Getting paid for heat > paying for heat.
Image: Daniel Oberhaus
Early Wednesday morning, a massive storm began pummeling the East Coast for the second time in as many weeks. The nor’easter caused temperatures to rapidly drop below freezing and was expected to dump up to a foot of snow in some areas.
As I sat freezing my ass off in my bedroom in New York and wondering how hard it would be to fix my broken space heater, it occurred to me that I had another heating device sitting in the corner—a cryptocurrency mining rig.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the mining rig consists of six GPUs and gets pretty hot when it’s running. Each GPU runs at a temperature between 100 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit and when they’re placed in close proximity to one another it’s kind of like having a small fire in the room.
Most cryptocurrency miners look at the heat waste from mining as a problem, since it usually requires a large investment in cooling apparatuses (A/C, weed tents, etc.) to keep ambient temperatures around the rig from soaring. But for people who are already living in cold climates, this extra source of heat from mining cryptocurrency is a sort of bonus.
This is actually the idea behind a real Russian company called Comino, which sells Ethereum mining rigs optimized for use as space heaters. I didn’t have an extra $5,000 sitting around for one of these specialized rigs, though, but it seemed like the scrappy rig I built last year would do just as well.
When I turned on the rig, the difference in temperature between my room and the rest of the apartment was noticeable after about 15 minutes. After two hours of mining, the rig had raised the ambient temperature in my room from around 68 degrees to around 73 degrees Fahrenheit. It was better than nothing, but not quite as good as a space heater.
Read More: How To Build an Ethereum Mining Rig
The main upside of using the mining rig as a heater was that rather than paying to run a space heater, my mining rig was providing heat while also earning money. The rig is currently mining Zcash and is able to do about 1500 solutions/second. Practically speaking, this works out to about 1/50 of a Zcash token per day, or about .001 tokens per hour.
At the time of writing, Zcash is worth $375, which means that the rig makes about 38 cents per hour. After deducting for electricity costs (about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour), the rig was making about 20 cents/hour in profit.
Although a rig that isn’t optimized to be a heater isn’t an amazing replacement for more conventional ways of staying warm, it was better than nothing and certainly the easiest on my bank account. I’m sure adding another rig into the mix would have made it pretty toasty (and noisy) in my room, but I doubt I’d ever be able to find some more GPUs for a second rig even if I wanted to.