Original ways to use excess heat from data centers

Data centers are stacked with computer equipment. All that equipment generates heat, a lot of it, which is just wasted energy. Reusing at least some of that wasted energy seems like a good idea.

But first it would be nice to know how much excess heat is actually produced by a data center. IBM should know:

“In many cases, a datacenter can generate enough heat to heat a building 10 to 30 times its size,” says Steve Sams, vice president of IBM Global Site and Facilities Services. “That’s a lot.”

Fortunately, there are systems that can use the excess heat and recycle it to warm buildings and provide hot water. The power savings and cost benefits can be significant, not to mention that it’s good for the environment.

Coming to a data center near you?

Aside from the “obvious” uses, like heating nearby buildings, here are two recent examples of highly original ways to use the excess heat produced by data centers.

Heating a swimming pool – Excess heat from an underground data center in Switzerland is going to be used to warm up a community swimming pool, starting this summer.

Heating a greenhouse – Currently at an experimental stage, someone has come up with the idea of actually placing server racks inside a greenhouse, letting them keep the place nice and warm.

We will no doubt be seeing plenty of other creative ways to recycle the enormous amounts of excess heat from computer equipment in data centers. In an age when we need to protect the environment, not wasting energy is becoming increasingly important.

Photo by Nathan Siemers.


  1. Nuclear power plants have the same issue with warm waters. Sometimes the water is dumped straight to a river or it can be used for aquaculture.

  2. Good luck with the greenhouse thing. Most greenhouses have relative humidity levels significantly outside the operational envelope for computing gear; there’s no chance I’d want any of my gear actually in a greenhouse.

  3. You don’t actually put the servers in a green house. The heat exhaust from the servers gets piped into a green house environment.
    What, you want monkeys running around and jumping on the servers?

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