Anyone can run a computer that solves a complex math equation while they sleep. And if they’re lucky, that math equation will earn them some value in the form of bitcoin or ether. Of course, most of us don’t mine cryptocurrencies because that computer sucks a lot of energy, produces a lot of heat, and offers no guarantee of a payday. But what if your mining computer were also your heater–and the energy it put toward digging up bitcoins also covered your heating bill?
That’s the idea behind the $3,600 QC-1 Crypto Heater, featured recently on TechCrunch. At first glance, it’s a silent space heater with modern flourishes, a minimalist block of black anodized aluminum. Its only visual accent is its walnut top. But instead of warming your room with electric coils as most space heaters do, it relies upon its own processors that are working hard, night and day, to make you that bitcoin Lamborghini money. The only plugs it needs are for power, and an ethernet cord for internet access. The machine can be set up in a mere 10 minutes, and its manufacturer, Qarnot, estimates you’ll walk away with about $120 a month in mining revenue–though that doesn’t take into account the power required to run the machine itself.
In other words, the QC-1 is probably less a means to supplement your income than a way to offset your heating bill during cold months.
So is it crazy? It’s impossible to know without running the machine for a few months in real-world testing. But the theory of recapturing bitcoin server heat for positive ends is one that people have been pursuing for a long time.
One startup has used the heat from bitcoin mining to form an ecosystem of fish and farming. A tiny house in Iceland manages to heat itself for “free” thanks to crypto-mining. Efficient? Perhaps not. But the unabashed wastefulness of cryptocurrency mining could make such frugality a necessity. Mining and operating crypto sucks as much energy as the entire country of Serbia today. And by one estimation, cryptocurrencies could outweigh the entire world’s current energy demands by 2020.
This carbon footprint is a nauseating reality, no matter how much you believe in the potential of decentralized currencies to give power to the people and birth a whole new internet. Cryptocurrencies’ energy hunger could destroy the very democratic society their proponents so passionately believe they can save. Which makes you wonder, does any crypto investor really care that much about building a sustainable world without banks? Or are they, like the old guard powers they pledge to dethrone, just in it for the money?
Who knows. But as the world burns down, at least we won’t be cold.