Water cooling a media rack


Senior Member
Originally posted on AVSforum.com

WaterCooling a media rack
I have been tempted to water cool a couple of Tivos, an HTPC and a PC home automation server that is all in my media equipment rack / closet. I was thinking of plumbing some type of distribution hub for the supply side with regulation on each tube for each device to balance the system. The individual hot water lines would drop into a water tank which would have the pump which would then pump to a radiator in a different room to keep the media closet cool. The output of the radiator would go back to the distribution hub.

Of course, with all this expensive hardware on a common cool system, I would need to regulate the temps which I can easily do with the home automation server (running Homeseer) and 1-wire sensors. I can also monitor the motherboard temps with Homeseer HA software (MSCTemp Homeseer script) as well using SpeedFan software. I don't think I can monitor the board temp of the tivos (TivoWeb?), but a 1-wire temp sensor should be OK for that purpose. I will monitor the current temps with normal fan cooling to get a baseline of what temps are normal. The Homeseer automation server can provide alerts if temps rise above normal on any of the devices. Homeseer could also shutdown the offending unit (via LAN messenging, serial or IR commands) or all devices if indicative of a coolant failure before shutting itself down and sending email / vmail / page / alarm system alerts.

Here are some thoughts on equipment for the above:
PVC piping running up the side of the equipment rack for the distribution hub. Off of each T on the pressure side, would be a simple rotary valve to tweek water volume to the device. I have seen these in HomeDepot for pond water diverting.

I was toying with the idea of using an aftermarket truck transmission cooler for the radiator (around $80). Should be plenty of cooling surface area. This would be mounted in a cool (not freezing) crawl space on the other side of the wall from the media closet. My media room walls are made of 9 inch think foam form concrete filled walls, so no issue of noise from that crawl space. The pump (two for redundancy?) would be mounted in a sealed tank (custom made out of PVC pipe with threaded ends to pull the pump out with expoxied wire connections?) There would be need for a drain to service the system and a way to fill and bleed the system of air at the top of the water column.

I haven't done any searching yet for pumps up to the task. If submerged need waterproof. Need to handle the volume of water and weight of the water column as well as the water drag from probably 20 feet of total tubing (supply and discharge). Need reliability. Need for probably 1/2" fittings. If not submerged, need somewhat quiet (a hum or less?) as this will probably not be in the media room closet.

Any thoughts from the forum on the pump? Are PC clocker pumps up to the task? I've been looking at the Eheim 1060 which is rated 600gph and 10 foot water column (needed for the overall height of the equipment rack).

Would need a way to quick disconnect each device for servicing without loosing the water. I think the PC clockers have such water cooling connectors - but they are pretty expensive at $25 per connection or $50 per PC.

Standard PC water blocks for CPU, chipset and graphics card on the HTPC and server.

Very slow large fan on the HTPC and server to vent the remaining heat from RAM / Hdrives out of the chassis. Would love if there were a small radiator that could be mounted inside the chassis to absorb the rest of heat...

The goal would be to get rid of all the fans and heat generated by as many devices as I can in the media closet. That way the power amps are cooler until I figure out a way to water cool them as well

Sounds like a cool idea.

I would think you would want to water cool the HDs as well. They tend to generate a good bit of heat.

Yes, agreed. About $35 per hard drive plus fittings so that amounts to about....$500 .....maybe a stage2 upgrade....
You might want to check into a bilge pump, normally used for draining water from boats. There are many sizes and and there is certainly one that would fit the bill. The best part is the pumps can be completely submerged, and are 100% water tight. On a second note, you would need a 110 to 12v dc converter, thus making the system a lot safer. Running water and 110v, in case of a problem, do not mix well ;)

On another note, I would put the pump itself in the media closet. I dont think any pump will be as quiet as you are looking for. The fan, of course, HAS to be outside the closet, but there is really no restriction on where the pump has to be. As your media closet has thick walls, and contains sound for the most part, this is an ideal place to put the pump.

On a last note, I would most definately have a VERY reliable backup for the setup. If one fan goes in a computer, the worse case is a fried processor. If the water cooled system dies, you are looking at losing ALL of you equiptment
I was thinking more along the lines of this (see pic).
The idea behind using Homeseer monitoring temps is to shutdown devices that are too hot (no matter what the failure).

I don't think boat bilge pumps are rated for continuous duty. I have an extra 110 volt domestic heating sytem Grundig circulation pump that might be the ticket if it's volume isn't huge. Testing required...probably overkill and might not want to be throttled back.

The Eheim 1060 seems like it might work too. Made for indoor pond water circulation. Maybe use Homeseer to trigger a secondary pump for redundancy if two devices or more are found to be too hot (the first having been shutdown by HS once it got too hot).

Hmm, can't seem to post a gif or jpg of 40 kb...


  • WaterCooling1.gif
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I know this is a little late, but:

I have a mate who's done a similar thing, he has 5 computers in a 19" rack cabinet, all watercooled together. the back of the cabinet has the two main pipes going through some quickrelease connections, through the wall out to a pump system in the garage (on opposite side of wall).

I built him some failsafe circuits, with a bit of redundancy. He has two pumps in there, one is primary and one is the secondary pump. They are paralleled into the system and each has a flow sensor to detect if the pump is on/dead. There is a third flow sensor in the rack to detect if it has been disconnected from the pumps.

There are then 3 relays and a PICAXE chip, all hooked up and basic programming logic will look after the pump redundancy while at the same time notifing the user (it sends a signal via serial to a VB app he runs on his workstation to alert him if its frying).

All his equipment goes through the UPS system, which serial shutsdown the equipment. There is a backup fan in his main server. If the temps increase too much the second pump will come on as well to pump more water and/or a large fan on the cooling fins.

If it goes over the maximum limit then the server will try to shutdown the boxes, and the fan on that will come on (keeps it cool enough for 3 or 4 minutes before it gets a bit warm!). After shutting down the other boxes it will shut itself down, and then the PICAXE will start counting. After a minute it kills power to the rack via a large relay. This means if a box hung on shutdown it will be killed. It may muck up the HDDs but it won't kill the processor.

So far he hasn't had any problems with it. His main pump failed but his secondary one automatically took over while the PICAXE beeped via a piezo to alert him. We have though thoroughly tested it so that in a failure it would work.

HTH and gives you some ideas for something to built,
that's great. Just about exactly the same type of end result I had in mind. I have a different execution in mind, but same gist.

Do you know what quick connectors he used? Gotta Link? The ones I have found are $25 a pair kinda expensive.

What pump did he use?

thanx for the post.
Well, I took the easy path out and purchased a Zalman Resirator watercooled setup on clearance at MicroCenter. Also purchased the VGA cooler which was also on clearance. Neat thing is the VGA cooler kit comes with a ATI and a Nividea sized water blocks so I can add the Nividia one to my desktop. The ATI one will go in the HTPC which will be connected to the Resirator extruded aluminum pump / reservoir / radiator.

Realized that the flow indicator was recalled by Zalman so applied online for a replacement which should be mailed in a week.

Not as custom as what was planned, but a simpler solution that will look neat when done.