Computer Servers Could Make Hot Water For Homes

Dutch householders could have showers heated by computer servers under a creative, if potentially problematic project.

The idea of Nerdalize is to bring together two problems: the need to extract heat from servers to keep them running well, and the need to heat homes. The theory is that combining the two will save money and also reduce unnecessary energy use.

The company has already run a small-scale program in which businesses hired a server that would not be located in a data center but rather inside a wall heater in somebody’s home. The Verge reports that it fundamentally worked, though the heaters were slow to respond and only heated small rooms.

The next stage of the pilot is to use servers to heat home water supplies. It’ll be tested in around 20 homes, with forecasts that each participant will save an average of €300 (US$337) and cut total household carbon emissions by around 25 percent. Meanwhile the businesses renting the server will save around 50 percent on the cost of equivalent server space in a dedicated facility.

The householders will need to pay the installation costs, with payback time estimated at 18 months (implying around €450 in initial costs), so it’s something of a gamble on the project taking off. They will receive a rebate to cover the cost of the electricity used by the server.

For the most part, the servers will be used for data processing rather than long-term storage, meaning there’s less risk from a server being damaged. Nerdalize says that all data will be end-to-end encrypted and the heaters physically secured to prevent the householder (or potentially a burglar) getting access to the server.