IBM looks to warm homes with datacenter heat waste

Big Blue's Zurich Research Lab envisions reusing liquid cooling water

Engineers at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory may have found an innovative way to put datacenter heat waste to good reuse: cooling servers with water (i.e. liquid cooling), then using that water to heat nearby homes, according to IEEE Spectrum.

"Instead of using air-conditioning or fans, the datacenter is cooled with water pumped through microchannels within the computers. The water absorbs the heat from the datacenter and is then pumped out to nearby houses for heating. The occupants pay for the heat. A 10-megawatt datacenter could produce enough energy to heat 700 homes," according to the article.

[ Learn how other companies are putting datacenter heat waste to reuse. ]

Determining the proper water temperature took some doing: It had to start off cool enough to properly chill the equipment but become hot enough for reuse. Engineers eventually found that if water is pumped into the datacenter at around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it leaves at 140 degrees Fahrenheit -- a suitable temperature for heating residences.

The prototype system will be available commercially in five years.