Bitcoin Mining in a University Dorm: A Cooler BTC Story


The humble university dorm is a place for undergraduates to study, relax, make new friends, have wild dorm parties, and of course, mine Bitcoin (BTC).

Blake Kaufman, a graduate student in market research and a self-proclaimed “data guy,” connected the S9 Bitcoin miner to the Bitcoin network.

He won the S9 miner in a raffle at a mid-Michigan bitcoin meetup and immediately started learning how to use it.

During a video call with Cointelegraph, Blake joked that he knew nothing about mining before the lottery. Convinced, he ran to the nearest place, offering a power cord and ethernet connection to test his father’s office.

“We turned it on, we didn’t hear a thing [an S9] before. And if you know what, when they start up, it immediately cranks up to 100% and we’re all in the room – oh my gosh – that thing is loud! We worked for about two hours and we walked into that office and it was hot.

The hot and noisy difference triggered his brain. Michigan’s winter was fast approaching, and her university was giving away free electricity. Why not mine Bitcoin from your dorm room and use waste heat? There was one small but audible hurdle to overcome. “How can we fix the noise,” he asked.

“I just looked online, like how to unroot an S9, and this picture of a fridge popped up on Pinterest. My dad and I said, “Let’s build it.” Why not?’ So we bought a $5 cooler on Facebook Marketplace and kept the pipes in our attic and spent about two hours drilling holes and it worked.

The pair built a Bitcoin mining cooler that now resides in Blake’s dorm room. The finished product wouldn’t look out of place in any dorm room and is “actually quieter than an air conditioner,” he explains.

Two angles of a Bitcoin miner covered with a refrigerator.

But don’t the university have rules against this sort of thing? Will a power-hungry bitcoin miner disrupt the university’s electricity load?

“So a miner is about 900 watts per hour, a mini-fridge is about 60-100 watts per day. So it draws a decent amount of electricity there. I looked through all the rules and nowhere does it say you can’t mine Bitcoin or use a Bitcoin miner. If they say you can’t do it, I’d say, OK, you didn’t say I couldn’t.”

In short, Blake doesn’t break any rules. Moreover, a miner in the dormitory of a large university with thousands of students is unlikely to arouse suspicion. It’s an ode to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper’s famous saying, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to grant permission.”

The ASIC S9 is now spinning and is about 0.000001 BTC or 100 satoshis – the smallest amount of bitcoin – per Bitcoin block that happens every 10 minutes on average. In fiat-money terms, it translates to “about a dollar a day.” It’s a small amount, but not to be sniffed at as a student.

Blake’s total cost to start his Bitcoin mining venture was a cooler box and some cables for under $20, and he can probably use the cooler again in the summer.

Inside the mining refrigerator.

Blake’s next challenge, by the way, is figuring out what to do when the weather improves and the mercury rises. Peak summer days in Michigan can hit 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). As a result, the outside air temperature will not cool the miner, which is an important part of his work:

“So I’m going to have to find something, maybe put it in an ice cube tray and then something like that. I don’t know yet.”

Blake is already considering using a Bitcoin miner to heat his family’s home after graduation. The idea, Blake explains, is to test whether he can offset gas costs at home and make it profitable. “It’s just unfortunate because the cost of our electricity in Michigan is $0.14 per kilowatt hour.”

As shown in dark purple, Michigan’s energy costs are relatively high in the US. Source: chooseenergy.com

Electricity and heating costs are higher in Michigan than in energy-producing states like Texas. Using waste heat from Bitcoin mining could be a way to offset energy costs.

Related: Bitcoin shitcoin machine: mining BTC with biogas

Indeed, tapping into the waste heat of a Bitcoin miner is a growing trend, especially common for home or “chicken miners” as they are known. Bitcoin Gandalf of Brains Marketing Group told Cointelegraph:

“Chicken nest” miners form the basis of the hashrate of the Bitcoin network. It’s incredible to see the different ways they’ve mellowed. They provide an invaluable service in keeping the hash rate decentralized.

Armed with his Bitcoin knowledge, Blake has since tried to introduce the orange pill to his classmates and even his professors. Unfortunately, some of them believe that Bitcoin is a scam. He took it upon himself to set the record straight:

“I email teachers to say, hey, what are the office hours? Let’s talk. You can’t just come out and say Bitcoin in the room is a scam.”

Meanwhile, S9 hangs out in his dorm, contributing to Blake’s heavily supported network and generating 100% “free money”.

Well, “Except I’m paying $30,000 a year in tuition, but it’s 100% free electricity,” he joked.