Britons could soon save £150/YEAR on their energy bills – by using computer servers to heat their water
- Heata’s energy solution consists of installing small data servers in people’s homes
- Shoebox-sized machines are attached to a water tank that then dissipates waste heat
Everyone is looking for a way to reduce their heating bills amid rising energy prices and the deepening cost of living crisis.
Now a British start-up has come up with a new way to do this using a method that may seem a little bizarre to some: by connecting a computer server to a household’s hot water tank.
Heata claims his shoebox-sized device could help Britons save around £150 a year on their energy bills, while also allowing small businesses to make use of the computing power available on the servers rather than having to spend time in a large data center.
As the computer gets hot, the tank extracts waste heat from the computer and uses it to heat water for showers, baths, and dishes.
Each unit can provide up to 4.8 kWh of hot water per day, the company says – about 80 per cent of the hot water needed in an average UK household.
Smart: A UK start-up has come up with a new idea that could soon save Britons £150 a year on their energy bills – by using computer servers to heat their water
Heata claims his shoebox-sized device could help Britons save around £150 a year on their energy bills, while also allowing small businesses to make use of the computing power available on the servers rather than having to spend time in a large data center
As many people will know, laptops and computers can get very hot when used for long periods of time, with internal fans used to cool them down.
HOW DOES THE HEATING DEVICE WORK?
Computer servers in major data centers across the UK require massive cooling systems to prevent overheating.
The problem here is that about 45 percent of the energy consumption in these centers goes to cooling.
The British start-up Heata has therefore come up with a new solution to not have to have these cooling systems, but to use the waste heat that computers produce.
It offers to install processes in people’s homes by attaching them to their water tanks. The tanks then absorb this waste heat and use it to heat water for showers and washing up.
It costs a homeowner nothing because Heata covers the cost of the electricity the servers need.
The company makes its money by essentially renting these computer servers to companies based in the UK, such as architectural firms that need to do computationally intensive rendering.
Heata insists that the data be protected. However, currently a homeowner’s broadband must be used to run the servers, but the company is in talks with ISPs to find a solution for this so that it doesn’t use up a person’s monthly data bundle.
Now imagine a data center that is full of them.
There are 480 such hubs across the UK, where some 45 per cent of the energy consumed comes from cooling systems used to prevent the large numbers of servers from overheating.
To avoid this waste, Heata has found a way to extract the heat from such computers and find a sustainable use for it.
The server harnesses the heat from the processing and transfers it to the water tank, which in turn supplies a household with free hot water.
The reason it’s free is because Heata pays for the electricity to run the device, not the homeowner.
The electricity used by the unit is metered and homeowners are credited for the amount used at 10 percent above the market rate, the company said.
Heata says an electrician can install his appliance in less than two hours using a ‘British Gas approved process with no plumbing required’.
The unit’s power supply has an integrated meter, so the company knows exactly how much electricity it is consuming.
The machines also use the home’s broadband connection to transmit relatively small amounts of data over a secure VPN, according to Heata.
But it said it was in talks with ISPs to make connections solely for the use of the devices so they don’t eat into users’ monthly data caps.
They also come equipped with alarms to notify the company if someone tries to access the internal components, while all data transfers are protected by 256-bit encryption to prevent unauthorized users from accessing them, Heata said.
Heata’s server harnesses the heat from processing and transfers it to the water tank, which in turn supplies a household with free hot water
The company has already piloted 20 homes and is now halfway through installing the servers in 80 homes as part of a larger year-long trial funded by the UK government
Company co-founder Chris Jordan said the company already had customers lining up to use the computing power available on the 80 servers it is installing as part of its new trial.
These include architectural firms that need to do compute-intensive rendering of 3D animations, he added.
If Heata’s vision is hugely successful, experts say there will no longer be any reason to build dedicated buildings for hundreds of thousands of computers.
The company claims that by reusing heat and eliminating energy costs for data center cooling, it reduces the carbon footprint of the processing it performs by 40 percent compared to a typical data center.
However, critics say that while the idea looks good on the surface, there still remains the question of whether the devices are worth it, as it depends on how much heat they generate, ease of installation and impact on data security and home broadband connections.
CAN COOLING TECHNOLOGIES KEEP UP WITH THE GROWING SPEED OF SMARTPHONES?
When people spend hours on their smartphones, tablets or other gadgets, they start generating heat.
This is because the computer components and device battery release thermal energy in all the work they do.
Still, this can make devices too hot to handle, meaning cooling technologies such as fans must be installed.
As we demand smaller, faster and more powerful gadgets, it requires more power and generates more heat.
Some scientists argue that our ability to keep computer chips cool has reached a bottleneck, as current technology is limited by the amount of heat that can be dissipated from within.
A 2016 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists noted that once the concentration of electrons on a silicon chip reached ten trillion per square centimeter, the chips would begin to build up dangerous levels of heat.
This upper limit, caused by a phenomenon known as photon scattering, has already been reached by a growing number of the smallest transistors.