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Dutch Company Explores E-Radiator Heating Alternative

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A company in the Netherlands, Eneco, is conducting a groundbreaking experiment; the energy-based business hopes to harness the energy given off by computer servers and use it to heat consumers' homes. The so-called "e-Radiators" serve a dual purpose: powering electronic equipment while also giving off heat, making them an especially efficient and environmentally friendly option. Eneco installed servers in five separate homes. The company plans to run the servers on a trial-basis until the end of the year.

What About Businesses?

Theoretically, if a single server can potentially heat a home, an entire computer rack cabinet or rooms full of server enclosures should feasibly be able to heat a building. In other words, the Dutch company's experiment has some asking: Is it possible to heat commercial buildings this way, too? While it may be possible, there are some extra hurdles to think about. Computer rack cabinets and server rack shelves typically allow companies to store dozens -- sometimes even hundreds -- of servers in a compact space. In order to be able to do so safely and reliably, however, many server rooms and/or server storage equipment come with built-in mechanisms to suppress high temperatures and prevent all of these tightly packed servers from overheating. Some server rooms even use inert gases, including argon and nitrogen, to maintain safe temperatures. Obviously, these systems negate the heat servers give off. In order to use servers to heat buildings, server rooms may require different configurations and a greater amount of physical space or different technology to prevent server or system malfunction from high temperatures.

Downtime Takes On A New Meaning

And there are other problems, too. Downtime is already unpleasant and almost always results in lost productivity. Think about the problems if downtime also meant a loss of heat, too. For companies without a viable generator or backup power supply, this could become a serious problem.

Eneco is in the process of exploring alternative ways to heat homes, including heating homes with electronic equipment, such as computer servers. Even if the venture is successful, though, there are still several obstacles preventing businesses and commercial buildings from taking advantage of non-traditional heat source.

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