Dutch energy producer Eneco is running a trial to test whether heat generated by computer servers could be an alternative for traditional radiators. It seems an April Fools' Day story at first glance but closer inspection reveals the story is definitely legit.
Eneco has over 2 million customers in the Netherlands and is working together with Dutch cloud computing startup Nerdalize to test run the technology. Basically, an e-Radiator is a wall-mounted computer server that generates heat while crunching numbers. The device looks like a traditional radiator and can deliver up to 1kW of heating power. The radiator seems to be a giant heatsink for the server, which reportedly uses a form of water cooling to heat water in a closed system to 45°C to 55°C.
Nerdalize claims the approach could be a cheaper alternative to datacenters because it removes the need to build expensive datacenters and requires no energy-intensive cooling solutions. Nerdalize pays the power bill and Eneco customers get heat for free. It's a big claim but Nerdalize believes the structural cost advantage can result in computing power that is up to 55% more affordable than what's offered by major cloud providers today.
The nine-month trial run is limited to five homes and will run at least through the end of the year. The computers will be used by the Leiden University Medical Centre to run complex calculations and simulations in the search for new medicines. After the trial period, the firms will decide on expanding the project.
Eneco claims households participating in the trial can save up to 400EUR a year on heating cost. The current e-Radiator concept has to be mounted to an external wall because excess heat is circulated to an outdoor heat exchanger. Participants also need a fast Internet connection.