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Tech News : Want Free Hot Water? Have A Server In Your House!

Green distributed computer network heating company Heata is offering to provide up to 4.8kWh of free hot water per day in exchange for installing a business cloud server in your home.

Green Distributed Compute Network 

Heata, which began as an innovation project with British Gas, describes itself as “a ground-breaking green distributed compute network that uses the waste heat from compute to heat the water in people’s homes.”

Tackling Two Challenges With One Solution 

The company sees this as a way of tackling two challenges with one solution in that over 4 million UK households live in fuel poverty and data centres require vast amounts of energy and create significant heat. For example, it’s estimated that waste heat from a large data centre could provide hot water for 11,000 homes. Heata says that “moving heat is hard, it requires new infrastructure or a pre-existing heat network” but “moving bits and bytes is easy” so the idea of installing servers on the side of water tanks is a way of taking the servers to where heat is needed, thereby providing free hot water for those that want it. Heata says this turns a computing problem into a “social benefit” and supports the decarbonisation of the rapidly growing cloud computing industry.

How Does It Work 

The company fits a computer server unit to the side of domestic hot water tanks and the heat generated by the business cloud server heats the hot water. In return, Heata gets to expand its business cloud server network without the cost and complications of having to find/build and run data centres and deal with the heat from them.

Offer Example  

The Heata unit is reported to be currently only available as part of a government backed scheme in South East England. An example of a recent offer to customers is that (from Toms Hardware) in exchange for Heata installing a water-heating server unit next to the existing hot water cylinder, homeowners can get up to 4.8kWh of free hot water a day, the equivalent of 80 per cent of a UK household’s daily use for a whole year.

The Server Unit And ‘Thermal Bridge’ 

The computer server is mounted on Heata’s patented thermal bridge which is fitted to 450mm diameter domestic hot water cylinders and provides the attachment point for the server.

What About Your Router And The Power For The Server? 

Two key aspects of the deal that are less clear, however, are the fact that an extra (business) server will need to connect to the home’s router and network, and the unit will require electricity that the homeowner initially pays for (Heata says it will reimburse owners in the trial). These facts may well give potential customers some concerns such as:

– The bandwidth the unit will use and the associated costs and connection worries.

– The fact that it’s a strange computer on the home network that the homeowner has no access to and doesn’t know exactly what it’s doing, leading to possible security concerns.

That said, Heata has reportedly said that the server will only use a fraction of the bandwidth, it will only be engaged in tasks such as monitoring information and performing speed tests for most of the time, and later versions will be separated from a home’s broadband by fibre connections.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

The huge growth in cloud computing has created the need for many more energy hungry data centres which in turn has created the issues of how to manage the heat they generate and minimise/reduce the environmental impact. Many ideas have been tried, e.g. underwater data centres, but part of the attractiveness of this scheme is both the social element, i.e. homeowners in a cost-of-living crisis with high energy prices getting ‘free’ hot water, plus the fact that the product appears to tackle several issues with one solution. Businesses always need affordable cloud computing which schemes like this may be able to help provide and the computing industry needs to rapidly find ways to decarbonise, which Heata’s offering also shows promise for. It could also have knock-on benefits and opportunities for broadband providers and for other computing-based companies looking to offer similar solutions.

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