How-To Geek

Microsoft Proposes Heating Homes with "Data Furnaces"

We’re all familiar with the heat a single computer can generate; data centers generate exponentially more. Microsoft researchers want to tap into that waste heat and use it for residential buildings.

How do they propose this? Not by somehow piping the heat they are generating to the homes but by actually moving mini data racks to the homes themselves. Each rack could generate more than enough heat to warm the house and heat hot water for the home.

In exchange data centers could grow without creating a larger footprint. Heating accounts for a significant chunk of a residential energy bill and if they could swap out the furnace/hot water heater with a data rack they could radically expand data operations without creating an impact on the energy grid.

Hit up the link below to read the whitepaper on the subject and ponder if you’d want a cloud server heating your house.

The Data Furnace: Heating Up with Cloud Computing [Microsoft via Extreme Tech]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/26/11

Comments (19)

  1. DF

    Right, because we want these in the basements of people who could potentially break into them. Nice try Microsoft. Best to think before opening your mouth.

  2. Andrew

    I’m thinking that redundant power and other factors come into play here not to mention data security.

  3. Brodiemac

    Heat my home in the winter sounds good but what are you going to do for me in the summer?

  4. Alan Bush

    Not great for single family homes, but I could see a smallish data center in the basement of an apartment building. Even if it was only enough to cut down on the cost/efficiency of heating water, it would be a nice benefit. Especially if you were able to upgrade your connection from DSL to whatever fat fiber pipe the data center used.

  5. gilteon

    @Alan Bush: Therin lies the other problem. How could it be cost-effective for the data company to run real high-speed internet to every home they install servers into?

  6. soup4you2

    – So what about the extra cost of electricity to the resident? Chances are it’s cheaper for me to use the heating unit than it is to power a couple racks of equipment.
    – What about the noise generated from racks of equipment?
    – What about redundancy?
    – What happens if a machine breaks? i have to let a tech into my house at any hour of the day?

  7. Brad

    I applaud thinking out of the box, however there are many major flaws, most of which I won’t even get to. Like Brodiemac says, heat is great when its cold, but those data centers better not be adding to my cooling costs when its hot outside. Also, I did not read anything in there about being able to adjust the temperature. Last time I checked 40 degree C is about 100 degrees farenheit, and if that is blowing through my house, it will get warm plenty fast, I am going to want a way to turn that down. I think that the concept has potential but I think that there is a lot more to be considered than what was discussed in the whitepaper. Maybe a prototype would be a good idea, to get a realistic approach to how it would work in the real life, and not just on paper.

  8. Michel

    Wow, someone’s trying to find creative solutions? Let’s all dump on them asap! Yay, something to bitch about!

  9. datdamonfoo

    Hmm.what could you do in the summer? Oh, I know, vent the freaking heat. Wow, I just solved an engineering conundrum!

  10. Eric

    Sounds like a great idea! Seriously. There is so much thought and investment in alternative forms of energy right now while simple things like this can save huge amounts of money.

    Obviously there is a security concern here though. I am a trustworthy guy. You can put some in my house. : )

  11. Morely the IT Guy

    I’ve been doing this for years, involuntarily. I’ve recently reduced my 24/7 PC count from 12 to 3. In summer it’s a great savings, in winter the cost of gas to heat the house offsets the savings on electrical power.

  12. Jasonwuzthere

    I’m not going to read the white paper. I’m just going to spout off a bunch of stupidly simple statements that are answered in the white paper because I’m a moron.

  13. Jasonwuzthere

    Nice article and a great idea, BTW. Thanks how to geek!

  14. ERNIE

    good line jasonwuzthere!!

  15. kevalin

    +1 for JasonWuzHere! Our increasing unwillingness to at least check things out BEFORE developing an opinion (to say nothing of going deeper) is what will eventually give this period in history the title of “The Second Dark Ages.”

    Here’s hoping we survive to see “The Second Renaissance.”

  16. Smoking Wheels

    Just imangine the bandwidth my hacked internet connection would have on my 286

  17. Habdab

    Why not just harvest the heat from their present location and convert it back to electricity via a heat exchange unit and turbines? Then sell the power back to the Grid. The visiting technicians to maintain and repair the servers, excess heat in Summer problem and the security issues are then negated. Also the massive cost of fibre optic cable installation to individual homes is removed.

  18. Tad

    Yes then all the “data cabinets” can more easily be utilized by skynet when the bombs fly…

  19. CAfromCA

    I can see them covered in cat hair. Cool.

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