Tubing in H2O Cooled Computers
Author: Rogerdugans
Editor:
Summary:
Use copper pipes instead of normal tubing in your water cooling system.
I recently found a problem in my main water cooled computer: a kink in the cheap vinyl tubing on the inlet side of my pump!! I used the classic “repair” for kinked tubing of putting cable ties on it to force it back into a more round shape and watched my temps drop down a few degrees Celsius, but I didn’t like the solution: no “elegance” to it as a part of the system. So it had to go.

I often try different things with my system which is part of the reason I use cheap tubing in the first place, but it also meant that any solution I found would have to accommodate fairly frequent changes and be cost effective in case I needed to completely redo the tubing.

Tygon and ClearFlex are the favored types of tubing and not all that expensive but they seemed a bit to….well ordinary. And I like to be different! So I decided to give Copper Tubing a shot!

I have worked with copper tube a little before and knew that I would need some way to bend the tubing without kinking it and adding even more flow restriction to the system- the whole point is getting RID of restrictions after all- so I bought some ˝” copper tube and went looking for a tool that would bend the tube correctly. Much to my chagrin, this was not as easy as I thought.



I ended up at a local plumbing supply store and described what I needed to do with the copper tube. They knew exactly what I was looking for and promptly looked up the price from Rigid………around $100!!!!!!! After further discussion they realized that a Tube Bending Spring would meet all my needs (variable radius including pretty tight.) And it would cost about $95 less.

Tool in hand….and copper tube in the trunk I headed home to redo my tubing in copper. I tried a few different methods of laying out my bends but ended up deciding that using the old calibrated eyeballs worked best for me: I used a tubing cutter to cut the tube (and ream it out) to engths that were about 6” longer than I thought I would need. After looking at the inside of the tube ends I noticed that even the reaming tool on the tube cutter was NOT removing all the displaced material (old and dull tool) so I used a dremel to clean things up nicely. I bent each piece of tube using the spring, which is just a very heavy duty spring of the correct ID and here is where I learned my first lesson: the last few inches of tube are hard to bend!!!!! A large exacto knife was a very good fit on the inside of the tube however and saved me from wasting much copper. Whew!

Starting at one end and working towards the next connection (my system runs pump to rad to cpu to pump) I tried to bend the tube using the largest radius bends that would fit and cut off any excess after the last bend. Now, many of you may have already thought of a couple of the downfalls with using copper tubing:
Corrosion
Lack of flexibility
Connecting to components
Vibration

Corrosion is addressed exactly as it is with other components- additives. Not much of an issue anyway, really, as copper is the most common material for water blocks. The other three issues were all solved in one fell swoop in this system:Tubing connections.
˝” vinyl tubing fits quite well over ˝” copper tubing after a bit of hot water soaking and eliminates vibration from one component to another, adds some flexibility for removal/installation of water blocks, pci cards and so on. Connections are as easy as they can be too.


Results:

The performance results from using copper tube instead of some form of plastic seem to be negligible- I did see a further slight reduction in temperature: at 35c more than 36c while with the tubing I was at 36 more often. But this may be attributable more to flow restriction from mild kinks than anything else.

Adjusting bits and pieces inside the case is a bit more of a pain now: while the flexible tube connections allow some movement it is not anywhere near what can be done with a system of vinyl/Tygon, etc. But I can get in there and change pci cards as needed, if a bit slowly. I ran all my copper tube in the most direct paths possible to reduce the amount of tubing used but I plan on experiment more in the future and trying different layouts- at least one will maximize motherboard access and I will be trying at least one with some coils and fancy looking stuff (maybe with leds too.) I am not positive what effect longer copper tube will have on performance though: standard water cooling wisdom says that shorter tubing is better for pump performance but there may be some additional cooling effect from having a large surface area of copper.

I am very pleased with how my copper tubing experiments have gone so far:
dropped my temps in readiness for summer
tried something a bit different from the normal water cooling practices
It looks good?

My only regret at this point is that my digital camera is somewhat broken and I have only two pics to include.

rogerdugans

Big thanks to Rogerdugans for this article!!

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