Computational Furnace

"Model 3 is 50 degrees warmer than human
and nearly twice as soft"


I had to order firewood from strangers on facebook. These strangers being the only reply to many requests for firewood within 50 miles. It was one of those couple's accounts with two names and two people in the photo - I presume this is to police booty calls and other drunken shenanigans. Money was wired digitally, and I was pleasantly surprised when firewood arrived split and perfectly stacked the next day. 

The wood stove is a bit messy - smoke, ash, and occasional spider attacks. And so I joked that TSG should heat with his monster computer. The idea was met with curious eyebrows and penciled out calculations in his yellow notepad. 

The wood stove runs at 8000 BTU on average - which is 2400 watts, so two monster computers probably. Firewood was $200 per month (up from last year), while computer power would be $160. TSG notes the first 1200 watts is cheaper than the second because of tiered pricing for hydropower here.

Wiring in the quonset is a limiting factor - he'd have to pull that additional 20 amps of power very carefully to avoid tripping breakers - or worse. So TSG set one monster computer going half power, doing cancer research and crypto mining, while he logged his results.

The network went down one morning, and so the monster computer stopped making heat, but was otherwise reliable. At the end of one month, TSG cured some cancer, sold his crypto for $150, saved $60 in firewood, and paid $39 in additional power. Payback on a second monster might be 1 to 5 years, given uncertainly in this tiny dataset, weather, and wildly fluctuating prices.

Workstations are already for sale (Xeon/Epyc/Threadripper/NVidia) that max out near 300 watts per processor, and power supplies up to 2000 watts. Next-gen CPUs aim higher. I joked that TSG should add a 20A circuit in this office, when he upgrades the garage. 

These new chips can cost as much as a small car, with used prices more comparable to wood stoves. TSG says that as compute and renewable energy prices go down relative to fuel prices, this idea becomes less ridiculous. And there remains the problem of reliable jobs for your computer-turned-furnace.

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