My Adventure with Liquid Cooling
Building custom PC’s is one of my hobbies. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of using liquid cooling. What could be more thrilling than liquid coursing through the veins of a computer in order to keep components cool during operation?
My quest for liquid cooling began by drooling over the builds that are showcased on reddit’s watercooling subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/watercooling/ I was amazed at how elegant the liquid cooling system can be. I was wowed by images of multi-pump systems with both CPU blocks and GPU blocks. The creators paid very close attention to the aesthetic of their systems by dyeing the water matching colors. The systems showcased are fantastic! I decided that I needed to pursue something similar with my PC…
I looked at a few all-in-one, closed loop, CPU coolers but after being wowed by the custom loops I was itching to build my own. I was told the key to a successful liquid cooling system is proper planning and patience. I didn’t want to remove the existing fans and heat sinks on my graphics card (for fear of causing damage and voiding the warranty) so I opted to only water cool the CPU. I found a (relatively) inexpensive kit that included a pump + reservoir combo, radiator, CPU block, and soft rubber tubing to connect everything together. EKWB L240 Liquid Cooling Kit. My plan was to install the kit but using custom hard tubing instead of the included hard tubing (for some sweet aesthetics). With my plan in mind, I made my way to the brick and mortar PC mecca: Micro Center.
I picked up the EKWB kit that I had been looking at, and sought some much-needed help from a sales associate at Micro Center that was experienced with liquid cooling. The associate warned me that bending the hard tubes is very difficult and requires a bending kit. Rather than heed his advice, I purchased a bunch of hard tubing, and spent a small fortune on fittings. I was going to attempt to stick a bunch of fittings together to make 90 degree bends using fittings rather than bend the tubes. However, I quickly realized that I didn’t know how many 90 degree bends would be required to connect everything together. Also, my wallet was losing interest in the project. I decided to go home, begin the install, and evaluate the situation, hoping I could piece something together.
I got home and installed the radiator and CPU block without any problems. However, since my case is relatively small, there wasn’t much room to install the pump and reservoir inside the case. I decided to put the pump and reservoir on top of the case. I’ve seen a few installs online where people with the same (or similar) case as mine will create custom brackets for the pump and reservoir - someday I’d like to do this as well. Maybe that’s a good excuse to buy a 3D printer :). Once all of the components were installed, it was time to connect everything together. I realized that I was going to need many 90 degree bends to connect everything. The cost of the fittings to create all the 90 degree bends would be astronomical. I resolved that I was going to have to bend the tubing. I watched some videos on youtube where people were using the proper bending kit and relatively easily making bends. A rubber insert must be placed within the tube to keep it from kinking during bending. Then, the tube is heated up with a heat gun until it’s flexible. Finally, the bend can be made. I didn’t have the rubber insert for the tube, so I bought a similar tube from home depot along with a heat gun. I turned up the heat gun, put my rubber insert inside the tube, and attempted to make a bend. The tube kinked immediately. Epic fail. Rather than destroy more tubing in learning how to bend, I decided to cut my losses and install the flexible black tubing included with the kit. I stuck my tail between my legs and returned all of the unused hard tubing and extra fittings I bought to Micro Center. The return staff understood my pain as they had their own frustrations in installing custom liquid cooling loops.
I made sure all of the connections were tight, and did a 24 hour leak test per the manual. I breathed a sigh of relief when the PC passed the leak test. Ever since then I’ve been enjoying my low CPU temps.
Overall, I’m very happy with my water cooling loop. It was definitely a great a learning experience. It may not be worthy of praise on the reddit community, but it sure does keep my CPU nice and cool :). Some words of advice for those installing their first water cooling loop:
- Plan more than you think you need to. Think of all of the connections and plan the appropriate space within your case.
- If you’re going to use hard tubing, purchase the bending kit with the rubber tube insert! Don’t be like me and attempt to use a similar thing from home depot.
- Also, if you’re going to use hard tubing, expect to destroy a few while practicing the bending technique.
- Know how much you want to spend before you go out and purchase fittings. The fittings for water cooling pipes are surprisingly expensive, and it adds up fast.
- Have fun and watch lots of youtube videos. Youtube will be your best friend in this process!