This blog post is part of a series on my experience building the perfect computer. This article covers all of the water-cooling components you need outside of the tubing.
For information on your tubing choices, see Water Cooling the Perfect Computer, Part 1.
There are two families of water-cooling parts: those made with aluminum and those made with anything else (usually copper that is sometimes plated with nickel).
Aluminum parts usually are cheaper and slightly less effective than copper-based ones. Mixing any metal with aluminum should be avoided at all costs. When water contacts both metals, it causes galvanic corrosion, making the aluminum corrosion rate significantly accelerated. This can sometimes be challenging – especially when getting parts from different parts of the world with insufficient documentation.
In my first build, I used a flow meter from Bykski. The site that I bought it from seemed to claim there was no contact with water, while the face was made of aluminum. After noticing some substantial corrosion in my loop after a few months, I did a little more research on all of the parts that I used – and I discovered that it was indeed made entirely out of aluminum.
One thing to look for is any parts made with plastics, especially polyoxymethylene (known as POM). This is a great alternative because components like temperature sensors can be used in both aluminum and copper-based loops. To be clear, all materials will corrode slightly over time. However, it should do so evenly and gracefully.
I originally got a Hardware Labs Radiator. I tried the EKWB radiator, which I like a lot more. You can completely disassemble it, meaning that you could theoretically take it apart to clean it.
I would recommend that you don't leave either side of your radiator wholly exposed – it is too easy to accidentally bend a fin, which is very annoying. While fans will likely cover one side, you can cover the other side with a fan grill.
Several parameters measure radiators. Unfortunately, each parameter interrelates with the other to determine a radiator's ability to cool, given your build's specifics. Hence, you have to understand all of them to figure out what you are getting yourself into.
The first metric customarily used to classify a radiator is its length. This also tells you the fan size that it is meant to use since the length will be divisible by the associated fan size (120, 140, etc.).
This is determined by the size of the compatible fan with the radiator. There are a few aspects of the radiator that you should understand:
Fins per Inch (FPI)
A thick radiator (one measuring 40mm or more) will be more efficient at cooling.
The number of fins per square inch (FPI) determines the cooling surface area available on a radiator. Thicker radiators will generally have fewer FPI since the increased thickness makes up for fewer fins. While more FPI might sound good in theory, the higher the FPI, the more static pressure required to push air through and the louder it is.
Fins per Inch (FPI)
The FPI of a radiator determines how difficult it is to push air through.
| SE 360 || 22 |
| PE 360 || 19 |
| XE 360 || 16 |
The prevailing wisdom is that fans should pull air into your case from the front and push air out of your case in the back and/or top.
Additionally, many believe fans should be behind your radiator if it is placed in the front (i.e., towards the inside of your case) and in front of your radiator if placed on top (i.e., towards the outside of your case).
This, in part, is due to a dust issue where if you push air out of the radiator, dust can get trapped between the radiator and the fans.
I did a lot of research on which fittings to choose.
Unfortunately, many of the most popular fitting brands don't have a very good catalog with all of their available parts in English – and a lot of the time, they come from China, which means shipping and return times can be very long.
At first, I went with Phanteks Fittings to match my case. From looks alone, these were by far my absolute favorite as they are exceptionally well designed. However, I did have one leak on me, and since I couldn't find many other people on forums talking about their long-term performance, I decided to go in a different direction.
The Thermaltake Pacific is a new type of fittings with four O-rings and very high reviews on Amazon. I ordered a set, and they seemed nice, but Thermaltake has such a bad reputation in the water-cooling community that I decided that I didn't want to risk it.
Bykski has a wide range of fittings – and I almost went with them. However, I have had uneven experience with Bykski as a brand, a lot of their marketing material is in Chinese, and I had an incident where I accidentally used some aluminum parts in my loop.
Finally, I landed on PrimoChill. PrimoChill is an American company that has a healthy number of options. They also have a variety of options for color coating.
Bending Rigid Tubes
There are already a lot of resources out there about how to bend rigid tubes, so I thought I would just share some of my experiences:
Buy a heat gun that you can set a specific temperature on. I have found that 300° F works nicely.
- Making the ends nice takes some serious practice. I used ...
I set my temperature gun for 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which seemed to be the perfect temperature.
- Make sure to clean up the ends of each cut. I tried many different tools, but the combination that I found to work the best was to use a piper reamer and then a deburring tool to clean it up. When using the reamer, use the smallest amount of pressure possible to avoid cutting into the ends and making them uneven. I also tried PrimoChill's finishing bit, but I had difficulty not digging in and causing it to be inconsistent.
Since I am using this computer as my work computer, I needed a coolant that would perform well long-term without clogging up my components.