You may notice that, like most electronics your laptop or desktop heats up quickly and requires fans to cool its internal components. In fact, 40% of all the energy that is consumed in data centers comes from processes used to cool servers.
A company called Nerdalize is looking to change this around. The Dutch startup, which says that together data centers use more electricity than India and generate more CO2 emissions than the airline industry, plans to harvest heat from servers and warm homes for free. This process, which Nerdalize calls a win-win-win is planned to reduce CO2 emissions and heating costs for households while saving companies money for data services.
How does it work? Instead of maintaining all servers in one data center where heat is built up and then cooled, servers will be contained in multiple containers, which can then be distributed to Nerdalize customers. The containers that hold these servers are called CloudBoxes.
Homeowners first pay Nerdalize to install a CloudBox in their home; the CloudBox will heat the customer’s home using heat from the servers it contains. The server space for the CloudBoxes installed in customers’ homes will be sold to companies at a fraction of what they would normally pay.
Though Nerdalize presented and tested an early prototype in 2015, which was fashioned into a single server heating unit able to heat a small room, they are currently rolling out their new system across the Netherlands. They claim that they can eliminate the production of up to 3 tons of CO2 a year per household.
Their new project, which is aimed at better integrating customers' homes with the heating units, will first be rolled out to 42 Dutch households, though their goal is to reach 50 households by the end of the year.
The value of this new heating interface goes beyond just warming homes in colder seasons; Nerdalize has plans for warmer seasons as well. They created a thermal buffer, which means that customers have access to hot water on demand for seasonally independent tasks like washing dishes with hot water or taking a hot shower. Additionally, they use a distributed system to ensure that the entire home reaches the desired temperature, not just the room with the heating unit; so residual heat is spread around. As a worst-case scenario, they've also implemented a heat dump for unwanted heat waste that cannot be recycled by use in a customer’s home.
What's the environmental impact of Nerdalize's plans? Bas Minnema, an alumnus at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, did a final project that compared the CO2 emissions of Nerdalize's heating units with the CO2 output of conventional data centers in the Netherlands. He found that, the CO2 emissions from Nerdalize were 97.1% lower than those of the average data center in the Netherlands. Minnema additionally determined that Nerdalize had the potential to outcompete even high efficiency data centers in the country.
Why do Nerdalize's heating units produce so little CO2? There are 4 main reasons why Nerdalize produces so little energy waste: 1. They use residual heat instead of heat generated by burning fossil fuels (namely natural gas). 2. Both the product use and product manufacturing stages are incredibly energy efficient. 3. Nerdalize gets their energy from Eneco, a company that uses sustainable energy resources like wind and solar power. 4. Nerdalize uses few components for their heating units, which means that they also minimize the amount of materials needed.
Nerdalize partners with a software containment platform called Docker. Docker assists them with what they call their biggest challenge, distributing the computations of all their business customers over CloudBoxes located throughout the Netherlands. Docker ensures that computations can be compiled seamlessly and without compatibility problems.
Nerdalize feels that using Docker is a win-win for both it as a company and the businesses that buy their server space. Currently, the cloud industry is not transparent and rather expensive for businesses to use. Docker makes it easier for business customers (also referred to as cloud customers) to retrieve their data, understand how much services cost them, gage whether or not it's efficient to use Nerdalize and acquire the most updated cloud software.
Though Nerdalize is still rolling out its new system, Dutch homeowners are able to sign up for early access on their site right now. This is definitely a startup worth watching!