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Old 06-28-2009, 11:55 PM   #1
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Default GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

I have yet to see one of these here at CF, so it's time.

Guide to building Liquid Cooling Systems:

Intro: What do you mean, "intro"? No, I'm not going to tell you why people build LCS's or where they first originated because I'm sure you don't care. I'm going to overview the basics for those that don't already know.

Main Components -
  • Reservoirs - Right, where the extra liquid is stored when it's not already in the loop. These can be in the bay sometimes, be in a fan slot, be internal, or even be external. Depends on preference.
  • Radiators - Simple as it sounds; You attach fans to it and it cools the liquid that's flowing through it.
  • Pumps - They range from the size of a penny to a commercial backup generator. But typically the ones for a computer end up being small enough to fit in your case. Just moves the liquid in one direction so that it can eventually be cooled down for re-use.
  • Blocks - A term used for a hollow metal piece that flows the liquid over the object you desire to have cooled. Blocks can be for many different things. Most common are CPU and GPU. But there are also Chipset (NorthBridge and SouthBridge) blocks, mosfet blocks, RAM blocks, and even HDD blocks.
  • Tubing - Transports the liquid from block to radiator, etc.
  • Liquid - Have you Face-Palm'ed yet?

Some Side-Notes -

There are often combo devices made to compact the system or lower cost.
Some of these combos can be like a reservoir and a pump, or a passively cooled reservoir for smaller loops with only a harddrive or something. Also combo blocks but typically just Chipset blocks (NB+SB block). Also note that with more powerful cards you will want a full card block so that the Vregs and memory can be cooled as well as the GPU.

Still with me?

More Advanced:

So go on and think about what type of res, rad, pump, and blocks you want. It's time to get a little technical.

Tubing Technicalities -

Of course there is tubing, but what is best?
There are many specifications to the tubing that is critical to how well your system will perform. First off there is size:
  • 1/4ID(6mm) - Best suited for small loops containing one block or two small blocks (CPU or HDD setups).
  • 3/8ID(10mm) - For most typical setups. CPU and GPU and chipset.
  • 1/2ID(13mm) - For full loops. CPU, Chipset, Mosfets, Multiple GPU's, HDD's, RAM, the whole 9 yards.
ID = Inner Diameter typically in inches but sometimes in millimeters.
OD = Outer Diamater typically in inches but sometimes in millimeters.
You'll typically see tubing specification like 3/8 ID x 1/2 OD. That's a 1/16 wall thickness. You'll never need much more than that because it's not like your LCS is under gun fire or even considerable pressure. But you can get a 1/8 thickness if you want. Wall thickness DOES have bearing on how well it bends, though. Thicker walls tend to kink less but aren't as capable for tight spaces.

Fittings -

This is a part that can affect not your cooling performance, but your investment! Here's something you need right now: G1/4. Mind you that has nothing to do with tubing ID/OD. It's the threading size for fittings on your blocks and LCS components. Here are the two types of fittings you'll come across:
  • Barb Fittings - Simple as can be. It looks like a barb-tip that you slip the tubing over and use a clamp to hold it on. They are pretty safe and cost a considerable amount less.
  • Compression Fittings - More security, It uses a threaded tightening system to hold the tubing on. Very costly. Example?

Some Side-Notes -

Some fittings are angled or even 90* to make it easier to travel the tube to a device that's perpendicular or just really close. Try to make sure the fittings you go to buy have something like a rubber o-ring to further prevent leaks on the G1/4 thread. Also, There's something called Teflon Tape that you will want to put on the G1/4 thread to even FURTHER prevent leaks. They can be devastating if you're taking a leak and you come back to over half a grand of losses because you didn't apply 16 cents of tape.

Device Technicalities -

Pumps -

This is a pretty crucial decision. Pick too high flow and you burn it up, pick too low flow and you lose valuable cooling abilities. So don't grab the most expensive one and call it a day. Their flow is typically measured in Gallons Per Hour/Liters Per Hour (GPH/LPH) and ranges from ~90-300GPH. It's very hard to tell you what exactly to buy without knowing the rest of the specs, too. Loop size, tubing size, how tight some turns are, how large your radiator is, etc. So make a good estimate. If you're using mid-sized tubing with a mid-sized loop, buy a mid-rated pump. If you really can't decide, PM me.

Radiators -

Can be many different things. Mostly externally mounted but still very near a fan on the computer because most radiators rely on fans to cool properly. They range from single 80mm's to quadruple 120mm's and beyond. Try looking at Fins Per Inch (FPI). And what materials they are made of. How corrosive the material they are made of is, The design of the flow through it (U or S style), and how well your fans will breathe through it, thickness, things like that.

Reservoirs -

Simple. Pick one that suits your style. Internal, bay-ready, external, you name it. Some reservoirs are even passively cooled (though I'd still suggest a fan blowing on it) They are tube shaped, cubicle, and...well...lots of shapes. Mind the material it's made of and as above, how corrosive it is, and if it's acrylic, is it thick so it doesn't crack when you thread the G1/4. Again, ask yourself these questions to avoid a bad purchase.

Blocks -

Same as all the others. Look for material, flow design, corruptibility by corrosion and all problems alike.

Tubing -
Most tubing will work. Certain brands lay claim to having smoother surfaces, or less bending problems. I've always read well of Tygon products (that's what I personally use). PrimoChill is also noted to be pretty good. Looks for what suits your needs at a price you can afford. Also, color...Some prefer colored tubing and others prefer clear tubing with colored liquid.

Liquid -

Just as important as the rest and probably among the most argued things in liquid cooling. Distilled Water versus High performance synthetics. Water will require more maintenance as well as biocides, while most synthetics break down after about a year. Also consider if the liquid you buy is conductive in case of a leak. As well as considering if the liquid absorbs and loses heat well (how easily it's affected by the ambient temps). I use FeserONE because it's a synthetic (prevents biological issues), has low conductivity, and comes colored. As far as coloring goes, you can use food coloring dyes to make a desired color...it will eventually settle out and require you to flush/change the loop. That's a regular maintenance item anyways.

Some Final Notes -

How to fill the system - pour it in slow and let it fill the lines, short the PS-ON signal wire and a ground with the pump plugged in (no other hardware!). Let the pump cycle the fluid and run the air bubbles to the reservoir. Add liquid as needed and repeat. Then ALMOST top off the res.
Draining - Quickly disconnect the lowest possible hose in your loop, and hold over a container large enough in size (appropriate for your loop size). Then open the fillport on the reservoir. Move/shake the tower as necessary to let all the liquid out of blocks/radiators.
Replace the liquid every 8-12 months for maximum cooling performance. Drain out the whole loop and refill your system like you did the first time it was assembled.
Buy high-flow fans for your radiator. They are the only things keeping the liquid from getting too hot. The alternative is Low-flow ready radiators with a 8-9FPI count and ~35-40 CFM fans. YateLoon makes good fans for this.
Buy a flow-meter or buy a res with one built in to ensure that the pump hasn't stopped for whatever reason. It's not necessary if you don't mind watching the liquid really closely for a sec or two to check if it's moving.
Avoid, if at all possible, waterfall reservoirs...they just create bubbles that your pump will suck up.
Device Failures while away - In case of a device failure while you are away from your computer, it's a sensible idea to buy a Chip or a front bay device that can read your pump's flow or system liquid temperature. If the system detects a problem, it shuts off the computer to keep it safe until you return to fix the issue. There are also devices that will sound a very loud alarm. Liquid cooled PC's aren't normally meant to be on 24/7. So be sure to turn them off when you leave or go to sleep to avoid potential failure risks.

Congratz, you now know the basics about everything required to build your own LCS.

Suggestions? Comments? Additions? Corrections? Post it here.

Below: Foothead's (a resident liquid cooler) budget-assigned loop suggestions!
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:01 AM   #2
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

Wow great guide + rep 4 U.

Here are some parts I recommend.

Scroll down for loop recommendations.

CPU blocks:

Swiftech Apogee XT. This is hands down the coolest CPU block on the market right now, as far as cooling capacity. The only cons are the price, and the sub-par AMD mounting system. Price: $70-80

Danger Den MC-TDX: This is the most recent addition to Danger Den's line of CPU blocks. It is specifically designed for high wattage multi-core CPU's. Keep in mind that there are separate blocks for each socket. Price: $45-60

EK Supreme HF: EK's newest universal CPU block, available in acetal and plexiglas top. Price: $70-80

pumps

OCZ Hydro Pulse: A Low-cost Pump, available in 500 and 800 L/hr models, 3/8" and 1/2" barbs and clamps included. Price: $40 for 500 L/hr, $45 for 800L/hr

Swiftech MCP-655(-B): A high-end, high flow pump, boasting 317 Gallons per hour. 1/2" and 3/8" kits included. Price: $65-110

Radiators

HWlabs Black Ice GTX series: Extreme duty radiators designed to provide the most possible performance. Available in 120mm, 120mmx2, 120mmx3, 120mmx4, 80mm, 80mmx2, 92mm, 92mmx2 Price: $40-175

Swiftech Quiet power series: Radiators designed with the budget-oriented pverclocker in mind. They work exteremly well with low airflow, and are available in 80mm, 120mm, 120mmx2, 120mmx3, stackable 120mm, stackable 120mmx2, stackable 120mmx2, stackable 120mmx3, and there are versions with built in reservoirs (do not buy these!) Price: $17-70

reservoirs

XSPC Passive reservoirs: These reservoirs are designed specifically for enthusiasts who want their systems as cool as possible. The reservoir acts as an extra radiator, cooling the liquid while it passes through. Add a fan for additional cooling. Available in 150mm, 250mm, and 500mm, silver or black. Price: $60-80

FrozenQ Fusion Reservoir: If you are looking for the coolest reservoir money can buy, you just found it. This reservoir consists of a clear tube with your coolant spiraling up in a double helix pattern with a UV cathode in the middle. Price: $130

Bay reservoirs: A simple plexi box that goes in one, two or three 5.25 inch drive bays. Price: $20-60

Trap reservoir: A cylindrical shaped reservoir designed to trap air bubbles from flowing through your system. Price: $30-60

Waterfall reservoir: The name says it all. It's a large plexiglass box, typically taking up a couple 5.25 inch bays, which consists of a waterfall, into a pool at the bottom. This is merely for show, it does not have any noticeable effects on your temps. Price: $60+

Swiftech Micro res: A small, low cost acrylic reservoir. It is supposed to be among the easiest to bleed. Price: $20-25

GPU Blocks

Full Coverage
XSPC Razor Blocks: Right now, the best bang for your buck as far as full coverage blocks is definitely XSPC. Available blocks can be seen here. price: varies.

EK full coverage blocks. I can't mention full coverage blocks without mentioning EK. They have made a block for seemingly every card worth waterblocking, and they are always high quality. Price: varies

GPU only

Swiftech MCW60: This block has been around seemingly forever, and is compatible with most every GPU, assuming you can find the right mounting kit. It cools amazingly, and swiftech releases full-coverage heatsinks to go along with it for some cards. Amazing block overall. Price: $40

Chipset blocks

Danger Den MCP Series: These are extremely good blocks for your chipsets, but they must be matched to your motherboard. Make sure you get one that will fit properly. Price: $39-43

Swiftech MCW30: This is a cheap universal chpset block that will work on most AMD or intel chipsets. Price: $25-30

RAM Blocks

Koolance RAM-35: The best designed RAM blocks you can buy. These actually run the water along the memory chips, instead of the others, which run the water along the top, which is much less effective. These allow you to set extremely high memory voltages. Keep in mind you will need to work out exactly which fittings you need for these, as they require special fittings, which are all sold separately. Price: $20-30 each + fittings

Hard Drive
Koolance HD-60: A block for you hard drive. This is only necessary for a hard drive with extreme heat issues, such as an overheating 14k RPM drive, not a 10k RPM, or your 7.2k or whatnot. It has been shown to actually decrease life in raptors and other 10k RPM drives where it excessively cools them. This should be the very last block in your loop. Price: $55-60

fans

I recommend Panaflos or Yate loons. The 120mm ones. You will be best off putting these on a fan controller to reduce noise. Couple the Panaflos with a GTX radiator and you have an awesome heat exchanging setup.

Other things I recommend

Anti-kink coils: A plastic coil that goes around your tubing to keep it from kinking. It also makes your tubing look really cool. Price: $4-5

Fan shrouds: These go between the fan and the radiator to help prevent the dead spot caused by the center of the fan. Price: $10-25

Flow indicators: These tell you how fast the liquid is moving. Price: $20-50

Liquid temperature indicators: Self explanatory. Price: $25-40

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Recommended Loops
All prices are estimated.

Uber Budget
You really have to have it as cheap as possible? Well I have worked out how to make a cheap CPU loop that will still be effective.

CPU Block: Enzotech SCW $35 @newegg

pump/reservoir: Thermaltake Aquabay M5 $50 @xoxide. Also comes with a free temp sensor that sits in a 5.25 bay.

radiatorSwiftech MCR220 $40

fans:2xyate loon 120mmx25mm 2x$5

Tubing: Primochill Primoflex 3/8" ID, 1/2" OD tubing (Get 3/8" so you need less fluid ) 4 feet should be sufficient. $9

Barbs: You will need four 3/8 inch G1/4 barbs and clamps. The pump and reservoir come with their own barbs, but I recommend getting your own clamps for them as well. Get the metal hose clamps, not the plastic ones. $12

Fluid is up to you.

Price: $156

Loop goes Reservoir>Pump>Radiator>CPU>Reservoir
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Budget
A high performance CPU loop that doesn't break the bank.

CPU Block: Danger Den MC-TDX *** Make sure you get the proper block for your CPU socket type. The blocks themselves are different, not just the mounts.*** available in AMD 939/AM2/AM3, 775, 1156/1366. $60

Pump: 500 L/hr OCZ hydro pulse. $40

radiator: Swiftech MCR220 $40

reservoir: Swiftech Micro Res. $25

Fans 2x Yate loon 120mmx25mm 2x$5

Tubing: Primochill Primoflex 3/8" ID, 1/2" OD tubing (Get 3/8" so you need less fluid ) 4 feet should be sufficient. $9

Barbs: You will need four 3/8 inch G1/4 barbs and clamps. The pump and reservoir come with their own barbs, but I recommend getting your own clamps for them as well. Get the metal hose clamps, not the plastic ones. $12

Choice of fluid is up to you.

Total estimated cost of build: $196

Loop should go Reservoir>pump>radiator>CPU block>reservoir

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Midrange
A middle priced CPU loop that will keep your CPU and possibly other components icy chill.

CPU block: Swiftech Apogee GTZ *** Make sure you buy the correct one for your CPU socket.*** $55

Pump: 800 L/hr OCZ Hydro Pulse $45

radiator: Black Ice GTX xtreme 240 $80

reservoir: Technofront Flow trap reservoir $30

Fans: 4x yate loon push/pull 120mm 4x$5

tubing Primochill primoflex 3/8" ID, 1/2" OD 4 feet should be sufficient. $9

barbs 8 3/8" G1/4 barbs, and 8 metal hose clamps. $20

Total estimated cost: $259

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
High end
Extreme performance for the extreme overclocker.

CPU block: Swiftech Apogee XT ***Be sure you buy the correct mounting bracket for your CPU*** $80

Pump: OCZ Hydro Pulse 800L/Hr $45

radiator: Black Ice GTX Xtreme 360 $115

reservoir XSPC Passive reservoir, 250mm $70

fans 3x panaflo 120mmx120mmx38mm 3x$20 (yes, it is worth it with these rads)

tubing Primochill primoflex 1/2" ID, 3/4" OD tubing, 4 feet. $10

barbs Get eight 1/2" barbs and eight metal hose clamps. $25

Total estimated price: $405

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The sky's the limit
every overclocker's dream

CPU block: Swiftech apogee XT ***Be sure to buy the correct mounting bracket for your CPU*** $80

Pump Swiftech MCP 655-B $100

Radiator 1 Black Ice GTX Xtreme 360 $115

Radiator 2 Black Ice GTX Xtreme 240 $80

Reservoir: XSPC Passive reservoir, 500mm $80

Fans 10 120mmx120mmx38mm panaflos, push/pull configuration. 10x$20

tubing: Feser anti-kink tubing, 8 feet, 1/2" ID, 3/4" OD $25

Barbs: ten 1/2" compression fittings $50

If anyone seriously builds anything approaching this, you better have crossfired video cards with full coverage blocks or something, because this is insane!

Total estimated cost: $730

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

What if I want to cool other components?
If you want to cool any other components, then use one of the blocks I recommended above. Use this as reference for picking the order of your loop.
reservoir>pump>radiators>CPU>GPU>RAM>mosfets>North bridge>southbridge>hard drive>reservoir
Now, of course you are not going to have all that in a single loop, but it shows you the priority of different watercooled items.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:03 AM   #3
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:05 AM   #4
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

I think a mod should sticky this.
It's the best guide I have seen.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

It's far from the best, but the only liquid cooling guide we have.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:07 AM   #6
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grantofhell View Post
It's far from the best, but the only liquid cooling guide we have.
Naw, I've never seen one this good, even from my friend, Google.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

Pretty good guide I must agree with foothead. I don't think I'm ready just yet to move on to water cooling(for both $$ reasons and I'm not too advanced on the subject) but when I do, and I'm sure I will someday, I'll remember this post and come back to it.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:19 AM   #8
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

Yeah, I'm new to this.
Is it possible to get a decent setup for about $100?
for socket AM3.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:24 AM   #9
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

Yes, but it would be a pre-designed kit or used items. Custom built LCS's are costly. Just the CPU loop for my next build is looking like 400 dollars. However, it's a very high quality build that might keep my CPU at a degree or so above ambient.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:32 AM   #10
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Default Re: GUIDE: Liquid Cooling Systems

Wow.
Could you maybe recommend me one.
I want to OC to 4 GHz.
Its a 955.
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