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 Post subject: Building custom enclosure, chilling intake?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:12 am 
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Posts: 15
Hi,

I've presently got 1 rack-mount form factor server at home, and am about to add 2 or 3 more (sweet deal from work, can't pass them up). Obviously the biggest problem with server class cases is they're designed to go into a datacenter where noise and cooling are not a problem. Unfortunately these systems will be sitting beside my desk at home, and I really don't want to go deaf listening to the noise.

As a solution, I'm building a custom rack-mount enclosure using all kinds of silencing techniques. Now, I'm fairly certain I can keep the enclosure cool enough simply by moving enough air through it, but being the over zealous person that I am, I'm thinking about chilling the intake air. So far, the options I've come up with are:

- peltier
Pros: simple, small form factor, easy to implement
Cons: power usage, waste heat
- radiator with fans
Pros: low power usage
Cons: low cooling factor (few degrees below ambient maximum), maintenance of liquid system
- active compressor (air conditioning)
Pros: effective cooling
Cons: bulk, noise

There is also the option of combining peltiers and a radiator to deal with the waste heat, but my main concern with peltiers is what my power consumption is going to be running a bunch of them 24/7. I don't want a million dollar electricity bill just for this enclosure, let alone the servers inside.

Obviously my goal here is to keep the setup adequately cooled while being relatively unobtrusive from a sound standpoint. Can anyone point out a flaw in my pros/cons above or suggest an alternative? Am I completely out to lunch on this and should I just rely on air movement?

Thanks for your feedback.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:41 am 
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Location: Michigan
If you have the space, you could just take the top panels off the servers and mount taller heatsinks on the CPUs.

Cooling the air is about the worst way to cool anything. If you have a radiator and compressor, it would be much more efficient to directly phase cool the processors.

I can't see peltiers even being able to cool air. Where would you sink the heat from them?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:59 am 
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Biggest concern with keeping systems cool enough is not getting the air coming in colder, it's getting the hot air out of the case fast enough. Make sure your enclosure has adequate airflow and worry about the rest later.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:16 am 
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Got a basement or crawl space? intake from cool air under house exhaust through the roof.

One over servers many drawbacks is the horizontal forfactor. Notice how blades are on edge? Way easier to take advantage of convection when things are upright rather than flat.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:34 pm 
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I don't want to take up excessive space with the enclosure, so yes it will be big enough to house a server, but I was thinking on the order of .75-1m tall maximum, fitting 3 servers in with the tops off and bigger fans is not going to work. It will also be impractical to modify the systems to accept an external cooling system (ie water cooling). In terms of cooling the air, this is exactly the process we use in datacenter design and I'm simply trying to apply it to a very small application. Yes, there will be ample exhaust to remove heat from the case, however cooling the incoming air keeps the servers from heating up to what they would if the air was simply ambient temperature.

Unfortunately my biggest reason for wanting to build this enclosure is that my desk and desktop computers are all in the basement so simply removing the servers from my physical proximity isn't going to work.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:38 pm 
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Location: Orlando, FL
Just make a cardboard duct from a central air duct and call it even. :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 12:43 pm 
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Location: Michigan
DMD wrote:
In terms of cooling the air, this is exactly the process we use in datacenter design and I'm simply trying to apply it to a very small application.

Well you should know then that it doesn't work well for datacenters either. It may be practical (cheap server hardware), but it is horribly inefficient.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 1:01 pm 
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QuietOC wrote:
DMD wrote:
In terms of cooling the air, this is exactly the process we use in datacenter design and I'm simply trying to apply it to a very small application.

Well you should know then that it doesn't work well for datacenters either. It may be practical (cheap server hardware), but it is horribly inefficient.


Of course, and it is merely a piece of what is used to accomplish the goal, which is simply what I'm trying to do here - help out the whole process with this small additional piece.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:30 pm 
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Location: Bellevue, Nebraska
You could sit the system next to an Air Duct in the room, and use your home A/C system to cool it with some ducting. Though if you live somewhere that gets cold i suppose you'd have to come up with something different for the winter when the heater is on.

IMO its just not worth it. Just use normal large low rpm fans to blow air through them would be the easiest way. Is there any particular reason why these need to be abnormally cold? Are they overclocked or overheat unless in a low ambient temp room?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:44 pm 
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No particular reason, like I said initially, just overbuilding. If it's not worth it / too much hassle, I'll drop it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:55 am 
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Location: UK
while pre-cooling the intake air to the units has the gee-whiz wow geek factor (and should also mean you need less airflow, as the delta between the air and the equipment temp is greater, so heat transfer is improved) like other people have said, on a purely practical, pragmatic view, it probably doesn't make sense.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:24 am 
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From past experiences attempting to run server class hardware at home is more trouble than it's worth, even if it's free. Since you're "getting them from work" the presumption is it's older hardware.

Servers are designed for performance, and until recently (very recently), low noise and power consumption were not of any concern. The exact opposite of why we are here. The typical server fan is way too loud for practical home use and they typically have multiple smaller, faster spinning, and much louder fans to reduce space and increase airflow through an already cramped 1 to 3 U case.

At some point the money and time you have invested in quieting, cooling, and powering this "free" hardware will equal or exceed what you would have spent on a new system. I recently built a new media server for around $250 using the recommendations on this website. In stock form it's pretty quiet and needs only the fans swapped out for silence. It pulls less than 50W, looks good, and doesn't take up much space. Shop around and you'll find some good deals.

Also, if you must have multiple systems consider virtualization.

So, take my advice (15+yrs experience from the small business to the enterprise level), unless you have a valid need and room designed for it, "server class" hardware is not worth it at home. Your ears and significant other will thank you.


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