Online computing has become a vital part of day-to-day life. Yet, one often-overlooked side effect is the amount of energy it takes to power the internet.

It’s really a double whammy — it takes energy to power computer servers themselves, and it also takes energy to cool the huge data centers where the servers are located.

This conundrum could start to go away soon, however. Here is a look at how one company in the Netherlands is harnessing the heat generated from computer servers to heat residential homes.

Meet Nerdalize

The company at the forefront of this movement is Nerdalize, a cloud computing company based in the Dutch city Delft. Knowing just how much heat computer servers produce, and the energy it can take to keep them cool, the company sought a more energy-efficient solution.

What it came up with was a system in which servers are installed at residential homes for a small flat fee. In exchange, Nerdalize sells space on the servers to outside companies, and residents get free heat generated by the servers.

The system is in its infancy, but in 2015 the company teamed with Dutch utility company Eneco to run a test in five households in which servers generated heat in homes with radiators. It later decided to connect the servers to central heating systems in homes so the energy could be used to heat water year-round.

Crowdfunding Smashes Goals

With a plan in place, Nerdalize set up a crowdfunding campaign on the platform Symbid with an initial goal to raise 250,000 Euros, or roughly $284,000. That goal was modest. As of July 3 the company raised more than three times its goal, $867,258.

For the next step, Nerdalize will equip 42 homes with server-run heating systems over the coming months. Its long-term goal is fairly lofty — the company wants to provide free heat from servers to everyone living in the Netherlands. There is no telling if and when that will happen, but it’s already off to a promising start.

What the Future Holds

Giving homes and businesses an incentive to go green is nothing new. It’s great news that utility companies all over the world have started to give customers energy efficiency deals for utilizing greener options. These systems use less energy overall, and the customers who use them save money on their energy bills — it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Nerdalize’s plan sounds great, but there are some looming questions. For example, will companies want their data on servers at residential homes? Also, homeowners will enjoy free heating systems, but will their mood change when servers inevitably malfunction and need servicing?

Still, this is a great first step and an example that other companies can learn from. Not only is Nerdalize reducing the energy it uses to keep server temperatures cool, it’s using the energy the servers produce to give heat to everyday citizens.

The Dutch have actually been trying to implement several new energy-efficiency plans for quite some time. The organizations MilieuCentraal, the COEN (Consumer & Energy) program and the HIER campaign have all been working to get a number of energy-efficient consumer practices in place for several years now.

HIER is particularly interesting in that it works with over 40 national charity organizations! If you would like to support HIER and its charitable initiatives, you can visit their website and check out some of the great, eco-friendly things they’re doing for their people!

Many other areas of the world would do well to follow what the Dutch are doing and start jumping on board with more sustainable environmental strategies. As technology improves over time, our systems will undoubtedly need to become more energy-efficient. Whether or not all of the Netherlands is eventually heated using energy from computer servers remains to be seen, but even the initial 42 homes is a move in the right direction.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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