Heating buildings with data centers


The idea might seem a bit far-fetched but recovering the heat produced by data centers could heat buildings. However we have seen similar ideas are extremely cost efficient and environmentally friendly.

To ExtremeTech : ” With a temperature of around 40-50°C, the exhaust from a rack of cloud servers could be a very cost-effective way of heating your house, according to researchers from Microsoft and the University of Virginia.”

” Dubbed the “Data Furnace,” these racks would be hot enough to completely replace the heating and hot water system in a house or office. “

The article brings further interesting details :

The research paper comes at a time where internet properties like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are building huge data centers housing thousands of servers that simply pump their hot exhaust into the frigid air of Oregon, or other chilly states.

There have been a few prototype data centers that use their waste heat to warm the houses in local towns, but Microsoft’s Data Furnaces take this idea to the next step: instead of building mega data centers that are efficient in terms of scale, Data Furnaces are micro data centers that are housed in the basements of regular homes and offices.

These Data Furnaces, which would consist of 40 to 400 CPUs (between 1 and 10 racks), would be ducted directly into the building’s heating system, providing free heat and hot water.

The genius of this idea is that Data Furnaces would be provided by companies that already maintain big cloud presences. In exchange for providing power to the rack, home and office owners will get free heat and hot water — and as an added bonus, these cloud service providers would get a fleet of mini urban data centers that can provide ultra-low-latency services to nearby web surfers.

Of course the electricity cost would be substantial — especially in residential areas — but even so, the research paper estimates that, all things considered, between $280 and $324 can be saved per year, out of the $400 it costs to keep a server powered and connected in a standard data center.

From the inverse point of view, heating accounts for 6% of the total US energy consumption — and by piggybacking on just half of that energy, the IT industry could double in size without increasing its power footprint.

This seems to be another win-win-win situation : the consumers win, the companies win and the environment wins. Congrats to Microsoft for this brilliant idea. I hope it will be implemented quickly.

(Many thanks to my good friend Camille for bringing me this idea)

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