Water cooling is the next big thing for your computer room and will compete with proprietary liquid cooling systems for the next few years. Demand an open system with plug compatible connecting pipes and the use of cheap generic anti corrosion and antifreeze. A good system will also be quiet.
You can choose a cooling liquid from water, hydrocarbons, and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
Chlorinated hydrocarbons are the environment killing CFCs and their repugnant relatives. CFCs have no advantages over water and only one advantage over regular hydrocarbons, CFCs do not burst into flames and incinerate everyone.
Hydrocarbons burst into flames and incinerate everyone. Hydrocarbons are supposed to be less dangerous to computers than water but the humans in the computer room are more important than the computers.
Modern printed circuit boards are, during manufacturer, washed in water containing lemon oil or orange oil, which means they are used to water. Many years ago I restored computers that had drowned in rainwater and all that was needed was a hair dryer. Compare a few drops of water on your computer to a hydrocarbon induced incineration similar to the human barbecue scene in the movie Carrie.
The salt and other impurities in water make water conduct electricity and cause corrosion. Distilled water does neither and is a safer choice than hydrocarbons. Silicon dissolves in water but silicon is sealed against humidity which means an occasional accident with water will not harm the computer.
One of the biggest dangers with all types of liquid cooling is condensation on the cooling pipes and that condensation is more of a danger than leaks, which means water damage can occur easily no matter what type of liquid you use in the cooling system.
Water is used in nuclear reactors because water can absorb a huge amount of heat before evaporating, something none of the other liquids can do.
Choose water as environmentally friendly and safe for your staff.
IBM introduced liquid cooling, using water, on their premium performance mainframes back in the early 1980s. IBMs success shows you what to do and their failures show you what not to do. I was there as a young kid helping select mainframes for several companies, knocking down the prices, and, most importantly, keeping down the total cost. Water cooling was an important factor.
IBM could use anything for their cooling system and chose water as the safest, most reliable. Water carries more heat per drop and does not disappear when there is a slight leak in a pipe, which means you have time to detect the leak and shut down the computer without loss of data.
Distilled water makes every part of a cooling system cheaper because you can use cheaper materials and installation is less of a problem. Ongoing liquid costs are minimal.
IBM used a proprietary cooling system that was expensive to buy and expensive to install. The next round of cooling will include open systems where you can plug in cooling pipes the same way you plug in portable gas heaters around a house or plug in the old coaxial Ethernet cables. Demand an open system with a choice of hardware suppliers.
Water Cooling in the Press
The media are now jumping onto the water cooling bandwagon because they can see that big suppliers will advertise water cooling the way they advertise emergency power and other computer room resources. One article highlights Hitachi as a pioneer and HP as the early adopter of the Hitachi technology but both trail behind the PC market.
High end workstations from independent suppliers have, for years, used water cooling as a way to reduce noise. Zalman led the way with passive water cooling for workstations. Gamers jumped on the same water cooling as a way to push more power through components pushed past their normal speed limits.
Zalman was first to produce a passive water system with external radiator and now many companies produce similar systems. The external radiator means you can cool the water without using a noise fan. Passive systems can circulate the water using convection which removes the need for noisy water pumps.
Zalman has a range of water coolers that have external radiators connected to internal components by plug in hoses. A slight extension of the Zalman system could have multiple computers connected to a pipe through a building to an external radiator.
The Zalman system is low pressure which means you could not connect to a cooling system on a roof several floors above your computer. An obvious solution is to have the low pressure local system work only on one floor then connect to a heat exchanger. The other side of the heat exchanger could be a high pressure system running up and down the building.
The Zalman system mixes copper and aluminium which causes corrosion and means you have to add an anticorrosion agent similar to the liquid added to car radiators when there are aluminium components in the radiator or engine.
You can get a Zalman Ultimate Liquid CPU Cooler for Intel LGA 2011/1155/1156/1366 and AMD Socket FM2/FM1/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2 LQ-315 kit that includes the radiator, tubes, anticorrosive coolant mix, and the cooling block for the processor. Given that the processor fan is the noisiest, the kit should reduce noise plus move the heat out of the computer more efficiently.
If there are other chips with fans in your computer then you can buy additional cooling blocks. The second fan is usually a video chip covered with a tiny but annoying high speed fan which starts to screech as soon as dust sticks to the fan blades. Replace the video fan with water cooling.
Extend the Pipes
You can buy long lengths of plastic pipe to move the radiator away from your computer to a cooler spot. The radiator has to be the same height or higher than the cooling blocks to produce natural flow of water from convection. The Zalman kit includes a pump to make sure the water flows when there is no convection but the pump might not handle very long pipes.
Pure water would work if all the metal parts of the cooling system were copper and the water stayed indoors. You need additives for aluminium and to protect against cold.
Pure water works when all the metal parts of the cooling system are copper, as shown by copper pipes surviving in houses for hundreds of years. Most heat exchangers use aluminium because aluminium is cheap and easily extruded but aluminium corrodes as fast as iron rusts, which means you need an additive to inhibit corrosion. When you mix metals, such as copper and aluminium, you get electrolytic action making the corrosion happen many times faster. The anti corrosion chemicals slow down the electrolytic action.
In a plug compatible system you cannot guarantee that all parts will be copper and plastic, which means aluminium and the need for corrosion inhibitors. A smart operator would offer an environmentally friendly cooling system where all the heat exchangers are pure copper for long life, easy recycling, and no need for chemical additives.
If you are going to use a corrosion inhibitor then you should be able to use the cheap generic antifreeze mix sold for car radiators.
Does you house drop below freezing point when you go on holidays over winter? If yes then you need antifreeze in your cooling system. You should be able to use exactly the same mix as your car cooling system because cars use aluminium parts instead of copper, and mix iron with both metals, a truly deadly mix of electrolytic corrosion.
Water based cooling systems can be quieter than fans. If the system uses thermal cycling of the water, there is no pump noise. A fully immersed pump pushes far less water to move a given amount of heat, compared to air, and should produce only a trivial amount of noise which will be absorbed by the water.
Bubbles in the system will produce noise the same as bubbles in a waterbed. A good water cooling system will drain bubbles or let you drain the bubbles. You might have to drain the bubbles several times over the first few weeks.
Modern water cooling systems are a great idea and an open system with multiple compatible suppliers would let you link individual computer cooling kits to room and building level cooling. Demand an open system with plug compatible connecting pipes and the use of cheap generic anti corrosion and antifreeze.