Flash's PC cooling project, 2010
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I am fed up with my noisy computers! Water cooling offers a quiet way to cool PC's but it's incredibly expensive if you use a kit.

I've done a bit of plumbing in my time and I was wondering if computers could be cooled using off-the-shelf plumbing equipment instead of the expensive and sometimes poorly constructed computer-cooling gear. So I've used a normal household radiator hung on a wall, a central heating pump, some pipework and valves and as few PC-watercooling bits as I can, and now have a fully working, very efficient and super-quiet cooling system working for two computers.

My motives:

Price comes in at around £110, but includes a lot of stuff I had already. The computers are both in a fitted cupboard with 5M long VGA and USB extensions for the desktop computer, so money could be saved by not buying a case.

The shopping list...

Item Details Price Pic
Pump

Grundfos Super Selectric.
These mains-powered central heating pumps are rated at 40watts at the lowest speed setting, and I figure give a rough throughput of around 1500-2000 litres/hour but you can double or triple output just by flicking a switch. These are pretty much silent in operation, ceramic bearings, designed for continuous use. Even new these are around £70 and a serious pump.

The first I tried was really noisy - I'd removed it from my CH for that reason some years ago. I took it apart and gave it a thorough and aggressive clean out - loads of rust and chunks of rubbish in the pump chamber. Once put back together - perfect, and silent! That was after four years operation and I'm happy enough to fit it to this system. The adapters either side of this have ballvalves so that if it fails, it can be swapped out without draining the system.

Free (I have two left over from my old heating system) They're about £70 normally.
Radiator

500x500mm double walled wall-hung central heating radiator. Hey, it's cost-effective and matches the decor :) I was going to use a secondhand car radiator as they're better at shifting heat but don't think they look too nice in the house. This is the least researched aspect of the initial build - the output figures for these rads all assume a much higher water temp than I'm expecting and I honestly have no idea, pre-build, whether this will work. If not, I'll be getting a second rad and slapping that up :)

The very first design had this hung outside the building, but it's vulnerable out there and with winter starting it would be a waste of free heating. In a deluxe system there would be internal and external rads with a thermostatic switchover to balance. Freezing risk taken care of with normal car antifreeze which also serves to eliminate any algal growth.

A note about antifreeze: It's poison and it stains. If you can avoid drinking it and getting it on your carpets, it has another significant benefit above the obvious anti-freezing quality: It's a wetting and flow-aiding agent. Car engines with a large amount of antifreeze run significantly cooler than those with just water. I can't see a reason why this wouldn't also apply to this system.

£30.59 (Screwfix)
Fittings and backend hose. Plumbing fittings - The components are a mixture of JG Speedfit pushfit plumbing fittings, including reducers from the pump to 22mm, Speedfit pushfit connectors, liners and the radiator tappings. Also includes the 6-14mm jubilee clips.

~£30 (I had a fair selection to begin with - probably another £50's worth) (Screwfix)

Backend
Hoses.

A mixture of 15 and 22mm Speedfit hose (Rated to 105'c at 3 bar - amazing!). For tidiness I would have used copper tubing- except I already had the hose leftover from my house re-plumbing some years before.

Also some 15mm copper

Free (15 and 22mm)
Interrnal Hoses ClearClear PVC Tubing Hose Tube 10mm 3/8" -10 meter £11.95 (Ebay)
Blocks

CPU Block 1 (Server, for an AMD X2 4600+) came with an old Thermaltake Aquarius II complete system.

All these blocks came off ebay.

£20 (Block 1 - server)
£5 (Block 2 - Desktop)
£10 (GPU - Desktop)

 

Hard drives

These will be ambient cooled. Without so many fans in the case, airflow doesn't go over them so it's lid-off or decase for this to be good enough.

If vibration noise becomes noticable then I may suspend by elastic. I've used Antec's soft-rubber mounts which although they help, do still transfer some vibration to the case. Elastic suspension is cheap and crazy enough for me to want to try... (Inspired by Mike Chin's article ) I'm not so bothered by seek noise, it's more the low whine I want to eliminate - whether this will help on that, I'm unsure.

Plan B, if this is still too noisy, is to fit water coolers to them and bury them in foam and blankets.

Update: They're just fine hanging by elastic. Very little noise or whine, good ambient cooling.

Free (Elastic bungee cord found in a cupboard)
 
Total:  
£107  
Flash's Cooling Project - Page 1