Many computer enthusiasts care about performance, but some also care about more mundane matters like noise and, well, the size of the heating bill. Now French startup Qarnot thinks it can sell its combination heater/cryptocurrency miner to enthusiasts who want to heat their homes and make money doing it.
In the past, Qarnot has focused on selling computing heaters embedded in commercial buildings. Waste heat from the computers are used to heat the buildings, while the computers themselves are rented to server companies, creating a decentralized server network. It’s not a bad idea, depending on the price of electricity in your area versus the price of heating oil or gas (assuming you don’t use electric heat in the first place, obviously). Computer power supplies are typically quite power efficient and can compare favorably on power consumed per watt of heat generated. But up until now, Qarnot had focused on building systems that leverage AMD Ryzen Pro CPUs as opposed to GPUs.
The new QC-1 crypto heater pairs a Ryzen Pro CPU with 2x Radeon RX 580 cards built by Sapphire. The machine is designed to draw up to 650W with a 60MH/s hash rate. Would-be miners can set the system up by plugging it in, adding an ethernet cable, and then using the app (shown below) to configure your Ethereum wallet address. You can also access the machine directly and change the type of cryptocurrency you mine; Qarnot doesn’t keep any of the coins as residual payments. What you mine is yours to keep.
The heater is entirely passively cooled, which explains its size, and the systems lack fans or moving parts. Tech Crunch’s profile of how the device works suggests that how much you ramp up the heat determines which components mine — at low level, it might just be the CPU, while at higher levels, both GPUs and then even additional boost heat (provided by conventional heat conducting units) also kicks in.
It’s not a crazy idea, but the high price of the hardware is going to make some people blanch. At 2,900€ (~$ 3,600 USD), this is no small space heater. It’s not even a well-priced cryptocurrency mining system. GPU prices may be really overheated and all, but $ 3,600 for 2x Radeon RX 580s isn’t any kind of bargain. Meanwhile, the uncertainty surrounding ongoing cryptocurrency pricing and various spikes and dips in the market means you could wind up shucking out nearly $ 4,000 for a wall-mounted space heater that’ll never recoup what you paid for it. Qarnot’s own estimates only predict a $ 120 per month gross profit based on its own machine, not counting power costs.
Ultimately, Qarnot’s base business idea — that of building machines with built-in heating capabilities that it then rents out as a distributed server network to corporations — seems a much better bet than this cryptocurrency option. Even if we assume $ 80 per month in profits once the QC-1’s power consumption is accounted for, it’ll take 45 months to pay it off.
We can’t say for certain that the QC-1 is a bad deal, but it sure doesn’t seem like a slam-dunk, either. It may be worth investing in if the costs and pricing make sense relative to your local market for heat and electricity, but we wouldn’t sink any money into the concept that you can’t afford to lose.