When you push your PC to the limits with activities such as 4k gaming or detail-heavy rendering, the components in your computer can heat up quickly. The proper air cooling system is essential to keep temperatures down and ensure optimal performance. The most popular options include air coolers and liquid cooling systems. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each so you can decide which is best for your needs.
Air cooling involves dispersing heat by increasing the airflow over a casing such as a computer case. This may be done using fans that force airflow over the component, or it can be achieved with fins designed to increase surface area and disperse heat more efficiently. Air cooling works well for most tasks but it’s not ideal for high-performance computers that run at elevated temperatures.
In data centers, an air cooling system works by blowing cool air over equipment. Cooling towers can be positioned in the room or connected to ductwork that distributes cool air to various racks. Row-based cooling systems, which are sometimes referred to as in-row cooling, offer more targeted airflow by directing cool air directly at individual server racks. This can reduce energy usage and costs while enhancing efficiency.
Liquid cooling is an alternative to air cooling, and it’s becoming more common in modern data centers. It uses a compressor cycle similar to the one used by your refrigerator to transfer heat from inside the enclosure to the ambient environment. The coolant is a fluid that can switch back and forth between liquid and gas, so it can carry heat from one place to another.
All-in-one (AIO) liquid coolers have the coolant, pump and radiator all in a single device, so they’re relatively easy to install. They also require less maintenance because they don’t require frequent refilling or stretching hoses. However, they’re larger and bulkier than air coolers.
The biggest drawback to liquid cooling is that it’s expensive, especially if you need multiple AIOs to cool a large server farm. The coolant itself is costly, and the pumps and radiators can consume a significant amount of power. In addition, many liquid cooling systems use proprietary technology, which increases the risk of vendor lock-in and raises Opex.
While air cooling is still widely used in data centers, rising rack power densities and heavy processing loads are pushing organizations to consider alternatives. The capital outlay for air cooling can add up, and it’s inefficient when it comes to meeting today’s workload demands. This is driving organizations to consider alternatives such as liquid cooling. However, implementing a liquid cooling solution can require IT staff to learn new skills and adopt a new management framework, which can further raise Opex. This can offset the advantages of lower upfront costs.