Householders get free hot water in server cooling trial

UK company Heata is rolling out small but powerful servers that can be attached to home hot water heating systems. The servers get the cooling they need, and the householders who install them get free hot water heating in return.

The installation works by fitting the server and a patented thermal bridge to a standard 450mm diameter domestic hot water cylinder. When the server generates heat during processing, it transferred via the thermal bridge to the water in the cylinder, meaning that less energy is required to get the water to temperature.

Heata says the unit will provide a useful base load of heating.

“If it ran all day it would deliver about 4.8kWh, which is about the amount of hot water an average household uses,” says the company. Heata notes, however, that in practice the utilisation level will be lower, and sometimes the water will be at temperature so the unit won’t be able to run.

“We think it could deliver up to 80 per cent of an average household’s hot water, with good compute utilisation. This trial will help us learn more about how this will work in practice and enable us to give a useful amount of free hot water at the same time.”

The trial is funded by Innovate UK, and Heata will pay for the electricity used by the unit. The system will piggyback off householders’ broadband connection, but the company says this will mostly be used for monitoring information. Larger uploads and downloads will be limited and scheduled overnight so that it doesn’t impact internet speeds in the homes.

Heata says that the businesses involved in the trial are using the processing power of the units as a more sustainable alternative to using a data centre.

“This enables them to reduce the carbon impact of their compute,” says the company, “and deliver a social benefit to the households hosting the Heata units.”

Heata says the trial outreach is going well, with many householders already being signed up, particularly near the company HQ near Guildford, in the south-east of England. The company is hoping to have all units installed by the end of March.

The trial is scheduled to last a year. At the end of this time, some households may be able to continue as part of the network.

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