The boom in cryptocurrencies has bizarre side effects: warm houses, for example. The Austrian Christian Haschek wants to use the heat from his mining computer until the price crashes again.
The love of the home is unevenly distributed. If the Green Anton Hofreiter is to be located at one end of the scale, Christian Haschek works at the other end. The 33-year-old IT specialist knows every power cable in his house in Lower Austria. Now he, instead of having a home heating system installed by professionals (click here to learn more), has made a heater that makes money for him: a computer with four graphics cards that work so hard that they get 80 degrees hot. With the machine, Haschek produces the cryptocurrency Ether – a competitor of Bitcoin. Unlike money from a central bank, cryptocurrencies are calculated by computers. To create an ether, they have to crack mathematical puzzles – they mine. This strains the processors in such a way that they become very warm.
Haschek’s miner – an inconspicuous box full of cables and circuit boards – is in his garage. The waste heat from the machines heats the air, which in Lower Austria can fall to well below zero degrees at night. “On cold days, I had six to eight euros in electricity costs a day, now only half,” he says.
That sounds crazy because the production of cryptocurrencies consumes a notoriously large amount of electricity, after all, the computers have to rattle continuously. But the hype is great, the prices go through the roof, and Haschek’s old computer has become a heating money machine. One unit of ether is currently worth 1200 euros, Haschek’s “heating” constantly produces fractions of it, ether cents quasi: “Although the cards cause three euros in electricity costs, I still get twelve euros a day with it.”
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Crypto heaters like Haschek have linked their electricity bills directly to a speculative boom. It is becoming increasingly clear that Ether and Bitcoin are fewer currencies in the classical sense than pure bets. Consumer advocates warn of a bubble from which only a few braised computers remain in the end instead of withered tulips.
Using the waste heat from computers for heating is not unique to cryptocurrency fanatics. In the former data center of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, companies are now learning artificial intelligence tasks. The heat of the computers heats the hotel above.
Haschek’s heating system at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in Garching, where the SuperMUC high-performance computer is located, is considered rather inefficient. Among other things, he simulates complex molecular structures for pharmaceuticals for scientists. In doing so, he produces a tens of times the heat of Haschek’s garage construction. The Garching researchers also heat their offices with the supercomputer. LRZ director Dieter Kranzlmüller says he even has too much computer heat: “It’s a challenge for us to find buyers for the rest.” And he clarifies: “Computers don’t ‘consume’ electricity. They only convert electrical energy into thermal energy, and very efficiently.” That’s why Haschek’s construct is worthwhile at all – as long as the electricity is cheap and the Ether price is high.
So everything depends on the Ether hysteria: “This could all end negatively,” says Haschek. “If the price drops too far, I will turn off the miner. Or when it gets too warm outside.”