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DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking

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TiN_EE
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2019/05/05 20:35:12 (permalink)
Today we discuss subzero unit which can be built by anybody for low cost.

This is article from KPC forum archives.

Since many folk got RTX KPE card now, I see some activity talking about chilled setups. You can buy ready to go chillers off market, such as Hailea HC-1000B or Koolance EXC-800 but these will keep liquid loop temperature above ambient. What if you want moar cooling, to get that desired 2300MHz GPU clock in benchmarks?

Welcome to extreme systems :) It is possible to achieve subzero GPU temperatures with fraction of the real phase-change system cost, if you are OK to do some DIY, and understand how to handle subzero insulation.

Difficulty: easy to medium
Cost of parts: ~$50-250 USD
Time needed: one to few days.
Specs: 0 to -20°C on CPU/GPU's.
Skills: Just watercooling loop assembly, condensate insulation. nothing more


First we need to get one of the air conditioner units used (not split central-type one, we need just those which install in windows). If you visit local scrap-yard or air-conditioner repair shop you could get price ~20-150$ for used but still cooling unit. One we looking for should have 7000-9000BTU cooling power rating. It needs to be in good mechanical condition, working and cooling, no leaks or excessive noises. Evaporator fan, appearance and looks of exterior is irrelevant, we going to rip thing apart anyway.



The principle of air-con unit cooling is very similar to stock phase-change CPU units, fridges and such stuff. Compressor pumps cooling agent gas (Freon, such as ozone-unfriendly R22, R404 or R134a) to condenser under high pressure, where it gives heat away and condensing itself into liquid form. R22 boiling point at 1 ATM is near -41°C, so after pressure drop device (few meters of capillary tube usually on these air-conditioners) it's injected into evaporator placed inside the cooling room and divided from hot chamber by insulation. Pressure in evaporator is low as it is connected to suction line of the compressor motor, and that get R22 boiling, taking loads of heat from air in result. Fans circulate air thru evaporator, giving chilled air on the exhaust vents as result.

The idea of this modification is simple. We don't need to cool air, but if we can make sealed tank with cooled evaporator in we can chill glycol liquid. Antifreeze liquid like those used for winter  cooling loop of car will work great. This task don't require any phase-change loops HVAC knowledge, don't need to have tools for pipe work/brazing and Freon tanks to work (that may need licensing and such). All cooling/freezing stuff is already assembled and ready to go in these AC units as described earlier.

To be more practical, I will describe unit made by myself back in 2010.



It's some no-name 7000BTU unit, bought for ~$150 locally. 99.9% of such units have nice rotary compressor, and quite large condensers, with R22 gas fill near 1kg. Most of them tuned to max heat power near 2-5kW at near zero temps.

First we remove fan from evaporator side. On pic above it's smaller radiator on bottom of pic. We don't need fan here. Also we need to remove electrical circuits from control box, which set temp point to shutdown compressor. We need compressor working nonstop, so just wired it to power outlet directly via ON/OFF switch.

In result we get almost -20°C on evaporator, without any insulation, any gas/brazing works. Next thing - just put evaporator into sealed tank, and cool liquid down. Smart people don't need further instructions from this point, but I will describe all to the end.

Next task - measure size of evaporator, and go to market to get suitable tank
to fill all evaporator. I got only bit smaller one, but still show must go on.



Then got glycol liquid, which have freezing point below -40°C (better lower). If we use water or usual watercooling liquid - we will have get just ice on evaporator, and no subzero liquid will be available. Do NOT use water in this chiller setup.
 
Use gloves and personal protection gear, have good ventilation in the area where all this is done. Glycol used in these Antifreeze liquids is a POISON. Do not leave this stuff unattended.



Next I made a paper box from old TV package (I hated TV's and never use it, put tank inside it and fill all air space between cage and tank with foam used in building thermal insulation. It's sold in spay bottles and have low cost (~10$ here). On top I've put some plates of 20mm thick insulation foam sheets to provide better isolation from ambient heat.



Next we just take usual watercooling system with CPU/GPU water-blocks and remove typical watercooling loop pump to bigger and more durable industrial pump that can operate at negative temperatures and provide good pressure. Glycol liquid is more dense than water, so typical PC pump will have hard time with flow rate.



I've used WILO R-star series pump, 30W with 3 speed selector. It's working noiseless, and have metal iron body. Need to insulate it too, but I was too lazy, so condensate was dripping everywhere.

We do NOT need any radiator of this waterchilled setup, because all cooling is already provided by chiller heat-exchanger tank. No need to point lots of condensation, so insulate all tubing and waterblocks stuff with K-flex and similar things, you would do for LN2/phase-change system.

For first try I've set all up and fire.



First frost arrives shortly, after 5-7min's of AC unit working. Tank was filled with 10L of glycol, so it need some time to cool down all that mass.



Then time to insulate all cold side piping in AC, to prevent ice frosting for prolonged runs



Here is what happens if we mix glycol with water:



Water turned into ice on radiator, thus reducing heat exchange efficiency very fast.
Next time after 1 hour of working, I've got -27°C liquid in unit




One more thing - more liquid in tank - less response from system in general. I mean if we use 1L of cold liquid pumping thru waterblocks - we will get fast temperature changes, during CPU/GPU intensive loads. But a/c will also chill heated liquid faster. More liquid - all will be more smoothy. Optimal is 10-15L, making possible even 32M SuperPi and few 3dmark06 runs with only 2-5°C raise of liquid. And better to cover as much evaporator as possible, to reduce show formation on opened areas.



Remember, All we used to built unit - is basic things known by all watercooling builders. No phasechange HVAC knowledge needed. Lowest temp I've got with +2°C ambient temp is -33.8°C in liquid, Not bad for watercooling, huh?



On such temps show arrive on every tube and water-block, so take care of insulation




View of test rig with opened top of evaporator tank



So it's really easy to build, and only bit less comfortable to use comparing phasechange unit.



In the end I spent days benching 8600GT at -15°C, according to RivaTuner monitoring, 9500GT at -10°C, 7800GTX with -12°C, QX9650 quad-core CPU with -5°C, Xeon 3470 with -12°C. Unit was placed on balcony during winter, with monitor placed toward room window, with keyboard,mouse and RESET wired to warm living room, so I've benched that stuff in quiet and comfort, without lurking with LN2 pouring every minute. :)

Benefit of the chiller setup is easy ability to cool multiple CPU's/GPU's only with adding usual waterblocks. No need of custom evaporators/pots for every piece of hardware with dedicated mount hardware and copper pipe bending.

I've had also runs with 3-way SLI using GTX8800 Ultra, all vmodded + Xeon 3470 CPU on this chiller, and all time liquid in tank did not raise above -20°C during 3Dmark. It's about of 1000W of power total removed from system, keeping liquid temperature at -20°C. Larger tank volume also help to get more stable temperatures, so liquid volume acts as thermal buffer.

* Ability to easily cool all parts of PC, like CPU and multi-GPU setups. Only usual waterblocks + insulation needed!
* No phase-change cooling knowledge needed
* Available to any builder for low cost (~200$ for all parts possible)
* Good temps for sub ambient benching, -30°C is easy
* All parts stock available, no handmade stuff needed.
* Possible to run 24/7, no need special man to pour cryoliquids every minute

Cons

* Consume lot of space, comparing SS or usual watercooling, if using only 1 point cooling (1CPU/1GPU e.g).
* Produce noise from high-CFM fan and compressor motor
* Need lots of insulation all stuff, best to use Vaseline on VGA and motherboard PCBA to avoid corrosion/PCB damage.
* Less cooling efficiency comparing to SS, warmer temperatures
* Bit of ghetto horrid looking, but if you have access to suitable woodworking shop, one could still make it look nice.
post edited by TiN_EE - 2019/05/05 20:51:10
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    bcavnaugh
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/05 20:39:07 (permalink)
    Thanks  Lots of Cool Stuff in this Thread

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    Cool GTX
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/05 20:42:48 (permalink)
    Very Cool ....

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    bruno_ro
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/05 22:08:05 (permalink)
    Cool stuff. Thanks!


     
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    AHowes
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 01:09:42 (permalink)
    ;) It was a no brainer thinking you played around with this in the past lol.

    That would have to be a super top secret project in the man cave to keep it from the wife. Haha she barely if ever comes downstairs.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Edit: honestly it scares the crap out of me just looking at it! Man that frost! I'd have to pull out and sacrifice the evga 8800gtx sli cards with old ek 8800 water blocks first! Hehe
    post edited by AHowes - 2019/05/06 01:13:01

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    TiN_EE
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 01:21:03 (permalink)
    Having no wife simplify things a bit. 
    I was doing this stuff in apartment balcony back in Ukraine, shortly after uni graduation. Fun times, pre-EVGA :).
     
    Using some old HW to test the waters would be good idea on experiments like this one.
     
    If forum members are interested I could dig out worklog about building DIY phase-change cooler system as well, to cool 400-500W of load to -40°C or so, but that is more expensive/difficult project for beginners.
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    AHowes
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 01:33:52 (permalink)
    Post away! I'll check that out heh.

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    richiec77
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 04:43:15 (permalink)
    Keep posting cool stuff TiN! 
     
    For others thinking about fish tank or pond chillers: they work OK. But are much more expensive and don't cool as well as a window AC based Chiller. I barely use my Fish Tank chiller as it's not much better than an Ice Chest filled with Ice. It's an R434. R22 if you can find one is kick ass overall. 
     
    Let me see if I can dig out all the part from the old Peltier setup. Wintsch Labs Arctic Web 437W Pelt. They work....OK'ish sort of. 
    post edited by richiec77 - 2019/05/06 04:51:52
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    TiN_EE
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 06:22:49 (permalink)
    Peltier setup is very bad for this kinda of application. For every 100W of cooling capacity you will need to cool 400-500W of heat generated by Peltier itself.
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    richiec77
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 06:43:21 (permalink)
    TiN_EE
    Peltier setup is very bad for this kinda of application. For every 100W of cooling capacity you will need to cool 400-500W of heat generated by Peltier itself.




    Yes...it's very inefficient. Would never plan on putting that on any modern GPU. Too much heat. 
     
    Was thinking of digging it out just for the sake of it.

    Oh...I Know what I might do. I'm modding some HD 6350 Cards for Cheapaz 2019. Might fit the card....but maybe not. It's a big cpu block IIRC. Haven't used it since 2008 on an E8600. Would be fun and interesting to try it out again.

    To anyone else...Peltiers are very....meh. Interesting...but cooling wise: meh.
    post edited by richiec77 - 2019/05/06 07:00:53
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    bcavnaugh
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 08:24:57 (permalink)
    TiN_EE
    Having no wife simplify things a bit. 



     
    post edited by bcavnaugh - 2019/05/06 08:35:13

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    Sajin
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 12:03:08 (permalink)


    Want to save 5 to 10% on your next EVGA purchase? Just click on the associates banner to save, or enter the associates code at checkout on your next purchase. If you choose to use my code I want to personally say "Thank You" for using it.
     

     
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    Zeddivile
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/06 14:07:08 (permalink)
    Very nice post.
     
    More please.

    "This stuff breaks my tiny often dehydrated and carb deprived hamster brain"
     
     
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    tt0ne
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/08 18:42:52 (permalink)
    More Kingpin Forum archives please! :-) Would it be possible to even create some mod_rewrite rules for forums.kingpincooling.com and possibly get the old posts situated under the new EVGA OC Lab forum? I'd volunteer my time for that and you could even track the project using Redmine via dev.xdevs.com (I think you are using Redmine - correct me if I'm wrong). Let's dooo eet :-)

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    bruno_ro
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/08 21:16:55 (permalink)
    Yeah, some oldies but goldies would be great!


     
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    TiN_EE
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/08 21:28:34 (permalink)
    tt0ne if you are web guru, maybe we could do something on this. I still have old forum and DB, it's just very unsecure and broken, hence the reason why it's down. I know nothing about php or vbulletin. PM me if you interested.
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/08 22:32:28 (permalink)
    It's great to see these and while I understand how it's done I just don't have the guts to try it. Of course I also don't have the need since I don't really chase the benchmark high score. For me just having a game be playable is enough but I love watching the videos and seeing pictures of this kind of stuff.

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    bruno_ro
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/08 22:48:57 (permalink)
    What does it mean "it is broken"?
    For repairs, mount it on a virtual machine or a NAS, set vbulletin offline and disable (or even erase) all users in db, leaving just one enabled (with admin rights), to be used for fixing the website.
    Secondly, enable access to that VM or NAS just from few IPs, to keep it secure from attacks. Or create a VPN to that VM / NAS and give access only to whom deserves.
     
    Also, maybe the guys from vbulletin can help with debug, if the problem is the forum's engine.


     
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    tt0ne
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/11 21:48:11 (permalink)
    TiN_EE
    tt0ne if you are web guru, maybe we could do something on this. I still have old forum and DB, it's just very unsecure and broken, hence the reason why it's down. I know nothing about php or vbulletin. PM me if you interested.



    Tin, I'll join the IRC server later this week and idle until we can connect to chat about it. Would be willing to donate time for a good cause for sure - there are several possibilities but we can discuss them on the xdev server :-)

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    bruno_ro
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/12 00:04:27 (permalink)
     

    Then got glycol liquid, which have freezing point below -40°C (better lower). If we use water or usual watercooling liquid - we will have get just ice on evaporator, and no subzero liquid will be available. Do NOT use water in this chiller setup.
     
    Here is what happens if we mix glycol with water:



    Water turned into ice on radiator, thus reducing heat exchange efficiency very fast.




    Best option for liquid is glycol (density = 1.18 kg/m3) + alcohol (as pure as possible. density = 0.79 kg/m3).
    Alcohol has the freezing point at -114C and a density of 0.79, which will lower the freezing point of the mix and lower its density to move easily in the loop.
    A mix of 50-50 will result in a liquid with freezing point below -70C and a density below 0.9 (which is below the density of water), so the pump will be happier. ;)
     
    What you need to know:
    - pure alcohol destroys plexi so DON"T use waterblocks with plexi parts or plexi reservoirs for the chiller. However, the mix with glycol will stop that, but I advice to no plexi anyway.
    - acetal and POM has no problem with alcohol, so no danger to use them
     
     


     
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    bill1024
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    Re: DIY low cost sub-zero chiller for benchmarking 2019/05/12 01:05:59 (permalink)
    I was thinking on doing something like this. 
    Myself I was thinking of a used water chiller - drinking fountain, or bottled water cooler.
    Use non poisonous glycol and recirculate it into the water bottle on top over and over until it got very cold, even sub-0.
    The water heat exchanger in a water cooler/fountain is way more efficient than trying to sit an evaporator in a bucket of water. 
    Bypass the thermostat and freeze protector, maybe use a lower set point Tstat, rig something up.
     
    With the evaporator sitting in the tub, I would use a 2nd pump and try to get the liquid flowing over the coil.
    Moving water is less prone to freeze than water sitting still.
     
    One thing to consider is the refrigerant in the suction line coming back to the compressor is not flashing off to a vapor completely
    like it would be when that A/C is use normally. You can tell by the frozen suction line back to the compressor. Liquid coming back to the compressor can harm it, also liquid freon is a good degreaser and can collect in the compressor and replace the oil there that lubricates the bearings in the compressor, that's not good.
    May not be a bad idea to get a heat tape made to go on compressors for low ambient low temp. applications. An A/C unit with a suction line accumulator would be a nice find.  
     
    One other thing to consider, if you break the line and release the freon into the atmosphere, it is a 25,000$ fine and/or 5 years in the federal pen. 
    So by chance that happens, do not put the video of it on u-tube and do not tell your friends it happened!!! 
     

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