Anyone with a laptop knows that computers release a lot of excess energy in the form of heat. Now imagine multiplying the heat your laptop creates by the number of computers located in a massive data center—you've got a major problem on your hands. Various cloud companies have tried to circumvent this issue by moving their data centers to the arctic, or spending an absurd amount of money on air conditioning. But the Dutch company Nerdalize is trying to use this heat for good, by harnessing it to heat people's homes.
In the past, Nerdalize experimented with turning servers into wall heaters in peoples' homes, with mixed results. The wall heaters took a long time to warm up, and only could heat a small room. But the idea showed promise. Now, Nerdalize is moving into a larger-scale idea: heating water in people's homes with servers.
This summer, Nerdalize plan to install servers in 42 Dutch homes in order to heat the water supply used for showers and doing dishes or laundry. The company says that this plan will not only save the homeowners the equivalent of roughly $340 a year, it will also dramatically reduce the carbon footprint needed to both cool servers and heat homes. If that wasn't enough, it will allow Nerdalize to cut prices for customers of the servers, since no expensive data center will be needed. Nerdalize calls this a "win-win-win".
There seems to be momentum behind this idea—Nerdalize has launched a for the project that has already exceeded their goal of €250,000, with 27 days left to go, and is now aiming for half a million euros. Meanwhile, other companies like Qarnot Computing are exploring similar uses for waste heat.
This clever project sounds like it could be too good to be true, and maybe it is. But Nerdalize's project should be a valuable experiment, whatever happens.