rubix_1011 - Watercooling Lab Equipment

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Contributing Writer
rubix_1011 - Watercooling Lab and Testing Equipment Portfolio

I wanted to take the opportunity to include photos and descriptions of the lab equipment that I have personally funded for unbiased testing and result-driven data in the watercooling industry for the consumer enthusiast. This will serve as a living set of content as I will continue to add, include and improve my testing equipment. I also realize that there are certain tolerances that will always be in play for any lab and I will make all attempts to isolate as many of these variables as possible to eliminate outlier variances. Of course, I'm always open to suggestions and ideas, so please PM me if you have specifics on equipment or testing methodologies.

CrystalFontz CFA-633-TMI-KU


USB connectivity, display, temperature probe and fan RPM data collection. The CFA-633 is the heart of my data collection system as it logs fan RPM and temperatures reported back from my Dallas 1-wire DS18B20 waterproof probes and PWM fans. The CFA-633 has the ability to do a multitude of things from system data gathering and display, adjusting fan curves and trigger events and the archiving of content collected by the data collection chipset to a .CSV file to be easily manipulated by Excel Sheet calculations, as needed. Currently, all data points from all sensors are logged every 1 second to the report columns. Without this unit, my testing methods would be impossible to accurately log and report with scientific data collection. In essence, it is the center of focus for every piece of ancillary equipment listed below.

Tim Martin from CrystalFontz America, Inc. was my main point of contact from my initial step of product inquiry into potential units to meet my temperature and fan logging needs and the ability to setup the unit for USB connectivity. I recieved the CFA-633-TMI-KU within several days, and was originally having some issues getting it setup, but Tim was right there and quickly responded with some very detailed troubleshooting steps, and it was determined that my unit had actually been setup for ATX power control rather than power via the floppy J_PWR header due to my misunderstanding of unit power control and ordering specifications. A few alligator clips, a few hex commands through the test console to reflash the boot power requirements, a couple of solder jumpers changed and what do you know...the CFA-633 worked immediately as I needed.

CrystalFontz products have the ability to meet and deliver a very wide range of monitoring, interaction and output datasets, depending on specific application. They have a few dozen (at least) products currently listed on their product page, but for what I needed, the CFA-633 has all the monitoring and controller functionality I need, built in, without the need for the add-on controller board that would be required for other CrystalFontz boards. I did quite a bit of research looking to find something along the lines of what CrystalFontz America, Inc. is offering, but I just couldn't find anything that really did what I wanted to be least without spending several hundred dollars. Initially, I was going to build out a temperature breadboard interface using my Odroid C1 quad core mini-Ubuntu board (very similar to a Raspberry Pi 2), but found that the time and development time wouldn't be within the window I would need. Plus, I get product support with CrystalFontz, so that helps from a safety-net perspective.

This narrative is not a paid or product reimbursed (free stuff) dialogue in any way - I purchased the CFA-633 on my own for my watercooling lab hardware and my experience with CrystalFontz America, Inc. has been so positive, I wanted to offer a glimpse at a company 'making things right' and taking care of customers. I want to personally thank Tim and Barbara Berg for their time and customer service; it is much appreciated. I know that I had expressed the need for a quick turn-around, and they delivered.

Dallas One-Wire DS18B20 waterproof temperature sensors (x10)


One-wire standardized solution for daisy-chaining to the CFA-633 for temperature monitoring and logging. These can be setup and wired together for a single connection to the CrystalFontz units for data collection by sharing GND, +5v and Data on a single channel and utilizing a unique device GUID per sensor. Literally thousands of these can be (theoretically) connected to a single device for monitoring and logging.

Scythe Kaze Master


Fan controller used for precise fan RPM control outside of the usage of the CFA-633 fan RPM/recording. The fan controller gives me the flexibility to power any fan using a 3-pin header to allow variations in fan speed for up to 6 different fans for different radiator testing and multitudes of delta considerations. It also has the ability to connect up to 6 temperature probes for display, but like the fan RPM displays, these values are also not logged with this device.

King 7530 - 3.5 GPM Flow Meter


Used for live monitoring of liquid flow rate through the loop being tested. I have tested this flow meter accurately to 0.5 GPM, 1.0 GPM, 1.5 GPM and 2.0 GPM. I have added a 1/2" NPT stainless steel ball valve to use alongside the variable needle valve on the meter to adjust flow, if needed for specific delta testing. Otherwise, both are left fully open for max flow rate for a configured loop.

Digital Multimeter


Used for volt/ohm measurement of both DC and AC currents at various points in the electrical system for a watercooling loop; such as power supply or pump.

Digital Manometer - 30psi


Used for pressure change and differences at 2 points across the watercooling loop; such as pressure drop across a component being tested. The unit measures differences in air pressure to output the overall unit change from two T-fittings through which water passes past a brass fitting nipple fitting in each. The brass fitting is connected to the unit via narrow tubing that essentially creates an air pocket that is sensitive to the changes in loop pressures based on where the fittings are positioned in the loop. The air within the tubing creates a buffer that doesn't allow the water to reach the unit, yet still allows it to compress the air and send the result change to the meter.

300w Aquarium Heater (x2)


Used for accurate control of a watercooling loop by maintaining a calculated load of heat watts as determined by the AC transformer and the Kill-A-Watt meter. This allows me to dial up or down the testing loop's heat watt load and maintain an accurately simulated loop load, at-will, for different testing scenarios. These heaters have had their thermostat bypassed with a soldered jump on the PCB to enable them to provide heat load indefinitely without shutting down on thermal trigger.

Kill-A-Watt Digital Meter


Used for measurement of electrical consumption at an AC wall outlet. I'm most interested in the draw of watts of energy being consumed by the aquarium heaters and potentially dissipated into the testing loop. This will work in conjunction with the AC variable transformer to dial energy consumption up or down and accurately monitor the load draw.

AC Variable Transformer


Used for allowing infinite variation of input AC current to control electrical consumption for testing purposes. This is used with the Kill-a-Watt meter along with the aquarium heaters to precisely control the power consumptions (in watts) to be used by the heaters in a controlled loop environment.

DC Transformer 30V / 5A / 110V


Used for allowing an infinite variation of input DC current to control electrical consumption for testing purposes. This is used for powering watercooling components that are normally powered by a normal PC power supply, but with the ability to vary DC output current and voltage for stability and accurate testing of loads (ex: pump at 12v, 18v and 24v).

Digital Kitchen Scale


Used for accurate mass representation of testing items. For example, radiators of similar (ex: 2x120mm) might be of similar LxWxH in dimensions, but their mass might be substantially different which would potentially represent different cooling coefficient properties. Example: aluminium is lighter in weight (less mass) than copper and bronze.

Digital Decibel Meter


Measurement of noise levels in dB as output by fans, pumps or other devices being tested. Can display live noise level readings, or MAX/MIN levels over sustainted period of time.



Beakers - Measurement of liquid volumes. (ex: how much liquid volume a radiator can hold)

ATX Power Supply (x2)


Used for powering various items like the CFA-633, the Kaze Master fan controller, pumps and other devices. One is 250w and the other is 350w - both are used 'jumpered' by shorting green to black on the ATX 20 and 24 pin motherboard connector similar to how you would for filling and leak testing a watercooling loop.

Canon DSLR


My photography camera, a Canon EOS XS DSLR.
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Contributing Writer
Understanding TDP

Thermal design power, or TDP, is the manufactured design energy draw and heat output of a component in a PC; typically a processor or graphics card, but technically applies to any component drawing power in watts and emanating heat energy in watts. Stock CPUs are typically defined by the TDP package for the specific processor family - most 'siblings' follow the same TDP engineering spec. For graphics cards (GPU) the TDP usually varies from one card to another, with lower performance cards having a lower TDP and higher performance cards having a higher TDP.

When you overclock a CPU or graphics card, you are changing the TDP from stock to a value specified by both factory and overclocked speeds and voltages. This means you have to do a little math in order determine what your overclocked CPU actually has as an overclocked TDP. I have created an Excel worksheet that does this calculation for you and is intended to be used as a watercooling loop setup and planning tool. For more on calculating TDP for components that are liquid cooled, please see the section in the Watercooling Sticky on TDP and calculating Delta for more information.


Contributing Writer
Understanding Temperature Delta (or DT)

In the world of cooling (especially watercooling), the term ‘Delta’ is used for determining the performance of the cooling solution in question. This is the temperature of the water in the loop as compared to the temperature of the ambient room air. This is important not to confuse these temperatures with your CPU reported temps in CoreTemp, SpeedFan, RealTemp, etc., as these readings are reported from the CPU die thermal sensors at any single second, but do not represent the actual coolant temps. The temperature of the loop water is the basis that we use for watercooling performance evaluation.

It should also be noted that it is impossible to have a cooling delta that is equal to or less than zero with normal air or liquid cooling as you are using ambient air to cool the loop coolant, and the coolant itself can never be equal to, or lower than ambient (due to those pesky laws of physics). But, as you would expect, the lower the delta, the better the cooling performance of the loop.

As you add additional load (heat in watts) such as an overclock to the cooler, you’ll see the delta rise, regardless the fan speed employed. Of course, the lower the fan speed, the steeper the angle of the delta change due to a reduction in cooling potential – lower airflow exchanging heat from the radiator. Changing a cooling delta can be done in one of a few ways – fan speed and airflow over the radiator, radiator size or number of radiators and flow rate. This is why faster fan speed relates to a lower delta in this chart example. For more detail on watercooling delta, please visit the section on calculating TDP and Delta in the Watercooling Sticky, located in the forums.
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