Choosing a Mining Farm Facility: Location, Cooling, and Accessories
Hi there! This is the series of articles where I share my experience with beginner miners. This time, we will learn more about mining farm locations, electrical wiring, Internet connection quality, and cooling requirements.
Choosing a Facility
If you are an amateur miner and your farm has fewer than 20 rigs, you don’t need a special facility. What you do need, however, is quality wiring and at least 1.5 kW of power per rig. Generally, the permissible level of continuous consumption in apartments is up to 10 kW; for houses, it’s about 20 kW. In any case, be sure to consult an electrician. You can roughly determine your power capacity by looking at circuit breakers in the fuse box: in most cases, there is a three-phase breaker, and the maximum current is specified under the switch. To get the approximate allowable power, multiply this number by 3 and then by 220 V. For instance, if the label under the circuit breaker says C25, then 25 A × 3 × 220 V = 16,500 V⋅A. Basically, it means that we can count on some 15 kW. When placing miners in industrial areas, pay attention to the voltage stability factor: computers are sensitive to voltage surges, which is why it’s a good idea to install a stabilizer before powering on the rigs. Powerful house appliances (such as fridges, microwaves, and high pressure washers) may cause freezing of network equipment, especially when the power grid is running at the top of its capacity. If you are choosing an area to place your whole farm, factor in local electricity rates. Areas with large power plants tend to have lower rates. That is why large mining farms in China are usually situated in close proximity to hydroelectric power plants. The prices may also vary significantly for residential and business facilities, the latter being less cost-efficient.
Placing the Rigs
Professional miners usually use purpose-built racks (that look like cupboards), because they ensure the right airflow, as well as house power supply and communications. This option allows to place the rigs as close as possible to each other, but it’s quite expensive. Beginner miners can do without them; however, I would recommend following certain rules. First of all, it is better not to place your rigs on the floor. The floor is where dust and moisture accumulate; besides, you may accidentally kick the rigs with your boot, so try to place the miners somewhere above the ground. That’s where IKEA comes in handy: IKEA LACK tables are a good find for the rigs, and if you want to place the computers on top of each other, consider either IVAR wooden shelves or steel FJÄLKINGE shelf units. My rigs are 800 x 400 x 240 — and they fit perfectly fine.
Configuring the Internet Connection
The quality of connection is more important for mining than its speed, as the amount of data transferred between the farm and the pool is insignificant. A high ping, however, may increase stale shares, which will cut down your earnings. Connection disruptions can also lead to downtime of all equipment, which may cost you a considerable amount of money. You most probably won’t need any advanced services like a dedicated IP address or an extra firewall. Today there are many ways to configure remote access without a dedicated IP, and most routers have a built-in firewall. Aside from getting a reliable Internet provider, it's important to make a mindful choice of equipment. Buy only high quality routers designed for office use, so that they can handle all of your rigs. I recommend you to use MIKROTIK hAP ac or similar models. They are difficult to configure, but are absolutely reliable and relatively affordable. Be sure to check remote access settings and install the latest software version. Use cables to connect the rigs, as Wi-Fi packet loss is a common issue, especially when connected to a lot of computers at the same time.
Measuring Rig Power Consumption
To measure actual power consumption, you can use either a communal meter, temporarily activating the rig at full power and calculating the difference in power consumption in one hour, or using a smart socket from a smart home kit. The market also offers single-socket meters such as these ones.
Cooling the Rig
If you place up to 15 rigs in one garage-sized room, you can do with supply and exhaust ventilation. You can easily make one yourself with a fan and a corrugated pipe from a hardware store. Mounting does not require any special tools or skills: you just attach one end of the pipe to the fan with plastic ties and pull the other end outside. Fans are simply connected to the electric grid and do not require any external controllers. However, when the outside temperature is close to 30 °C, you might need to temporarily reduce overclocking, which is why it’s better to mine in cooler locations. Another natural cooling method consists in placing the farm in a basement, where the temperature is considerably lower than above ground. It is crucial, however, to keep an eye on humidity and dust: moisture quickly oxidized video card and RAM contacts, and dust damages fans. I use a smart home hygrometer as a humidity detector; an acceptable humidity value is up to 50% at 26 °C. An HVAC system will allow you to place the rigs closer together and dry the air, but it also puts extra load on the grid. Moreover, a standard air conditioner consumes 2 kW — as much as a whole extra rig! It's a good idea to have a backup conditioner in case the first one breaks down, to avoid overheating of video cards. All in all, the system turns out to be rather expensive in terms of both initial investment and maintenance.
Monitoring the temperature
Monitoring the temperature is easy with an infrared meter. It looks much like a no-contact thermometer for taking body temperature in public places, but is designed for a wider temperature range. This kind of meter is good for measuring the room’s temperature and spotting overheated video cards, as well as remote checking of power grid wires and supply unit enclosures. There’s no need for an expensive or extra-accurate device, as you don't want an absolute temperature value, more of a deviation from the norm. Another option is a smart home thermometer. Although it is not as versatile as a handheld meter, it is convenient for remote control. I recommend buying both tools, since a smart home is great for many other purposes. Let’s take a closer look.
Smart sockets and smart home systems
Rig freezing is a common occurrence, especially in case of considerable overclocking and using Windows. Network equipment, including routers and switches, may also freeze. To avoid lengthy equipment downtime, consider buying smart sockets, so that you can not only monitor power consumption, but also remotely reboot your hardware. A smart home system may also control the room temperature, manage supply and exhaust ventilation, and send notifications in case it detects any motion in the room. Smoke and leakage detectors also contribute to your facility’s safety. I recommend the Xiaomi Smart Home kit — it works well, it's cheap ($150-200), and it supports a wide range of sensors; there are apps for both iOS and Android. When you stop mining, you can install the gateway and the sensors in your house or apartment, adding a couple of nice touches (like lighting controls and motorized drape controllers).
A smart home system cannot guarantee security of your equipment. Keep a low profile, don't post any images which could be used to track down your farm. Hire a security company with an emergency response team and an alarm button. Check out how cannabis farms are set up in the movie “Gentlemen”. I’m not saying you have to settle in some lord’s manor, but you can still take note of a couple of useful tips.