HomeTechnologyNewsCan you use a refrigerator to cool down your PC?

Can you use a refrigerator to cool down your PC?

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Since coolers aren’t designed to handle the level of heat a typical PC puts out, it’s probably not a good idea to stick your computer inside one if it’s getting too hot.

Your computer is hot and your refrigerator is cold, so it makes sense to ask yourself if you can combine them. But can your cooler really handle the heat of a PC and is it even safe for your PC? Let’s find out.

How a fridge works: basic concepts

A refrigerator works by using a chemical called “refrigerant” that absorbs heat from inside the refrigerator and releases it to the outside. Inside the refrigerator there is a system of coils and a compressor.

The refrigerant is fed into the compressor, where it is, well, compressed. It then flows into a set of coils called a condenser, where it releases its heat to the air outside the refrigerator and it cools, turning back into a liquid.

Diagram of a typical refrigeration cycle.
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The liquid refrigerant flows through an expansion valve, which expands and cools it further, turning it into a cold, low-pressure gas.

The gas flows to another set of coils called an evaporator, where it absorbs heat from the air inside the refrigerator and heats it, turning it back into a gas. The warm gas returns to the compressor and the cycle begins again.

This continuous heating and cooling cycle keeps the interior of the refrigerator cold and the food fresh. These days there is also a newer type of “inverter” fridge that works on the same principles, but unlike compressor fridges, you can vary the intensity at which it runs, instead of crude on-and-off modes of operation. shutdown of a refrigerator compressor. However, the cycle is the same.

Computers can get too hot for a refrigerator

Even after learning how fridges work, it can still feel like some kind of magic. But what is clear is the fact that the absorbed heat leaves the refrigerator compartment to be dissipated.

If we focus on that aspect and not the complicated physics of phase change, the first problem with using a cooler to cool your PC rears its head. The refrigerator only has a certain amount of heat that it can absorb and move away from its interior.

In other words, if your PC puts out more watts than the fridge can put out, the inside of the fridge will get hotter and hotter instead of colder. Since typical gaming PCs use hundreds of watts of power, it’s unlikely that your typical refrigerator can handle it.

Below ambient cooling is a bad idea

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that your fridge has no problem carrying away heat generated by a computer and can actually cool its interior to typical fridge temperatures. Now you have to deal with water condensing from the air on all sorts of components that would really rather not get wet.

This is why overclockers using liquid nitrogen or other extreme cooling methods have to smear everything with Vaseline and take multiple precautions to prevent condensation from shorting out computer components.

This brings up another fundamental problem with cooling a PC with a cooler. Refrigerators are designed to maintain a low temperature efficiently, not to remove heat from hot things. A CPU doesn’t need to be colder than, say, 40C (104F) it just shouldn’t be hotter than its maximum rated temperature. Therefore, the fundamental goals of PC cooling and cooling are different.

It would certainly be possible to design a cooling system that is more in line with the type of cooling PCs need, but since computers already have some efficient, purpose-built cooling solutions, it doesn’t make much sense.

We already have refrigerator-type cooling on PC

While placing your PC in a fridge will probably fry the PC and maybe even the poor fridge, there’s a good idea there. In fact, the use of a phase change process to cool PC components is common these days.

Both heat pipes and steam chambers use a low-pressure sealed liquid to remove heat from hot components. Heat pipes efficiently move heat to where it can be removed from the system, and vapor chambers efficiently and continuously distribute heat over a large surface area to be dissipated.

You’ll find heat pipes and vapor chambers in laptops, consoles, graphics cards, and any other high-performance electronics where things heat up quickly.

Also, there are thermoelectric coolers that use the Peltier effect to pump heat from one place to another. These devices are also known as solid state refrigerators since they do not use refrigeration via a phase change refrigerant.

In short, don’t put your PC in a cooler or direct cooled air through your PC case unless you’re really looking for an excuse to buy a new computer.

RELATED: Do you need liquid cooling for your PC?

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