Can My Electronics Heat Hot Water?
Can heat generated from PCs, TVs, and other CE devices be used to heat hot water?
October 09, 2009 by CE Pro

Q. Along the lines of the Green Theme in the recent issue of Electronic House, is anyone working on developing a technology to harness all of the heat generated by PCs, TVs and CE devices and use it to heat things like the hot water in a house while at the same time cooling the devices? - Steve, Dallas

A. Frank Federman of Active Thermal Management weighs in:

Unfortunately, this is completely impractical. The plumbing needed to move the heat around to a central point where it could be used would be a nightmare, if water were to be used as a transfer medium. (We won’t even think of the damage caused by even a small leak!)

Moving that much air any distance would require very large and long ducting. And generating electricity by using thermocouples would illustrate just how inefficient thermocouples are.

The fundamental problem is that there’s some heat over here near the home theater gear, and a little bit of heat over there near the kitchen TV, and more coming out of the refrigerator, and a bit in the den at the computer setup.

The heat is diffused and intermittent. Gathering it and making it useful would cost far more than it’s worth.

Hagai Feiner of Access Networks also chimed in:

Well we all know energy does not disappear. it transforms. Thus, electricity transformed into heat in AV/computer/network gear is a byproduct of the equipment working and fulfilling its mission. While heat is a waste of useful energy, I’d rather see someone (Intel for example) invent cooler electronics and chipsets, not water heaters that sit on top of racks.

If you recall, a short-lived generation of laptops came out with Pentium 4 processors. The P4 was so hot it needed two huge fans to cool it, so battery life was about one hour or less. Then Intel was pushed to the wall and came out with the energy efficient (and cooler) Centrino platform.

I can imagine writing this email with a cold laptop and 20 hours of battery life in five years.

The game will change when smart grid automation products will become common. Once a home user (like me) buys an automation system like Control4 and sees the power consumption (and corresponding dollar figures) associated with my DTV box and the LCD TV not being ISF calibrated and lights not being dimmed to 90% and so on, then pressure will rise to change the programming and equipment we use and have the manufacturers build energy efficient products.

So many products are energy guzzlers even in standby or idle mode. There is much improvement to be done.

The enterprise world is already doing this with energy efficient servers, network gear and most importantly, virtualization of desktops and servers.

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