It's a common misconception that subzero cooling is expensive while in reality, it's just like any other hobby: it can range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars (or even tens of thousands
However, I'm here to give a bit of a guide on how to get in as cheaply as possible.
So first, here's what you need
And here are some accessories that are nice to have:
First, the CPU pot:Pictured above: Kingpin F1 EE with Aluminum Extension
- Thermometer and k-type probes
- Digital multimeter (DMM)
The CPU pot is the most important part of a subzero setup. This is where the dry ice or LN2 goes to cool the processor. These can range from around $80 used to $350 new. As you progress up in costliness, a few things also increase as well. Generally, the more expensive pots are heavier as they contain a larger mass of copper. Usually they also have more intricate milling on the inside to increase surface area.My recommendation for the budget shopper buying new is the Koolance CPU-LN2-V2. It can be purchased directly from Koolance for a cool* $170.
The Koolance pot is EOL. I'm looking for a replacement with good availability. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to post!
If you have a bit more cash to throw around, the Kingpin Cooling Gemini is also a great purchase at $225. It also comes with two bases, a "fast base" and a "slow base". The names describe how they react when LN2 is poured which can be very important when trying to keep an exact temperature range on the processor if you're battling with a cold bug.Next up, insulation:
There are tons of methods and styles to insulation. People use everything from conformal and art (kneadable) eraser to dehydrated rice. Below, I'm going to list my methods.
I recommend the following:
- Liquid Electrical Tape (LET)
- Paper Towels
LET can be purchased at most hardware stores in the electrical section. This is used to add a waterproof layer to the motherboard to keep condensation from shorting anything electrical. I purchase it at Home Depot for $6.00 a bottle. One bottle should cover five or six motherboard socket areas or graphics cards. A thicker layer is better because it peels right off leaving a flawless motherboard or graphics card underneath.
Armaflex is used to insulate the reservoir of your pot as well as to create a gasket around the socket. Remember, insulation's goal is to keep the cold in. A 30ft roll can be purchased at Home Depot as Armacell for a little under $8.00. Keep in mind that this stuff is sticky. If you use it on your pot, put a layer of painters tape between them, otherwise you'll spend an hour or so peeling it off and using some sort of chemical to remove the sticky residue it leaves behind.
Paper towels are pretty self explanatory. These coupled with some rubber bands will give you a final line of defense around your pots as well as creating a nice moisture trap around the socket area.Now on to the extras:
First in the list of extras is a thermometer. It's not necessary with dry ice (though it is helpful), but it's a must when benching LN2 with any Intel chip and some AMD chips. There's really only one item for the budget minded and after that it's a pretty steep slope upward in terms of pricing. I purchased mine (8060) on Ebay for about $40. If you're watchful, you can get a nicer one (DT302/304) for around $100.
Next up is a digital multimeter. This allows you to read actual voltages instead of relying on software voltages. For things like volt mods, it's necessary. However, this is something you can cheap out on. I purchased mine from Walmart for $4 and it works perfectly.Finally, your shopping cart, Sub-total $184 + Shipping:
The final step in getting your first dry ice run going is to grab some dice and some acetone. You can get a gallon
for around $17 or a quart
for around $8. A gallon should last you a few hundred (lol) sessions, or long enough for you to aquire the funding to move up to LN2. Dry ice varies from location to location. In Kentucky, I purchase it at Kroger, a grocery store for $1/lb. In St. Louis, I purchase it from a welding supply shop for the same price. For your first session, 10 pounds should be enough. I usually purchase between 15 and 20 pounds now that I'm running a GPU on dice as well.Final total including 10lbs of dice: $201** + ShippingTo conclude:
Once you're in, you can spend as much as you want. You can buy GPU pots, LN2 dewars, and all kinds of other stuff. Hopefully this will get you on the right track to keep moving up.*Sweet pun, right?
**Yeah, yeah, I went over budget