Planning & Installation
Unlike air-cooling equipment, a liquid cooling setup really requires at least some basic planning before installation. Liquid cooling introduces some unique variables that the user has to consider.
Primarily, we have to remember that the installation must be designed with convenience in mind. There has to be a clear path for the coolant hoses to come into the case and travel between the components. In addition, we want to make sure that the cooling system allows some breathing room so the system is not difficult to work with in the future.
Secondary concerns are that the flow of liquid coolant should be as unrestricted as possible. We must remember also that the coolant will heat as it passes through each water block. If we designed the system to flow the coolant into each successive cooling block in a series-first the CPU, then the chipset, then the video card and finally the video card's voltage regulator - then the voltage regulator would always get coolant that was pre-heated by every other component in the system. This scenario is less than ideal for the last component in line.
To alleviate this problem, it is a good practice to split the liquid coolant into separate parallel paths. When done properly, the flow of coolant is less congested and there is no single component in line that receives coolant preheated by every other component.
The Koolance EXOS-2 kit we used for this article is designed to work primarily with 3/8" tubing, and their CPU cooling blocks are designed with 3/8" compression fit connectors. However, Koolance chipset and VGA coolers are designed to work with smaller ¼" tubing. This forces the user to use the single 3/8" to dual-1/4" splitter fitting, which works well when we split the coolant flow into two parallel paths. One of these ¼" tubes will cool the motherboard chipset block and the other will cool the VGA card blocks. After these components are cooled the tubes will be rejoined with a dual ¼" to single 3/8" fitting, and the single 3/8" tube will carry the heated coolant out of the PC case and back to the radiator to be cooled.
It sounds more complex than it looks, so here is the diagram that's worth a thousand words:
This is our planned water-cooling system configuration
Drawing a simple diagram when designing your water-cooling system is a good idea and may help you to keep things straight during installation. With a good idea of what we want to accomplish on paper, we can now get our hands dirty with the actual installation.
You can start by laying out the cooling blocks on a table and pre-cutting the hose lengths you think you'll need. Leave yourself extra length; you can always trim it off later, and you will not be in trouble if you end up needing more