My first foray into watercooling (aka yet another desktop thread)

Discussion in 'Desktop Hardware' started by n=1, Dec 8, 2014.

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  1. n=1

    n=1 YEAH SCIENCE!

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    EDIT: For completed loop, skip right to post #36

    I'm going to start by saying that all I did was a dinky CPU loop, nothing too impressive so don't get your hopes up. However if you're curious to know what building a custom loop is like for a first time watercooling noob and care for my <del>ramblings</del> thoughts, read on. :)

    Since the entire thing is far too tl;dr to fit into one post, I'm going to break it up into several posts to make it easier to manage, and also so those of you who just want PICS NAO can skip right ahead to the last post and ignore everything else.

    Quick background: desktop in sig finished around end of September. Here I have some pics of the finished build. The Enthoo Primo is an extremely watercooling friendly case, and it just didn't feel right to have a Corsair H110 CLC as the only "watercooling" component. Plus I was drooling at the aesthetics of the many watercooling builds, and it just seemed like a great way to kill some time and tinker with stuff, which I enjoy more than using the computer sometimes. :eek:

    After spending god knows how many hours researching online, picking out all the technical drawings and doing a "mockup" with cardboard and measuring tape, I finally took the plunge over the Black Friday weekend. First I had to gather all the necessary materials:
    <[​IMG]

    Parts List
    Alphacool Nexxos XT45 420mm radiator
    Koolance COV-RP450 D5 pump/reservoir combo top + BDY-TK80/120 tube res
    Koolance 380i CPU block
    Koolance QD4 quick disconnects
    Primochill Advanced LRT 3/8ID 5/8OD tubing
    Swiftech MCP655 variable-speed pump (rebranded Laing D5 vario)
    Deionized water and a secret ingredient which I will touch upon from Sigma-Aldrich (perks of being a chemist :D)
    and god knows how many Bitspower fittings

    If you care about why I picked these components check the spoiler. (tl;dr warning)
    For my loop I decided to go the "max flow, lowest restriction" route, especially since I'll be using quite a few pairs of quick disconnects, which can add significant flow restriction if you pick the wrong kind. The XT45 is an excellent all round radiator with very low restriction that has superb performance regardless of fan speed. The Koolance 380i block might not be the lowest restriction, but offers great performance and is fairly consistent from one mount to another.

    As for the pump, seems like Laing is the only player these days, with Eheim and Iwaki becoming increasingly rare. The choice was pretty much between the DDC and D5, and it was easy. A picture is worth 1000 words. As for why I went for Swiftech, wanted a D5 without a tach sensor.

    When deciding between a bay or tube res, it seemed that bay res in general are harder to fill and drain, and have a harder time with bleeding the loop, so I stuck with tube. Then came the question of whether to keep separate pump and reservoir mounts or use a pump+res combo. Ultimately decided to go the combo route since it made loop planning much easier, plus none of the 3 pump mounting points in the Enthoo Primo case were ideal for my setup. The Koolance D5 pump top (COV-RP450) comes with a pump body cover, and offers very good performance for the money, so another easy choice.

    Primochill's Advanced LRT tubing contains no plasticizers. You don't want plasticizers. And to wrap it up, Bitswpoer has become the time-proven gold standard when it comes to fittings. They do come with a matching price tag, but dammit if I'm doing a custom loop I'm doing it right. Besdies no point trying to save $100 on fittings only for them to leak and ruin a $3500 computer. And with that let's carry on...

    Before I could install however, I had to fix a problem:
    [​IMG]

    You see the case PCI bracket plate is riveted to the rear case plate, and it is just a hair too wide for the Koolance bracket so the screw holes don't align. Had to grind about 1mm off the Koolance bracket to make sure the M5 screws I bought would thread through.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2015
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  2. n=1

    n=1 YEAH SCIENCE!

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    The Installation
    Started out by mounting the reservoir since this would set the tone for the overall layout of the loop. Since Koolance was too cheap to supply their own screws, I bought some M5 strip-resistant T25 Torx screws from Amazon and some wing nuts from Home Depot:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Those wing nuts were a real lifesaver, not sure how I would've tightened the ridiculously hard to reach screws on the other side otherwise.

    With the reservoir done, I proceeded to install the radiator. What I thought would be the simplest part of the loop installation, a mere 30 minute job, turned out to be a 2 hour nightmare. It turns out you can look at blueprints and do mockups all you want, but there's never a subsitute for the real thing. I ran into my first snag right off the bat here:
    [​IMG]

    See those 2 port plugs? Yeah so turns out Alphacool's "cool feature" of including 6 ports wasn't so cool after all. The plug bumps right up against the mounting bracket if I try to slide the radiator underneath, so this is as far back as the radiator would go. Thank god I didn't opt for the 480 radiator because I would've been mad beyond rad. No way it would've fit, look at how much of a close call the 420 is already.
    [​IMG]

    Once this was settled I ran into another problem -- damn thing is too thick with fans pre-mounted to thread through the case, so unless I wanted to tear everything down IT WAS NOT GOING INTO THE CASE WITH THE FANS ALREADY MOUNTED PERIOD. Fine, so I mounted the rad, and then began a 90 minute journey to hell. MY GOD was installing the fan closest to the front panel an absolutely miserable experience. I may as well have been blind because I couldn't see a godamn thing, and one screw stubbornly refused to meet its destiny until I finally figured out the fan wires were pushing the fan just a fraction of a millimeter off-center, and so I had to undo the other 3 screws and remount this fornicator of moms. Finally after much sweat and enough swearing to make a sailor blush, I finished the rad installation. Didn't help I was doing this at 2am so I had to keep my swearing on the down low.
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Moving on, the CPU bracket was a breeze compared to the radiator, although I did have to remove the retention mechanism (secured with T20 Torx screws) to instead the threading posts for the CPU block:
    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
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  3. n=1

    n=1 YEAH SCIENCE!

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    Finishing the Loop & Leak Testing

    I must apologize for only having a picture of the finished loop here. I did try to take some pictures along the way but I had to change my loop quite a few times due to space issues or ridiculous tight bends or just because "it didn't look/feel right", and it becamse too time consuming to snap some shots every step along the way. Anyhow...
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    This will probably be very different from what you're used to seeing, mainly due to the inclusion of 3 QD4 quick disconnects. But hear me out:

    From the start I planned to make my loop as "modular" as possible, so each component could be checked and replaced individually without having to drain and bleed the loop everytime, and so I went a bit nuts with the quick disconnects. The basic idea is that each major component (CPU, GPU, radiator) will be isolated with 2 quick disconnects, so each could be removed individually without affecting anything else. Since I definitely plan on watercooling the GPUs as well, it made sense to me to have 2 quick disconnects on the radiator side, since the top 420 rad will be connected to both the CPU and future GPU blocks. Also, the radiator's weight is much better supported by the mounting bracket, so an extra 260 grams (130 gram for each quick disconnect) wouldn't make a difference. But adding 130 grams of weight to a poorly supported GPU block just didn't seem like a great idea.

    And before you say it, I know mating the CPU block outlet with the rear port of the radiator would've made more sense, but unfortunately those Dom Plats are just too damn tall, and without that silver those sticks look ugly, so I routed the outlet to the front port of the radiator.

    Now that the loop is finished, it's time to fire 'er up for leak testing. But let me digress for a quick minute. Remember the secret ingredient I mentioned in the first post? It was fluorescein:
    [​IMG]

    I'd be lying if I said I didn't add fluorescein for some added bling, but it's also extremely valuable in helping to detect leaks because the chemical is just so ridiculously fluorescent. Seriously, this is what fluorescein-doped water looks like under ambient lighting:
    [​IMG]

    And UV (blacklight) completely lights it up:
    [​IMG]

    With fluorescent deioinzed water in hand, I proceeded to top up the res and flick the switch on an HDD power adapter I bought a long time ago that came with a Molex good for 24W (yay for not having to jump PSU).
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I started the leak test at about 8:40pm last night. For the observant among you however you may have noticed the res size got smaller. Indeed just before I filled the res I switched out the 120mm/237mL res for a shorter 80mm/157mL res, mainly because I didn't feel comfortable adding too much weight to what seemed to be relatively fragile Koolance mounting brackets. This however turned out to be a mistake which I will touch upon a bit later. For now I'm just going to say that I put back in the larger res at about 1am, and when I woke up this morning around 8 no leaks have sprung (knock on wood). If you count the 4 hours in between switching out the reservoirs, that makes it 11 hours. So far so good.

    Well boys and girls, this is why you leak test for at least 24 hours if not longer. When I got back, everything looked peachy and towels around every single joint was perfectly dry. Just as I was about to call it a day I noticed some moisture on the paper towel I wrapped around the reservoir base. Turns out where the reservoir meets the base it was leaking. A very, very, very slow leak. So slow in fact it took more than 12 hours to show up. Will have to drain the loop and reseat the reservoir it seems, or might need new O-rings... At least I have some motivation to change out the bottom fans, which is now long overdue.

    to be continued...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2015
  4. pathfindercod

    pathfindercod Notebook Deity

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    Nice... I'll be following :) I'll be glad to lend and mental help I can if you might have any question I can help with. I do t k ow everything but did learn a lot from my current build.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014
  5. J.Dre

    J.Dre Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Cool! (Pun intended.)

    I'll be following as well.
     
  6. D2 Ultima

    D2 Ultima Livestreaming Master

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    Chemist buys watercooling loop that looks like mad scientist chemical vat. #MakesSenseBro XD
     
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  7. pathfindercod

    pathfindercod Notebook Deity

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    Man make sure you triple clean and then triple clean those alpha rads. Trty are about the most dirtiest rads from a factory.
     
  8. n=1

    n=1 YEAH SCIENCE!

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    Oh yeah the rad was flushed with hot (~50C) tap water for 30 minutes in each direction (1 hour total). Saw a lot of junk accumulate on the port plugs which I promptly cleaned. Then did the radiator dance wih deionized water to flush out the tap water. Water was sparkingly clean by this point and so I stopped after another rinse.
     
  9. CptXabaras

    CptXabaras Overclocked, Overvolted, Liquid Cooled

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    Following :D
     
  10. n=1

    n=1 YEAH SCIENCE!

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    Second 24h leak test done, and thankfully not a drop spilled this time. Promptly fired up Prime95 to test temps and they're pretty good. Running small FFT, 3 cores run around 65C, 2 cores at 68C, and a single core at 72C. This is with 4930K @ 4.5GHz/1.39V. Pretty confident it's not a mount issue since the single hot core always did run hotter even when I had the H110 AIO. IIRC this represents about a 10-12C reduction in temps.

    The computer is now so quiet, that the pump itself has become the loudest component. The actual pump itself isn't loud, but because I didn't pay too much attention to decoupling the pump, the case now emits a humming sound from pump vibrations. More work is still needed.
     
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