WATER COOLING

h100i_hero_fanMany overclocking enthusiasts have found water cooling helpful to get better results. Water cooling is expensive and it carries an element of risk. Still many have found great success with water cooling. Generally water cooling is seen with the larger EATA chassis where there is room for dual fan radiators.

In the early days, water cooling was made from car radiator core pieces, aquarium pumps and lab tubes. hsfThe blocks were also home made.

Remember, water cooling systems can leak causing massive system destruction.

CPU

The CPU was the first component to have water cooled blocks attached. Chess enthusiasts routinely overclock their CPU aggressively.

GPU

In recent years video card processors have grown in their power consumption. This made them a perfect target for water cooling as well.

While HSF assemblies have been popular, water blocks for high end video cards have been manufactured. They tend to be expensive.

AMD has bundled a water cooler with their R9 295X2 dual GPU card instead of using a three fan cooler. This type of card is best installed in one of the large EATX style chassis where there is enough room.

TECHNOLOGY

Whether you have a 2.5 GW nuclear power plant,  a 125 W CPU or a 250W GPU, everybody has the same problem called heat transfer.

AIR

Nuclear power plants use large cooling towers while a CPU needs a somewhat smaller apparatus. CPU fans draw air through a dense array of fins. This is then removed by chassis and PSU fans. Larger fans can move enormous amounts of air.

HYDROGEN

Believe it or not but hydrogen is 7 to 10 times better than air at cooling. Obviously a rig would have to be sealed air tight to be able to use hydrogen. Unfortunately hermetically sealing a computer is not very practical.

PHASE CHANGE

Recall from high school chemistry the idea of latent heat of vaporization. Boiling water carries off .54 kcal per gram.  The copper tubes seen in some larger heat sinks are called heat pipes. These are partially filled a fluid that boils around the CPU and condenses in the fin area. This efficiently moves a lot of energy. CPU and GPU coolers today all use heat pipes to move heat evenly over the fan array.

SIZE MATTERS

Water cooling equipment comes in a couple of sizes. ½ inch being used more frequently. Chassis dimensions will dictate the size needed. 3/8 is the most common size seen with older mid-ATX and EATX chassis’.

Recent ½ inch pumps and radiators are needed to remove the massive amounts of heat found in modern machines.

COMPONENTS

Water cooling uses many components to create a complete system. Kits are the easiest way to go, they typically have all the components needed.

BLOCKS

Generally most kits focus on the CPU as the target for cooling. Gaming cards need a more complex block to provide cooling not only to the GPU but also to the memory chips.

Generally high-end video cards will have a water cooling block for them within a few months of their release.

We have noticed occasional models of video card with factor water cooling. These tend to be rare as they tend to be very expensive.

PUMP

The pump needs to be placed at the bottom of the chassis to be most efficient. Recent gaming grade chassis have moved the PSU to the bottom so that video cards are higher up. This conveniently allows water cooling pumps to be placed in front of the PSU.

RADIATOR

The radiator needs to be mounted outside the chassis. Many gaming grade chassis have screw holes to mount most radiators easily. Many chassis have the capacity for various sized radiators.

RESERVOIR

The reservoir is mounted higher up in the chassis so that the loop is always properly filled. In addition reservoir can also act as a gauge. Additional fluid can be added if needed.

TUBES

Plastic tubes are used to route the water from the pump to the CPU blocks to the radiator and then up to the reservoir and back down to the pump.

Tubes range from clear plastic to glowing. There is considerable diversity available in the market.

Some kits feature quick release clips that make it easy to disassemble for maintenance.

FOULING

A common problem with water cooling is fouling due to algae. LED lights in fans can stimulate algae growth. Multicolor LED is the worst. The aquarium trade has many products that can help control algae.

Cleaning is important if algae is present to prevent clogging which can damage components.

CORROSION

Corrosion is another problem with aluminum components. Standard radiator chemicals from the auto parts dept. are all that’s needed.

CHASSIS

Today there are many makes and models of chassis for PC gaming that feature a mount for water cooling. Many use top mounted water cooling and bottom mounted power supplies. This way the PSU will last much longer.

KITS

We noticed the Zalman Reserator featured an integrated pump and passive cooling in one unit that stands outside the chassis. The tubes simply feed into the chassis to the CPU block. The kit seems to lack support for AMD users which is disappointing. Adding a GPU block or 3 will add to the cost. A high-end SLI setup can exceed $1000 easily.

Corsair and others now offer all-in-one CPU coolers which are very popular. Small models are popular with ATX mid tower machines and larger models with dual fan radiators are popular with EATX full tower machines.

Corsair offers software to monitor some of their more recent power supplies and CPU coolers, this is an extension of the tools that motherboards have provided for years.