets that hot, they start to throttle back and lose performance. You could go from blazing performance to a complete crawl until the system has cooled down. It’s just like if you got in your car, hit some infinitely straight road, had an infinite fuel supply, and floored it. At some point, the engine’s going to overheat because it wasn’t designed to run at max power for days on end. Your computer manages its own throttle, so at a point, it just says ‘no’.

Most computers in your office and home aren’t going to see those temperatures and work loads. Like all things however, there are people who do hit that problem. There are people who scoff at the thought of a Mustang as a fast car. There’s people who think anything less than a sixteen zone HVAC system is living in the stone age. There’s people who want their computers to spin the electric meter and dim the lights when it turns on. For their high performance needs, the only place to turn was the HVAC Industry or their own machine shops.

 

HOW do you even…

This is the bigger question, but it’s actually pretty straight forward. There’s 3 big parts of your cooling system: An Evaporator, Condenser, and a Compressor. Normally, we blow air over the evaporator coil to cool the air. In this computer setup, we use an incredibly tiny ‘coil’, bare metal mated against a processor with thermal grease and held down with a couple pounds of pressure. This isn’t exactly a coil, but it’s equivalent to one. Refrigerant pumps down through it and the processor, then up to the same compressor and condenser you’re already familiar with.

In contrast, the computer at your desk uses a little radiator-like device called a Heat Sink, Heat Pipes, and fans. Heat radiates up into the fins of the Sink where cool air is blown over them. It’s pretty similar to your coils already, but nowhere near the performance. All it is, is heat conducting on bare metal. It gets the job done, but if you take your computers like you do your Ferrari’s, it won’t cut it.

This begs the question… Why can’t you just point an air conditioner at the computer? Efficiency and Condensation wouldn’t be on your side. Your extreme cooling only needs to cool some very specific parts, your computer’s work-horses, it’s CPU and GPU. Blowing cold air over the whole thing wastes a lot of cooling power. That air also carries secondary effects. As the whole machine is cooled, it makes it very easy for water to condense on the case and motherboard. Water and expensive computers don’t mix.

 

And All this Weirdness Does What?

By over-engineering the cooling system, a computer can be run beyond it’s designed specification. My workstation has an i7 Processor, which is meant to run at up to 100 Degrees Celsius, with up to 1.35V of power on air-cooling, and achieve a speed of 4.5 GHZ. A phase change system could push that voltage to 1.6 or 1.7 and reach speeds around 6GHZ. A 50% improvement in processing power is nothing to laugh at.

What’s cool, to us at Procure, is that this is done with the same hardware sitting on our shelves, plus some custom fittings. This tech is used on computers used every-day and that’s just cool. It’s also cool to us that the only better cooling systems involve Liquid Nitrogen and Liquid Helium. You need NASA-Grade technology to outperform an refrigerant compressor.


The Wrap Up

Was this a little too weird for you? Do you know something else weird or different about the HVAC world? We’re going to dive deep on these topics over the coming weeks. We’re going to show you everything from physics gone weird to spooky contractor stories.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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