One tends to discover some odd things while net surfing and a while back I came across a site featuring a Silicon Graphics server that had been torn apart and converted into a fridge.
Pretty cool. Nerdy, but cool. Wouldn't it be a nice change to have a computer that served cold drinks instead of tepid aggravation?
Well, it just so happened that sitting beneath my desk at work were two Sun E250 servers that used to house our company's website before it was completely redesigned on a different platform. What's more, these servers had front doors that swing open; much like a fridge!
They held next to no desirable information and one of them never worked to begin with. (I suppose it served as a coffee table for our highly paid consultant who "co-located" it off-site in his office...ostensibly as our test server.)
Anyway, provided we were losing no valuable data and understanding that this project was to eventually return to the office, my boss graciously gave me permission to attempt conversion of the old "test" server into a fridge.
I did not yet have a solid plan, nor was I sure whether it could be done but excited at the prospect of getting started, I wheeled the server to my car and brought it along to the cottage so that I could rip out all the parts. This proved quite a task. A friend and I removed the plastic covers and then started to pull at whatever we could get loose with bare hands and screwdrivers. After an hour, we had filled a cardboard box with processors, NIC cards, motherboards and such. Anything that remained was riveted so I went out to the shed and had at it with a drill. Four ruined drill bits later, about 100 rivets had been removed and the computer was nothing more than a metal framework.
Now what was I supposed to do? Was I to find a compressor that would fit into the back of the server? I visited a fridge repair shop and when I explained to the counter lady that I wanted to convert a computer into a fridge, she first laughed in my face and then explained that it would be impossible. "Only a licensed technician can work on a fridge. Why don't you just buy a cheap, portable fridge?" I think she was missing the point but nevertheless she convinced me that custom-building an actual fridge with a compressor would be way too difficult and expensive.
In search of an alternate solution, I went to the local Canadian Tire and sourced out some electric coolers. They ranged in size from the absurdly small to as big as you can carry. I found one for about $100 which had a cooling element that would fit into the server and that should have enough cooling power to chill the contents.
The cooling element was encased in the cooler's plastic lid which had to be made smaller to fit into the back of the server. Handsaw was taken to plastic and eventually the lid portion was made small enough to stand-up inside the server. I secured the cooling element/encasing lid combination to the back of the server with some screws. So far, so good.
To insulate the fridge-to-be, I bought white, styrofoam insulation from Home Depot. I took measurements and cut the styrofoam to fit. I simply attached the insulation to the server's inner walls with two-sided tape. Having styrofoam insulation on every surface took care of most of the job but there were plenty of cracks through which the cold air could too easily escape. To seal these areas, I used expanding foam insulation. This stuff comes out like whipped cream and then quickly expands to at least twice its original volume. It's a messy job because the foam starts drying and gets sticky and then hard. Any of the insulation that got onto my arms had to be cut out like chewing gum in your hair.
That was about it. Once the foam insulation had dried, I filled the fridge with cans of soda and beer, plugged it in and waited. And waited.
After several hours, the cans felt cold but the contents could have been colder. I decided to get more aggressive with the foam insulation and smeared it into all the places I could reach. This seemed to help a bit and given enough time, the fridge contents get cold. Do not get me wrong, if you have a warm can of soda and want to have it cold in an hour, do not use this fridge. However, if you just want to have a stock of cold drinks at work while colleagues think a computer is whirring on the floor next to you, the Sun E250 Server Fridge does the job.
So the server fridge is finally back at work, sitting next to an actual computer. The white styrofoam insulation can be seen through the ventilation holes in the front door but, other than that, there is little to distinguish between the two. I am considering colouring the styrofoam black so that it does not act as such a giveaway. Presently we just have soda cans and they are cold enough to provide mid-day refreshment. The fridge could certainly be colder and I am considering taking another crack at improving the insulation. However, that will be ServerFridge v1.1.
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