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Old 06-04-2011, 08:05 PM   #1
musicfan
ambient water-cooling
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Post >>> 2014 Beginning Water-Cooling Guide <<<

The Beginning to Water-Cool Guide updated for 2014

Parts-Buying Guide

All-in-One Buying Guide


1. Introduction. This Beginning to Water-Cool Guide is to guide EOCF members either beginning to water-cool or refreshing water-cooling skills. Water-coolers stereotypically have been low-budget hobbyists. Used car parts, aquarium pumps, and home-made gear were common. If you are new to liquid cooling, this is a good place to start. You can read to decide whether to stay with air-cooling, go full custom, or compromise with an All-in-One (or two) or perhaps choose a pre-assembled water-cooling kit. Custom water-cooling offers the most options. This Guide discusses only ambient or room temperature water-cooling. For sub-ambient cooling, please see this EOCF thread.

2. Why water-cool?
Performance is a common reason on an over-clocking forum. Buying a stock 2.66 GHz CPU and over-clocking it to 3.66 GHz is great fun. When my Intel core i7 920 got too hot with my air cooler, 4.0 GHz seemed distant. With water-cooling, over-clocking reached a stable 4.0 GHz. Heat no longer limits my computing. Silence is what many enjoy most about water-cooling. Finally, Visual appeal, aesthetics or bling is fun so is increasingly popular.

3. Why plan? Without planning, one can
spend a fortune on parts that don't work well together. It is important to prioritize performance, silence, and visual appeal to create a budget. Staying within budget does not mean low-performance. However, it requires good planning to avoid extra shipping or return charges. Budget parts might include barbs instead of compression fittings, Masterkleer tubing instead of Primochill or Tygon, or Yate Loon fans instead of Gentle Typhoon or Noiseblockers. Noise tolerance is also important when planning. If wearing a gaming headset, noisy fans may be no worry. Silence costs money. But, if the system is in a bedroom and runs 24/7 or is a Home Theater PC, then silence is a high priority.

4. What components need water-cooling
? Most water-cool the CPU first followed by graphics cards. After that, most stop water-cooling and use case fans for hot spots such as the motherboard or Printed Circuit Board/PCB of a water-cooled graphics card or Laing DDC pump. After water-cooling CPU's and graphics cards, full-cover motherboard blocks are most common. No one routinely recommends water-cooling RAM, hard drives, or PSU. All cooling experts recommend good air-flow inside the case.

5. What is heat load? The heat components make under load is the heat load. Knowing heat load of the components being water-cooled helps plan the loop. One way to find heat load is from a manufacturer's site such as the Intel website, which says the stock (not overclocked) heat load or Thermal Design Power/TDP for a core i7 990X is 130 Watts. For a Sandy Bridge 2600k it is only 95 Watts and the Ivy Bridge 3570k is even less at 77 Watts TDP. One can also Google core i7 990X tdp. There are helpful lists to find VGA card TDP like this energy consumption of 93 graphics cards or this GPU Database. But for newer VGA cards, you may need to Google a review of the card to find the TDP. An easy way to estimate CPU heat load when overclocking is enter stock and over-clock values into a PSU calculator. This calculator seems accurate in mild overclocks but underestimates aggressive overclocks. In 2014, the most accurate way to determine heat load from aggressive overclocking or benchmarking is the power draw in Watts from the wall socket as shown by a meter like the Kill-A-Watt. Find idle and overclocked 100% load value for each component you intend to water-cool. The method Guru3d uses for power consumption is discussed here. All those Watts are part of heat load when you are overclock or bench.

A water-block does not cool all of the heat produced by a CPU or VGA card. Part of heat load is lost to air. Software stress-testing utilities like Prime 95 and Furmark also create more heat than typical computing loads. In 2014, there is some suggestion that nVidida and AMD drivers may throttle Furmark. Find a way to get both CPU and GPU at 100% load and measure the Kill-A-Watt reading for best accuracy. One way that nearly always works is start Prime 95 and after that is going add a GPU gaming stress test like Unigine Heaven Benchmark or Unigine Valley Benchmark.
The P95 should stress the CPU at 100% while the gaming benchmarks do the same with the GPU. Folding@Home should be close to 100% on each processor also. Take your time and understand why you want to water-cool. Estimate your budget, noise tolerance,and heat load. If this is confusing, ask questions before moving on.

6. How does ambient water-cooling control heat load? Cooling or heat removal is also called heat dissipation. The pump circulates water through the loop. That water removes heat from the blocks but becomes warm. Warm water flows from blocks through radiator water-tubing where fans ventilate the radiator with ambient air to cool the water. Fast (high RPM) fans with high static pressure fans ventilate radiators best but make more noise than slower fans. A radiator with sufficient water flow can cool or dissipate up to 300 Watts per 120.1 unit with fast (loud) fans. There are formulae to guess adequate radiator requirements. One calls for a 120.2 unit for the CPU with an additional 120.1 for each water-block (such as VGA card) while using Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-15 1850 rpm (medium-fast) fans on the radiators. My suggestion for the best compromise between performance, noise, and budget is use tested parts to aim for an air-water delta T around 10C.

Air-water (or water-air) delta T measures cooling performance. It helps water-coolers match fan speed to a specific radiator to compare among tested radiators. Delta t is well-explained by Conumdrum. As he explains, one way to find the delta T or dT is determine heat load in Watts, then choose a radiator thermal chart from Skinnee Labs' radiator tests. Plot heat load in Watts on the X axis. Find your fan RPM line on the graph. Then read delta T in C off the Y axis.

Or use tables from Skinnee Labs to find the
thermal resistance or C/W value at your specific fan RPM. (Heat Load) x (Thermal Resistance) = (Temperature Difference), with the formula being (Watts) x (C/Watt) = dT in C. This dT not only predicts successful cooling but the amount of performance that remains available for over-clocking or less noisy fans. The better the cooling, the lesser or smaller the delta T between ambient air and average water. An air-water delta T (dT) of 10C is good but if you need more cooling for a silent build, a dT of 5C is excellent, while a dT of 2C is extreme.

Be aware that
CPU testing often reports a different delta T that is the difference in temperatures between CPU core and water. This delta T grades CPU block thermal performance. CPU-water delta T and air-water delta T together can estimate CPU water-cooling results.

Be doubly aware that water-cooling testing is done with Intel CPU's, which do fine with core temps of 70C to 80C under load. If one wants core temps under 60C as some AMD CPU owners prefer, then one needs more cooling than Intel systems. This can be important to anticipate when cooling is borderline.

7. Planning a water-cooling Loop: What is one and how many do I want? From the Parts-Buying Guide Sticky:
Quote:
The most simple loop is a T-line > pump > water-block > radiator...and around and around. Two loops or a dual loop system needs 2 fill-lines or reservoirs, 2 pumps, 2 or more blocks, and 2 or more radiators. The primary reason for 2 separate loops is to force the GPU loop into running a higher water-air delta T than the CPU loop; perhaps 10C to 20C for the GPU loop versus 5C to 10C for the CPU loop. This can allow an internal 120.3 to cool an SLI or X-fire GPU loop while another internal 120.2 or 120.3 cools the CPU loop both at satisfactory temperatures. This requires careful planning but is getting easier as the industry trends toward cooler CPU processors. For example, second generation core i7 Sandy Bridge 2600k stock load Thermal Design Power or TDP is 95W compared to the first-generation core i7 920 at 130W. In Dual Loop versus Single by Gabriel Rouchon, the chief thermal architect at Swiftech, the data and explanation are detailed. And even when a water-cooler chooses a single loop, some get a second pump as backup for pump redundancy. If you run two pumps in series - inside one loop - one pump provides back-up in case the other fails. You don't need the Koolance reservoir system to run two or dual loops. If you are certain about running two loops the XSPC acrylic dual 5.25 inch reservoir for two Laing DDC OEM pumps is only $50. Bay reservoir pump/top combinations efficiently use case space.
To make a loop, use enough tubing to avoid kinks. 6 feet is usually enough for a medium-size loop inside a case. Shorter loops with smaller tubing avoid blocking air-flow inside the case. Stay above 3/8 inch internal diameter to avoid limiting water-flow but there is no advantage to tubing over 1/2 inch internal diameter. Anti-kink coils don't remove kinks but some like the looks. Zip-ties on a kink can push the kink further down the tubing until it reaches a fitting. It might allow one to wait until next scheduled maintenance to fix it.

Loop
order matters. Choose a layout that puts the reservoir or T-line/fill-line immediately before the pump inlet to get the best filling. Pump filling is important to prevent the pump from running dry since the pump cools itself with water and a dry pump can equal a dead pump in a short time. Otherwise loop order is rarely important. The loop flow-rate is usually high enough in simple loops that water temperature varies by 1C or less inside the entire loop. In high-performance loops, some record differences of several degrees. On EOCF, one water-cooler with a very high-performance system and 2 VGA cards in SLI tested the second VGA card 3C to 5C hotter than the first when in series but got equal temperatures with VGA cards in parallel. For most water-coolers, a few degrees rarely matters. Route tubing to avoid clutter and preserve air-flow. Avoid kinks to preserve water-flow. For complex loops, discuss it on your forum thread.

8. Specialty tools for beginning water-cooling
. Most water-coolers are computer builders. But here are a few specialty tools I use for water-cooling. They are described and linked to below the photo.



I use both compression and barbed fittings. It is sometimes hard to get worm-screw clamps on and off. A stubby size screw-driver is helpful. A mini-ratchet that fits different bits is priceless when the space is too small for even the stubby screw driver. A mini-funnel that screws onto a G 1/4 inch fill-port can avoid a mess when filling. A small clean plastic bottle to transfer distilled water from gallon jugs into your loop is essential. A fill-syringe can directly fill a reservoir. Zip-ties can immobilize rotary fittings, reservoirs, or fans. Long narrow zip-ties help cable and tubing management. One or two short zip-ties work as well as clamps if you tighten them correctly (I use a zip-tie gun) and get the rotation correct so that tightening the zip-tie also tightens the fitting. A good zip-tie gun will last a life-time and can be purchased used for under $100. An infra-red thermometer can check water temperature when troubleshooting or find hot spots that need fans. Fluke is high-quality but expensive. I bought a used Raytek. A good utility knife cuts tubing but Titanium-bonded scissors are cheap and allow more control. I bought 12 inch hemostats to clamp tubing. With two 12 inch stainless steel hemostats, Titanium-bonded scissors, and a plastic 2 liter pitcher; one can tear down a loop very quickly without spilling and without using a drain or expensive Quick Disconnect (QDC) fittings. A drain costs money for a good rotary cube from Bitspower plus extra fittings and is unnecessary for some. After enough photos for teaching, I may remove the drain again. Or if it leaks once, it's gone. Not everyone does everything the same way...but can still be successful. Learn from others to find what works best for you.

If you mod, look through water-cooling forum picture galleries for ideas. Find the builder's name and search the forum for the build log. Read build logs until you understand what modders did to get that radiator to fit or whatever caught your eye. I watched videos and bought parts from www.mnpctech.com, a reliable vendor. I bought a cheap rotary tool and practiced on my case. For my drill, I bought a Titanium bit, which works great. The sky is the limit. Please discuss mods with other water-coolers on the forums and link to mods that interest you since no one is familiar with every case and every mod.

My advice is don't get overly ambitious. Work within your skill level. Some water-coolers never finish a build because they try doing too much at once. You can build a system to perform well and then upgrade as you like. If it takes longer, so what? When confused, tired, and leaking water; it is hard to remember to have fun. So take your time and enjoy the journey.

9. Does this mean a new computer case? Some water-coolers feel that modding a case is part of water-cooling while others don't. Buying a new case makes custom water-cooling more expensive but is great fun. See the Parts Guide sticky before ordering a new case. Even if you cannot get it all inside your current case or afford an extra-large case, one can still hang a radiator as large as 120.4 from the exhaust port of a full tower. This can dramatically improve cooling until you get your perfect water-cooling case. Use a search engine like Google to find build-logs and mods for the case you wish to use. It's amazing what creative modders can fit inside a case. If you intend to get a new case, research it carefully because PC cases are serious performance components.

10
. How does one order water-cooling parts? Congratulations. It's finally time to order parts. The Parts Guide sticky has useful links like testing, vendor, and manufacturer sites. Read manufacturer sites carefully for compatibility between a block and component. Sometimes a site will have a compatibility wizard. For example, is your VGA card reference? Your manufacturer's site will usually tell you. When you make your forum thread to review parts, use hypertext links to remove confusion because different models look similar and vendor photos can be confusing. Post pictures as attachments (the paperclip under "go advanced") or keep them small so forum members see your text. Learn to use Microsoft Paint to edit photos. Put your lists, links, and pictures along with any questions on your own forum thread. If you want forum members to take an interest in your thread, be clear and concise. Better questions get better answers.

11. Arrival of parts.
When new parts arrive, celebrate with unboxing photos. Recently, I photographed a new partially torn O-ring on a block top but didn't notice the tear until after I installed it and it leaked. It was easy to get another O-ring from the manufacturer when I sent the photo with a red circle from MS Paint surrounding the tear. Take photos while parts are new and before seals are broken, especially if it looks at risk for damage. If you find broken parts, contact the vendor by email with your photo attached. Use MS Paint to show the defect and a calm, short narrative explaining what would resolve the issue. In the age of electronic mail, attaching photos provides better communication leading to better customer service. Practice helps. For example, using flash with shiny metal will often get glare. Find natural light and suppress flash with shiny objects. Choose a background that shows up what you want to see. Use proper macro settings for close-ups (read the camera manual). Basic photography skill - not a fancy camera - gives accurate photos when troubleshooting a problem. As technology improves, some attach videos to emails to save time and money.

12. Cleaning new parts.
Clean your parts well but understand when you may void a warranty. I opened my brand new CPU water-block to inspect for debris and clean the internals with dish-soap, water, and a toothbrush. I broke that warranty because CPU blocks are easy to reassemble, debris collects there, and manufacturers do not always clean it well. On the other hand, I only flushed my VGA card water-block during a recent tear-down since it was working well and is not easy to correctly reassemble. I remove pump tops to inspect, which can void warranty. That is your call. Blocks and pumps can end up with internal debris like packing material so at least flush them when new. But most cleaning needs to be done on a new radiator.

Currently, the best way to clean new parts is
flushing with filtration using a pond-pump and drinking-water-filter (total cost was around $75). Here is my EOCF thread with links to parts. The only disadvantage is cost in parts but there are important advantages as explained in the thread. If you use filtration for cleaning, you can skip the rest of this section and move on to section 13. Practice Makes Perfect.

As usual, there is more than one way to do things. If you don't want to spend money on filtration, a new radiator can often be cleaned with hot water alone. Slowly fill it up and let it soak until the radiator is cool enough to grab with your hands. Then let a little water out, cover the two holes with the base of the thumb and curl the rest of your hand around the radiator to get a good grip. Grab the other side of the radiator firmly with the other hand and start the radiator dance. You want the radiator about two-thirds full so when you shake it back and forth it is like the agitator in a washing machine that swishes the water around to physically remove debris. Don't bump or drop the new radiator. Empty the water into a glass bowl. Is it clear? If not, repeat until the water is clear. Only if the water refuses to clear like in my photo of my XSPC RX radiators' debris, do you take the next step.



Water and dish-soap is a safe way to clean a radiator. Some recommend an automobile radiator flush of sodium citrate designed to remove scale, rust, and oily build-up. Others, including some testers, use tap water flushes. If you use your home water-line, do not plug any radiator port since the water pressure for a typical home can blow out radiator water tubes. The final flush is always distilled water and should be clear. What you don't remove from your new radiator ends up in your loop. An acid-bath of copper or brass radiator water tubes was once a common cleaning method. It has lost advocates because it can damage metal and void warranty. But when you have cleaned the radiator many times with soap and water and are still getting debris from the radiator and don't have $75 for a filter-flush setup, here is what my teacher recommended and I did without any problem in 2010. For reference, White Household vinegar or acetic acid has a pH around 2.4, which makes it a moderately corrosive acid (Lemon juice is about the same pH and some say it smells better). Ketchup or catsup used to clean CPU blocks dilutes vinegar so that pH is about 3.8. Pure water has a neutral pH of 7.0 but can lower to 6.0 when exposed to atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Method:

1. Wear safety glasses and wear rubber gloves. Mix equal quantities of white household vinegar and tap-water. If the tap-water is dirty, use distilled water.

2. Pour the diluted vinegar into a radiator port until nearly full. Soak for 30 minutes. Pour this into the glass bowl without splashing any in your eyes. Inspect it.

3. The content of the flush may be blue-green like my photo below, which indicates removal of copper. If the acid is too corrosive or soak too long, you can remove enough copper water tubing to ruin a radiator.

4. Repeat the dilute acid soak until the rinse is clear of debris like mine below. Then flush the radiator with tap water or distilled water repeatedly until the smell of vinegar is gone. Finally, neutralize any remaining acid with a rinse of water containing bicarbonate (baking soda), a mild base. You don't want acid to continue to eat away copper after your radiator is clean.

5. The last flush is always distilled water with a vigorous dance to remove any contaminants. My final photo was clear water so there was no need to show that. My radiators work great after the vinegar clean-out. Now they only get a distilled water rinse at the annual tear-down.



This is not the only way to clean a radiator. I cannot guarantee it to be 100% safe or effective. I am sharing advice my teacher gave that worked for me in 2010. Please ask questions on your forum thread for further advice. Good luck and be safe.

13. Practice makes perfect.
Cut off about 6 inches of tubing to practice on. Heat one end in hot water to soften it. Slide it over barbs. Add and remove fittings to make sure they work. Tighten and loosen clamps. Compressions have mini-barbs you need to slide tubing over before screwing down the metal ring. Also practice removing fittings. Avoid cutting across a barb with a utility knife or it may leak. If you cut the tubing off with about 6 inches left you can unscrew the barb from the component such as a block. Then remove the clamp and place the tight barb in hot water to loosen the grip of the tubing on the barb. Then remove the tubing from the hot water and place a cloth over the barb to avoid burns - don't grab the barb. Then squeeze out the hot barb like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube. The barb will often pop out without cutting. Allow the barb to cool. If you must use a utility knife, cut below the largest barb on the fitting without cutting the fitting and the tubing tears off. Some blocks prefer their own brand of fitting. Not all brands are alike just because they are the same size. Threading can be slightly different. Or the G 1/4 inch section below a barb can be slightly longer like in D-Tek brand barbs. Make sure you have enough of the correct fittings to get the job done before you start. If you are not sure, discuss it on a forum thread.

14. Setting up your loop(s).
Install large components like radiators and fans first. It is easier to install fans on radiators or install a radiator inside the case while the case is on its side and there is no water. Then place the blocks before placing tubing. After the blocks look correct, think about where you want your tubing and start placing fittings inside the blocks. Can you make it with the fittings you ordered or do you need a few specialty fittings like angled or rotaries? Read instructions so you know which blocks or radiators may be picky about flow direction. For example, most CPU blocks like the inlet in the center. If you get it backwards, you can lessen performance. After the fittings are in place, measure the final lengths twice before cutting once. Some use a utility knife to cut tubing but I prefer scissors for greater control and safety. Slide your clamps over the tubing, then place the last inch or two of the 7/16 inch Internal Diameter or ID tubing into hot water to soften it as you practiced. Then, slide it over the 1/2 inch barb down to the bottom of the barb fitting and clamp just below the widest barb to secure the tubing. Repeat as needed. With correct ID tubing, such as 3/8 inch ID on a 3/8 inch barb or 1/2 inch ID on a 1/2 inch barb; hot water is seldom necessary but tight clamps become more important.

With compression fittings, you need exact size ID and Outer Diameter or OD. Slide the tubing over the mini-barb of the compression fitting up to but not onto the threads. Then screw down the metal O-piece onto the threads so that it compresses the tubing but does not cut through it. You do not need to screw the metal compression ring all the way down because that can cut softer tubing. Just screw it down tight so it won't leak. If you have a case full of Bitspower compressions to tighten or loosen, you may want to wear work gloves or place moleskin on the middle joint of your index finger to save some skin.

15. Leak testing.
Some new water-coolers with a simple loop leak-test outside the case, then install, then repeat the leak test. Remember that if one does a leak test outside the case, it does not count as the internal leak test because of moving too many parts around during install. One must do an internal leak test either way. As one gains confidence or as the loop grows complex, one will likely decide to perform only one leak test - but be extra careful.

Since 2012, I use the flushing and filtration method using a pond-pump and drinking-water-filter (total cost about $75) to leak test new parts and fittings outside the case. Here is my EOCF thread with links to parts.
When ready for internal leak testing, I take a break to stretch my body and clear my mind. I then return to double-check every fitting and clamp. Could I have pushed on tubing to tighten one fitting and accidentally loosened another? Did I get in a hurry or distracted by a telephone call?



I then place my PC next to the sink and layer many hand towels carefully from bottom up, covering PSU, VGA card, and motherboard with layers of hand towels. That is to catch the big leak, which should not happen if gear is double-checked. But if one gets a big leak, then the test is over and you should remove all gear including motherboard and place it upside down on towels to dry. Make sure water is gone including PCI slots. Blow them out with compressed air if necessary. Some wipe parts with alcohol but mostly one needs to get it all dry and not run any electrical current through any device until one is certain it is dry. It may take several days or a week. The bottom line is let it dry, and it may work. Run it wet, and further jeopardize the part. After all is dry, fix the problem, re-read this section, and start again.

We start leak testing when we fill the loop. I use only distilled water as coolant with Bitspower .999 true-silver fittings as biocide. I used to use silver coils inside the tubing of the loop. I put one before the CPU block figuring I could retrieve it easier from there if it migrated and I put the other before the GPU block since it has a sharp turn at the ports. I don't know if coils would hurt the pump but never want to find out. Now I put my silver coils in the capped unused distilled water jug to keep the water clean for next use. Others use biocide like PT Nuke PHN and find it easier to prepare the coolant before filling the loop. One fills the loop using a reservoir, T-line, fill-line, fill-port, or some combination of the above. The critical part is keeping your pump inlet always filled so the pump never runs dry.

I use a small reservoir. When that gets filled and I can no longer add distilled water, I need help from the pump. One use either the main system PSU or get a cheap PSU for this purpose. Newegg specials are perfect to get a cheap PSU you can dedicate for filling and leak testing. I paid $25 for my low-Watt off-brand PSU because I did not want to accidentally damage the connector pins of my expensive PSU when we do the paperclip jumper procedure below.

Make sure there is no power to the motherboard by unplugging the 4/8 pin CPU connector and 24 pin ATX connector. Here are pictures of PSU cable connectors if you wish a review. There is no reason for the main system PSU to be plugged into anything if you use a spare PSU. Make sure the PSU you are going to use is off but plugged in. As per the photo below, use a paper clip to jumper between the green wire and any of the several black (ground) wires in the 24 pin ATX motherboard connector. If you don't wish to use a paper-clip, you can use purchase a 24 pin ATX Power Supply Jump Start Connector also called a Bridging Plug. All will work to start up the PSU. I took the photo below during a real leak-test but you can choose a different black wire to jump if you wish.



Turn on the PSU for a moment to listen for the PSU fan and switch it off. Some PSUs need a load so may still work even if the fan didn't turn on. But if you did it correctly, you now control the PSU Molex power through the toggle switch on the jumpered PSU. Plug the PSU Molex into your pump's power connector. If you have more than one pump in series, use only one per loop until the loop is filled.

Finally, turn on the PSU toggle switch and watch the reservoir empty as coolant rapidly flows into the pump. Only the pump runs - not even system fans. There is no power to the motherboard. Shut off the PSU switch before the pump runs dry. Refill the reservoir/pump inlet again each time bumping the toggle switch for a moment to allow the pump to move coolant further along and eventually fill the loop. This repetitive pump cycling to fill the loop is called bumping the pump to circulate coolant without letting the pump run dry.

The length of time you leak-test is up to you. My first was 24 hours by the clock. But now I do an intense leak watch while filling the loop. That is when I use hand-towels and watch for catastrophes. After my loop is full in less than an hour, big leaks will be obvious. It is time to start watching for the tricky slow leaks. This is when I remove the layers and use a single layer of hand towel on a component like the VGA card. I then cover the hand towel with a tan paper towel since the light brown shows wet spots easier to me. Shine a flashlight into the shadows or feel for wetness. I now use tan paper towels or unbleached coffee filters to dab around the CPU block for slow leaks after a recent event. My latest leak showed up about 4 hours after starting testing and was never more than 2 x 2 inches on a paper towel. It was under the CPU block and never dripped - just got damp. I don't think it leaked until I turned on my second pump. But that counts as a leak. I had to start over the next day but at least didn't flood the motherboard. When I am nearly certain there is no leak after 6 to 8 hours, then I finish the test overnight to catch the slowest leaks. After 16 to 24 hours of leak testing, I am finished. Some do shorter testing but I have had two very slow leaks from O-ring issues. In my opinion, leak test until you are confident in the water-tight nature of your gear. With my second test, I put in a new O-ring, put the block with fittings and tubing in a bowl of water and blew in one tube while blocking the other and watching for bubbles. No leak. I wish I had done that the first time...

Bleeding air from the loop.
After filling the loop, one may be unable to add more coolant but there remains air bubbles, particularly in the top of the reservoir. That is the time to cap the fill-line or reservoir. Turn off power and turn the pump to maximum and add the second pump too if available. Then toggle on the pump(s). The theory is that higher flow will push the water column through the radiators and blocks to move out air into the reservoir. A well designed reservoir bleeds air by having a device to defeat vortex (whirlpool) and also channel bubbles toward the top. Having the reservoir higher helps bubbles collect. There is a lessening of reservoir water level during leak testing as coolant replaces air inside the loop. Always keep coolant above the intake of the reservoir so no pump runs dry. When you open the reservoir or fill-port to add more coolant, the air in the reservoir escapes to the environment. If the loop is nearly full, then running the pump(s) at full-speed while filling the fill-port/reservoir to the top with coolant can bleed air faster. When you can add no more water/coolant, cap the fill-line or reservoir.

Eventually one bleeds off the air but it becomes more difficult if the flow-rate is low, or with a top-mounted radiator with ports down, or vertically-mounted radiator with ports at the bottom, or with a bay reservoir. Sometimes a large bubble will catch in a radiator or block. Turn off the machine but keep the water-loop closed. Then gently rock the case to coax air bubbles toward the top of the loop and into the reservoir. Small bubbles should resolve within a week or two after filling the loop so top off the reservoir then if needed. Rarely is filling required after bleeding is complete. If you have to fill more often, look for a slow leak. There is a myth that water evaporation through PVC tubing is common. I went nearly a year without a refill. Sometimes a leak in front of a fan will evaporate leaving no wet spots, so not every leak is an emergency. But leaking coolant onto an active motherboard or VGA card can damage electronics, so beware.

16. Maintenance
. You have been water-cooling for months and feel like a pro. What's next? If you followed the above steps about cleaning parts and used a biocide as recommended, then the next experience should be the joy of maintenance. In spite of advantages over air-cooling such as noise and performance, maintenance is greater for water-cooling. In addition to blowing dust out every 3 to 6 months like air-cooling, one needs to drain and replace the water every 6 to 12 months even if all looks fine. This allows one to flush the system with distilled water to clean out that bit of radiator sludge that was impossible to remove initially or to catch plasticizer leaching from the tubing like Tygon 3603 or Masterkleer brand or Primochill Primoflex LRT. One may also need to add biocide unless using silver, in which case it gets more concentrated over time, which is good. This is also the time to fix any kinked tubing or perform upgrades you have been wanting to try.

What if there is a monthly loss of water but no leak is found? There is a small amount of transpiration through water-tubing or bubbles can drop the coolant level. From this EOCF thread, it appears that small amounts like a few milliliters per month are usually inconsequential while larger losses more likely indicate slow leaks, often O-ring failures. In my opinion, any water-loss means you should dab with paper towels looking for wet spots. There is nothing to lose and you might find a leak early.

At 12 to 24 months, it's time for a complete tear down with removal of blocks from the motherboard and removal of fittings with cleaning, rinsing of parts, and replacement of tubing. Some, like me, also remove the top of the CPU block and clean the internals with dish-soap and a toothbrush. Sometimes O-rings need replacement. If you lubricate an O-ring to seal a block; make sure it is proper O-ring silicone lubricant from a hardware store. Petroleum jelly and friction can dissolve rubber. Fittings can collect plasticizer, which usually rubs off.

Those who use colored dyes in coolant should cut in half the time between maintenance. Also be prepared to do a tear down at the first sign of rising load temperatures.

Manufacturers are not keen on water-coolers doing extensive maintenance because they don't want us to break things. Doing seemingly routine inspections such as removing a top from a pump or block can void warranties. The flushing and filtration method using a pond-pump and drinking-water-filter can preserve warranties. Here is my EOCF thread with links to parts. Swiftech recommends a Pine-Sol flush cleaning method for the entire loop that would avoid removing pump tops. Other water-coolers use Prestone radiator flush for the entire loop. Some recommend a wash with a couple drops of mild dish-washing soaps followed by a rinse. That may be safer on the gear. But unless there are important warranty issues, in order to see, why not do a real tear-down?

One likely needs only a light toothbrush scrub with a little dish soap on fittings and the inside of the block to remove plasticizer and other debris. Inside a pure copper block, expect oxidation to show on copper as black tarnish, particularly below the inlet. A thin layer of oxidation won't affect performance. An acid bath can remove the black cupric oxide but may also remove the anti-oxidation coating. Some clean copper blocks in lemon juice before selling them on the used market because without tarnish, they look nearly new. Avoid acid-soaks for metal-plated fittings or blocks. Corrosion is discussed in the Parts Buying Guide.

The top photo below is my Swiftech Apogee XT at 1 year before any cleaning. Coolant was distilled + silver. The circle in the middle was radiator sludge and plasticizer. It came out easily with dish-soap and a toothbrush. There was a black circle of oxidation underneath. I presume the tarnish on the right was oxidation but there was O-ring lubricant on the top of the block so I am not 100% certain. Although the sludge and plasticizer needed to be cleaned out, the oxidation or tarnish is unlikely to affect performance. Since I had already voided my warranty, I decided to try ketchup, then vinegar for acid baths. Recently I used lemon juice instead of vinegar or ketchup. After acid, I flood it with tap water, followed by a bath in baking soda (base) to neutralize acid. Then it gets a long soak in distilled water. It was photographed as the bottom photo while drying before re-assembly. Even after cleaning with straight white vinegar, some tarnish remains. But it does not affect performance. The block works fine. Notice what appears to be removal of a shiny surface around the edges of the block where the ketchup covered it. This is removal of a clear lacquer that protected the block as linked above.





The clear lacquer coating had provided anti-oxidation protection since the oxidation at 22 months was more marked than at 12 months.



In spite of the dramatic appearance, oxidation never affected temperatures. At 36 months, it looked like above but still cleaned up like below. 2013 maintenance photos are here: http://forums.extremeoverclocking.co...d.php?t=369441



17. How can one remain updated? Even if one reads daily, it is hard to keep up with computer technology. Water-cooling covers most computer hardware since one must be a builder, plumber, and often a modder. One frequently is an over-clocker who got stuck on air-cooling so decided to get wet. It's a good idea to find a forum that fits your style and settle in. It's even better if you read many sources including forums linked to in this Guide and the Parts-Buying Guide. Sometimes those are general forums and sometimes they are manufacturers' forums like EVGA or Corsair. Independent testing is the engine that drives the Parts-Buying Guide sticky so look for testing sites like Skinnee Labs, Martin's lab, stren's lab or links to Bundymania, HESmelaugh, and other independent testing. Using Google Translate works well to understand International testing.

18. Trouble-shooting.
Sometimes not everything goes the way marketing says it will. Sometimes manufacturers, like the rest of us, make mistakes. In spite of prevention, stuff happens. Stop by the forum and calmly explain your build, water-cooling parts, recent load tests if appropriate, and attach pictures or a video as needed. Someone once said a picture is worth a 1000 words. But in trouble-shooting over a forum, the good picture is worth far more. Write manufacturers, attach photos, visit your favorite forums, and explain. Be patient. If you are not getting anywhere, take more pictures, try a different forum, or call the manufacturer or vendor.

19.
Communication, Grammar, Slang, International Forums, and Helping Others. Communication among friends we see often can be a challenge. On a forum, among strangers, it is difficult. All parties must work at communication for success. Use good grammar, limit regional slang, and be aware of our International community to improve communication. English is not everyone's first language. Spell-checkers and frequent hyperlinks lessen confusion. Some like me, learned at EOCF from a great teacher. If you liked your learning experience, give back to your forum to make it better. Begin by sharing a link when you learn something new or see important threads. Good links make friends. Later, answer questions for beginners on parts you own. Use links to avoid confusion. There may be items you are particularly skilled at. Or you may have the ultimate skill of communication. You may wish to get involved with writing or testing. Helping other water-coolers helps everyone including the helper. There are not many custom water-coolers so please be polite and helpful. Don't let water-cooling become a lost art done only by vendors as a pre-installation option. Give manufacturers a reason to support custom water-cooling and bring us exciting new gear. Have fun and good luck.

20. Dedication
. The Beginning Water-Cooling Guide by musicfan is dedicated to my water-cooling teacher at EOCF, Spawn-Inc.

Please Note: If you have questions or wish to suggest edits or have new information, please start a thread so we all learn. If you find common typos or grammar errors, please send a PM to me to fix it. Thank you.

Last edited by musicfan : 07-05-2014 at 11:40 AM. Reason: typos, grammar, links, formatting, photos, updates
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Old 06-04-2011, 08:44 PM   #2
utnorris
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Nice guide. Good job putting this together. Hopefully it will get stickied.
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Old 06-04-2011, 09:21 PM   #3
Doglips
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Great work once again musicfan! This was much needed and will help many new comers to water cooling. Thanks for your dedication to helping all of us here at EOCF!
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Old 06-05-2011, 11:56 AM   #4
dragonhunter
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thanks for the guide, great job!!!
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Old 06-05-2011, 01:22 PM   #5
TSXmike
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nice guide!

would love to WC, but just cant find a system am happy with... and gtx260 blocks have gone the way of the dinosaurs...
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Old 06-05-2011, 02:49 PM   #6
Jahova
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Cool man.

Leak testing trick. Notebook paper and clear tape.
Cut and fold some paper around the water lines near the fittings. Wrap and tape them around the tubing snugly. If there is any sort of small leak, you will catch it with the paper, and hopefully see that the paper was wet under the tape.
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Old 06-07-2011, 02:46 AM   #7
jenmendoza14
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this is just nice...thank you for sharing such useful tips on how to use a water cooling kit ....thanks...im only using corsair h50.havent really tried any watercooling aside from this one.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:58 PM   #8
Spawn-Inc
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dam, excellent guide music!

going to be the first link i hand out to the newbs.

the young grasshopper has surpassed the teacher indeed.
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Old 06-08-2011, 06:00 PM   #9
Llunker
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Excellent Guide MF--Just Great --i -plan on using it for sure !!
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Old 06-09-2011, 11:26 AM   #10
musicfan
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Thanks so much to EOCF members for the kind words. Thanks to the mods/admin/owner for making this a sticky. This is not only for beginners but for experienced builders new to custom water-cooling who need a few photos or tips or links for the confidence they can do this. Of course this Guide is not the only way. This is but one way to custom water-cool. That's the "custom" part.

I rewrote some parts to make them more clear. Hope it worked. Please let me know if any particular section is confusing. I am happy to edit/rewrite it until it makes sense. Or, better yet, bring it to your own thread in the water-forum so everyone can discuss it and you can ask all the questions you want. Hope this guide helps stimulate discussion about custom water-cooling. Have fun and good luck.

Last edited by musicfan : 06-09-2011 at 12:31 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 06-14-2011, 09:41 AM   #11
pckid9234
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was this custom or did you buy it as a kit?
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Old 06-14-2011, 12:55 PM   #12
musicfan
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Hi pckid9234. I never bought a kit because none of the kits are exactly what I would assemble. So I custom water-cool. Some kits are quite good now - and pricing can be attractive. But it's unlikely any kit will be as good as customizing your cooling exactly the way you choose.
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Old 07-03-2011, 06:13 AM   #13
coreyrt
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thx musicfan for a great guide, about to build my first wc rig. Your guide has answered alot of questions i had, and then answered some I did not even know i had - lol.
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Old 08-11-2011, 12:24 PM   #14
musicfan
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coreyrt, you are welcome; hope it helps.

Posted today to notify thread subscribers of the update in section 14 about losing water in the reservoir and when it is significant. Linked to a discussion thread in the EOCF water-cooling forum started by sysigy.

If you believe this Guide is wrong or needs updates, please post here or start a thread on the forum with a discussion that we might fix the Guide or link to the Guide. Thanks.
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:26 AM   #15
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hi im brand new to watercooling and i did it because of this thread,you made it look so exciting, so thanks your guide worked im up,running and overclocked from 3.3 to 4.0ghz on amd phenom ii 560 i had corsair h50 but only up to 3.6ghz with that so great guide a+.registered to say thanks.
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Old 04-13-2012, 12:15 PM   #16
musicfan
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Thank you DAWOODAKRAM.

There are many updates in this 2012 sticky since I add links regularly. In 2012, I edited this (again) to make the Beginning Water-Cooling Guide less complex and more attractive even to expert air-coolers or builders who may otherwise get bored.

I recently finished my first full tear-down for 2012. I now can give full endorsement to using filtration to prepare new parts and test old parts but had to try it first. And, I added a couple new pics so cover your eyes if you don't like to look at a black copper block, LOL. As always, I empty my best bookmarks into the links especially after some good threads that you EOCF members started.

Please let me know sections you find confusing or areas that need expanding to make a better sticky. There may be new ways to do things like the filtration. Other times, I need to explain better.

There are many ways to begin water-cooling. Hope we find an easy way for you. Please share your thoughts on how to make this sticky better. Thank you and good luck water-cooling.

January 2013


Re-edited this week to look for mistakes, broken links, and attempt to make it read more easily. There may be another photo after my annual tear-down this Spring. Please let me know of mistakes/typos or broken links or of suggestions to make this more attractive to the intended audience. Thanks.

Last edited by musicfan : 01-25-2013 at 01:23 PM. Reason: add
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:54 AM   #17
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You should probably change the title of this thread to reflect that it's been updated for 2013.
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Old 03-19-2013, 11:29 AM   #18
musicfan
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Thanks Karnor. It's funny. I can edit the OP to my heart's content within the 15 image limit. But I can't change the original forum title. A mod can do this so I will ask WiCKeD if we can change it. Thanks again.
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Old 06-03-2013, 09:59 AM   #19
Darksabre
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Musicfan,

Just wanted to pop on here and say I used your method of cleaning with the 5-micron water filter this weekend. I ended up just using my in-loop Liang D5 pump (10' head, 1200 lph) to pump DI water through the loop with the giant filter in place.

This worked BEAUTIFULLY. I had already been running my loop for a couple of days (using an old radiator I had "cleaned" using the vinegar/water shake method) and I could see particles flowing through the loop and sitting in the reservoir after 2 or 3 days.

I found your thread, bought a filter, flushed the system, hooked it up, and ran it for about 2 hours. Now my loop is SPOTLESS. I can't see a single speck of dirt, dust, residue, alien spores, etc. Couple of drops of PTNuke, and some clean DI water, and I'm good to go.

Thumbs up to you, and thanks!

-Aaron


Setup details:
XSPC reservoir/pump sitting on top. Blue Culligan clean water filter (30 bucks) with Culligan 5-micron filter (9 bucks for 2 filters) sitting on the bench. Used two plastic 3/4" thread to 3/4" barb converters (1.76 each) to run my tubing to. It was a tight fit for the tubing but it went on without much effort, and zero leaks.


Last edited by Darksabre : 06-03-2013 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 09-05-2014, 06:00 AM   #20
Leeson
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That's really cool darksabre.

Great tutorial. This will definitely help me make my cooler.
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