Computers

Dutch firm heats homes for free using cloud server power

The eRadiators pilot project is currently ongoing
The eRadiators pilot project is currently ongoing
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Nerdalize recently teamed-up with Eneco, one of Holland's largest utility companies, to test out the concept in the real world, putting five server units into people's homes
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Nerdalize recently teamed-up with Eneco, one of Holland's largest utility companies, to test out the concept in the real world, putting five server units into people's homes
Nerdalize's servers look like normal radiators
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Nerdalize's servers look like normal radiators
In summer, excess heat can be routed outside
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In summer, excess heat can be routed outside
The eRadiators pilot project is currently ongoing
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The eRadiators pilot project is currently ongoing
The radiators/servers operate very quietly, according to the firm
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The radiators/servers operate very quietly, according to the firm

You've probably noticed how hot a computer can get if it's doing something taxing, like playing a game, for example. The same thing happens with server farms, but on a larger scale. Dutch startup Nerdalize aims to ditch the usual server farm setup and put internet-connected servers in people's homes, using the excess heat to warm the homes free-of-charge.

Nerdalize recently teamed-up with Eneco, one of Holland's largest utility companies, to put five internet-connected server units that look like normal radiators – called "eRadiators" – into people's homes. The idea is, Nerdalize covers the cost of running the eRadiators and, because it has no data center to pay for staffing and maintaining, it can offer computing power that's up to 55 percent cheaper than other server providers.

The heat generated by the server's computations while performing tasks like medical research or engineering data for example, offers a constant source of heat that's free of charge to the occupants. The eRadiators also run very quietly, according to the firm's press documentation.

Nerdalize's servers look like normal radiators
Nerdalize's servers look like normal radiators

While it sounds like a winning idea, a few concerns spring to mind. Privacy worries should be easy enough to overcome with anti-tamper devices and encryption, but perhaps the bigger issue would be daily operation. For example, what happens if the servers aren't in use by anyone, do the homeowners freeze? And in summer, do they then just sit home sweltering? We asked Nerdalizer co-founder Florian Schneider.

"Well, there is usually a considerable amount of demand for computing power at all times," explained Schneider. "However that demand sees peaks and valleys as well. Heating demand is seasonal and also contains temporary peaks and periods of low/no demand. In summer or other periods of low/no heat demand we can expel the heat generated by our eRadiator to the outside, allowing us to keep our computing capacity constant without heating the home at that moment.

To address the demand for computing power we on one hand decide which computing tasks are executed where, based on heat demand. If there is not enough computing demand to satisfy heat demand we can adjust prices to stimulate demand, donate computing power to scientific research or run dummy calculations. Dummy calculations would be the last resort and are also a fail safe if the internet connection should be down for a longer period of time."

It's not clear how much the eRadiators could reduce bills by yet. Fast Co.Exist quotes Eneco as saying households could save roughly US$440 per year on their heating bills, but we'd guess this would vary wildly depending on the type of house and its insulation, for example, and testing is still ongoing, so it's early days yet.

The video below shows some more information on the project.

Source: Nerdalize

Nerdalize - The future looks warm and bright!

7 comments
Synchro
I'm pretty sure that Gizmag covered Qarnot last year. They are doing exactly the same thing in France: http://www.qarnot-computing.com
ivan4
As I asked in the Register comments about the same thing, what happens in the summer when you don't want the heat and who pays for the electricity to run the servers?
Jens Kristianson
Indeed, they need to cover the cost of running the servers otherwise it would not be "free of charge" heating. It sounds like an interesting idea though.
Nathan Rees
I can't imagine companies would want their servers sat in peoples homes and I'm sure there's at least half a dozen Data Protection Laws that this would fall foul of. How would you manage fail-over, power outages, internet outages etc. Rubbish...
HansMMN
How much one saves is NOT dependent on the type of house or insulation. A kWh saved is a kWh saved. In the Netherlands there is an energy taxed per kWh and a fixed rebate. This makes the marginal cost of a kWh higher, thus making a saving more financially effective. The really low users get a rebate higher than what they have to pay.
Chris Bedford
Sometimes computers hang, and have to be manually power-cycled or powered on. Is the cloud hosting company going to phone the home-owner and ask them to go downstairs and pull the plug? At 3.00 a.m.? What about when they are away on holiday? What about when they are going away on holiday and prefer not to leave appliances running, because of fire hazard? What about when they are away on holiday and the water pipes burst? Doesn't sound very practical to me.
myale
Having friends who run bit miners - these generate lots of heat - so give constant heat to a house - however as with any computer they also generate some noise , which yes you can phase out if you are there regular enough. Again as pointed out in the summer - it is still generating heat - so windows open are a definite must - One thing I would remove from the above would be dummy calculation idea - I just cannot accept this as a realistic environmental green idea - just accept the server heating is part of an overall heating system - which are thermostatic controlled - so if the server is providing enough heating the normal heating would be off, if it is not then the standard heating kicks in - exactly the same as with solar hot water - if the solar has heated the water the standard water heater does not activate, if it has been cloudy and water is not at temperature the standard system kicks in and heats the water.
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