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Tips for keeping a room with computers cool? Custom case build ideas?

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October 26, 2012 5:02:44 PM

My parents currently work in the same study in our house (they are both teachers, and use computers extensively) and often, both their computers are on at the same time, which makes this room very hot and undesirable. We're moving into a new house soon, and with this all in progress, I've come up with a couple of ideas to solve the problem. The ideas I came up with have varying expense, aesthetics, ease of setup, and ease of maintenance. It also depends on where my parents eventually decide to work. The point of it all is to prevent such an inconvenient situation where the room where my parents do most of their work become the hottest and most undesirable room in the house.

The conservatory is likely to be the coolest room in the house, but it wouldn't be suitable for working in (winter is not a kind mistress). The kitchen is right next to the conservatory... Kitchens also get pretty hot.

I thought I'd post what I got so far here, because I'm likely to get some advice here, however detailed or simple. It's just better to have another person giving a second opinion. I've relied on Tom's Hardware to help me in the past, though I've never posted :) 

Some of these ideas would involve removing their computer's optical drives and getting external cases for them, and putting them where they choose to work.

1. Building a box out of acrylic for both computers to sit in, with air ventilation ducts coming in and going out of the room and into the conservatory. The ducts would run along the wall of the kitchen and up to the door of the conservatory (this idea relies on them choosing the kitchen to work in. Yes, smaller house doesn't have a dedicated study :(  ) (1 GBP to 10 GBP, 5 to 10 hours of work more or less)

2. Water cooling for both computers, with the radiator being situated in another nearby room (also relies on them choosing the kitchen to work in) (60 GBP to 120 GBP)

3. Getting 5 meter cables for everything, putting the computers in the conservatory, and running the cables into the kitchen (also the kitchen thing, would look terrible if I didn't put them in a conduit) (25 GBP to 30 GBP)

4. Putting both computers in the conservatory or under the staircase, hooking up KVM extenders, and putting the monitor, peripherals, and USB devices anywhere where they decide to work (140 GBP to 260 GBP, this solution appears to be the easiest and would also save considerable space. It would be nice for them if they were not in the kitchen)

5. Simply putting an air conditioner in the room they choose to work in. Wind bothers my mum, though (weak form of Sjögren's syndrome) (I'm not familiar with the features of portable air conditioners, we never needed to buy one, but it looks like something between 100 GBP and 200 GBP)

I'd like another idea which is as convenient as 4, and that doesn't rely so much on them choosing the kitchen to work in. But I can't think of anything else. Anyone? :) 

Thanks
a b B Homebuilt system
October 26, 2012 5:22:36 PM

I would suggest that the simplest solution is the best one here. A portable or window air conditioner need not create a lot of air movement. One of my eyes also becomes extremely dry, but I've never noticed any problems being in a room with an air conditioner in the window.

Unless they are also gamers, I'm not sure I quite understand why their computers would be producing so much heat. I wish the computers in my office area produced more heat than they do, but even my home systems don't notably affect the room temperature.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 26, 2012 5:30:29 PM

The acrylic box seems more of a hindrance than a help. Not only would you have unsightly ducts running around the house, it's going to overheat the computers a LOT unless the air is moving fairly rapidly... and that's going to be extremely noisy.

The water-cooling would be expensive, and impractical to have it run that far, though it's a decent thought.

Cables... this could work. Though it would be a pain for them to insert CDs , ect... Although if you do this, put them in the conservatory, not in the kitchen. If the computers make the ROOM heat up, you would melt them by putting them in a small, insulated space.

The air conditioner.... if it's a real air conditioner, this could work the best. Could you try a swamp cooler?


Here are the two most simple options:

1) Put them in a spare bedroom, if there is one, and have the computers be sitting by the window with the window open and a large fan pulling heat out. This could be applied to other rooms.

2) Sell the old computers and build them new ones? It's more expensive, but with the power-efficiency computers have now, anything but a gaming rig under load shouldn't be producing hardly any heat at all. If you do this, we can hook you up with computers designed for this.
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October 26, 2012 7:19:23 PM

Yes, they are both pretty old computers (5 and 7 years or so), which is probably the reason they produce so much heat. Their current study is also quite small, which means their bodies also act as heat sources under some conditions... They aren't gamers - the most intensive thing my mum's computer is likely to do is have 15 or 20 tabs of Firefox open with a Youtube video running (telling her to mind her tabs doesn't help at all, and is likely to give off a heated argument instead of solving the real heat problem. I'd rather spend money than try to drill any habits into her). In the case of my dad's computer, he sometimes uses ProDesktop, 2D Design and some other design programs. Nothing as intensive as a professional architect or anything. Under his current setup, he doesn't get lag. He also watches films sometimes.

Laptops with the same specs as their current computers exist these days. In fact, my dad's work laptop probably has higher stats than his current home computer. I'll consider building new computers with proper cases and then selling the old ones. I foolishly chose a very cheap case for my dad's computer (I was 12 *shrug*). My mum's computer is not custom built.

My sister comes home from university after June 2013, and after that time, there will be no space bedroom.

I agree with the fact that air ducts might make air movement more difficult, but I can make it look less ugly with my dad's help (his workplace owns a laser cutter and a line bender).

I don't really know how hot the kitchen will get - it looks like it has proper ventilation (one that looks like this).

It looks like I'll have to 'see how things go' once we move in, since there are now a lot of factors that I'm not so sure about. I realised that the sun hitting the current room in the afternoon is an important reason as to why it gets so hot. I didn't think of this before...

I think the most likely thing I'm going to do is build two new computers. Say, an Intel i-series 2.6 GHz dual core, 4 GB, and a GPU (integrated maybe) with the same capabilities, all the parts of course being more modern, since they won't give off as much heat these days. I'll also choose proper cases this time around, with knowledge gained from building my own computer. Depending on what is practical and how undesirable the heat actually is when a normal setup is attempted with the newly built computers, I think I will opt for really long cables in a conduit and an external hard drive.

I'll look at all this again in two or three months, I should have lots of free time in January. We move in December. Thanks for the practical advice :)  It definitely helps. Any more input would of course still help, though.
October 26, 2012 7:23:09 PM

Not being able to edit posts is annoying..
October 26, 2012 7:33:14 PM

The solutions you posed seem to be roundabout and overly complex for the real problem.
buy/build new computers if really they are creating a lot of heat (verify that this really is the issue).

If they don't need to play games, a prebuilt computer can be very efficient or even an all-in-one.
I would argue that for a new computer uses less watts and generates less heat than a 24" monitor.

If the issue is the room is getting hot, and the computers are the final straw that is causing it, there are bigger problems with the room than just computers.
This is either a very insulated room with poor air flow (then the air quality should also be a concern). Or is getting heated by the sun or other factors, and the computers are just a convenient scapegoat.
October 26, 2012 7:37:40 PM

I have a core i3-2130K and an integrated video card with 8GB of memory, i have a 100mm fan pushing air out of the case and a 80mm fan pulling air into the case, the cpu only gets to around 20*C at max (right now as my room is freezing and its around 10*C up here) but the computer doesn't seem to be affecting the temperature of the room at all, it might be because of the fan pushing air out speeds it up and the air gets colder or because the cpu doesn't get to hot anyways, i am a gamer looking to put a dedicated video card in this case in the near future and that will increase the amount of heat coming out of the case, you could also just try to put fan on both of their cases and see if that helps, you can get fan off ebay for around 99p
October 26, 2012 8:24:46 PM

Open a window. No pun intended.
October 26, 2012 8:25:56 PM

The main reason I prefer building computers as to buying them is because I can use spare parts (hard drive, and in the case of an all-in-one, I wouldn't like to pay for a monitor we already have), and I also don't need to pay extra for having MS Windows on my computer (if I ask the computer store to give me a computer that is completely formatted, it won't reduce the price). It also gives me experience (I'm 19, any experience I get is really useful. My dad is in fact supporting me building two new computers and selling the old ones, for the sheer fact of experience).

Indeed, it may be a combination of circumstances which is causing that room's temperature to be high. You're right, it is an insulated room (in England, not having wall insulation and double glazing would be a crime against saving money. Double glazing is also a big factor for people living under the Heathrow flight path).

My dad's computer is properly ventilated, my mum's computer kinda sits in a stuffy corner with the router and the cabling behind it, and it wouldn't be a surprise if its temperature is higher than my dad's computer. She hates it when I reorganize things, and even though the position of the computer is a factor of the heat it amasses in that corner, I still can't blame her. I'd wait until we move before I recommend a setup, which is part of the reason why I'm planning and seeking advice two months in advance so that I have a good idea of what things are involved.

@lazergaze: 20*C is pretty good even though your room is cold.

Thanks raytseng, I think you've helped me find the main cause of the problem, but I do think it's a combination of factors including body heat.

Another real-world example I know of where computers are affecting the room temperature is some 21 computers in a room where my dad teaches. His laptop is situated at the end of the room, permanently docked. The computers are mounted under tables (unwise for maintenance, but it's a school, I can do little about it), and are Dell computers with a small form factor. I am told they are around 5 years old. They look like the right-most example in this photo but I'm not sure about their specs. When all of the computers are running and have people working on them, and without the vent or the air-con running, the computers do substantially affect the temperature of the room.
October 26, 2012 8:29:53 PM

I think I'll do some experimenting with a thermometer in the room, and measure the effect of having the computers on at set times, and having them off at the exact same set times, and see what happens to the temperature of the room. I wonder how much temperature dogs give off compared to people :U
October 26, 2012 8:32:01 PM

ram1009 said:
Open a window. No pun intended.

Mother says no :non: 
!