Can a computer heat up a room?

Server room

You know how smartphones sometimes get really warm after an hour of web browsing, right? And how laptop’s fan is howling on a warm day, spouting hot air from the vents. In a powerful gaming PC heat is an issue. Computers produce heat, but can a computer heat up a room? A Reddit user did some serious maths, and the conclusion was clear: yes, it can. In an average room of 50m³ (you can imagine it as a 3.5 m by 5 m), an average PC running for 12 hours a day is able to increase temperature by about 9°F (4°C). It’s difficult to take into consideration the effects of ventilation, though.

Is a gaming computer more efficient than a space heater?

Space heater
Space heater of approximately 600W (Photo credit: Ashley Pomeroy / CC BY 3.0)

Puget Systems took it even one step further and performed an experiment to determine whether your gaming PC is more efficient than a space heater. They used a powerful machine with 3x NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan 6GB video cards and an Intel Core i7 4960X 3.6GHz Six Core CPU. A controlled environment was created, with room ventilation all blocked off. The PC turned out to be more efficient in heating up the room, than a $25 1500 watt space heater. The results were really close. Both the gaming PC and the space heater raised the room temperature from 70°F to 82°F (from 21°C to 27.5°C) in 2 hours.

Can we use server rooms to heat up cities?

BBC took the question even further. With data centers accounting for 1.5% of all global electricity consumption we might want to try to use it to keep homes warm. One company found a theoretical solution in 2015. Nerdalize in the Netherlands invented a radiator-server or server-radiator. Their radiators are actually a distributed data center connected by fiber optic cable. After four years Nerdalize filed for bankruptcy in 2019, so the idea didn’t turn out cost effective.

Top image: Server room of The National Archives, UK (Photo credit: The National Archives UK / CC BY 3.0)

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