PPCs Matt - October 18th, 2017
One of my most frequently asked questions is “What do I need to start watercooling my PC?” Unfortunately the answer isn’t as easy as I’d like it to be, but I’ll do my best to provide the basics to component selection for a watercooled PC build.
There are six main components to a watercooling loop, besides the PC hardware itself.
There are thousands of watercooling parts out there, but I will just cover a few variations of the main components that are used in watercooling.
Waterblocks are the components that are mounted directly to your hardware and transfer the heat from your hardware, to the liquid in your loop. Waterblocks are commmonly designed for CPUs, GPUs, and various motherboard components. To find blocks for your hardware you will need to know exactly what components you have, search for blocks that are compatible with your hardware, and double check the specifications of the waterblocks to ensure compatibility. One useful tool for finding waterblocks is EKWB’s cooling configurator. You can find all the blocks PPCs has to offer here.
Radiators are the key component in transferring the heat from the liquid to the outside air with the help of fans. Typical radiators are designed for 120mm or 140mm fans, although there are many other shapes and sizes of radiators available. Not only do you want to make sure the radiator that you pick is the correct size but you will also look at the radiator’s “FPI” or “fins per inch”. The size and FPI of the radiator both affect the overall performance of the radiator. As a general rule of thumb you usually want at least 1 - 120mm x 30mm thick radiator for every component you want to cool. So if you had one CPU and two GPUs, you would want at least 3 - 120mm radiators or 1 - 360mm radiator. Keep in mind that this is just a baseline for cooling capacity of a watercooling loop, and it is often a good idea to try to have more cooling capacity than necessary. You can use this in depth review of many current radiators on the market in order to help you figure out what will work best in your system. You can also find all of the radiators that we carry here.
The two most commonly used pumps in watercooling today are the D5 and the DDC pumps. Both offer sufficient head pressure and flow rates for typical watercooling builds featuring multiple radiators and blocks. The D5 is slightly larger than a DDC pump and offers higher flow rates, while being moderately quieter during operation. The DDC pump has more head pressure than the D5 and is slightly smaller in size, however it is typically louder and runs hotter than a D5 pump. Both pumps come in several different versions from PWM, Vario and DC voltage controlled. It’s always wise to do a little research on which specific pump is best for your hardware by watching and reviews. You can find all of the watercooling pumps PPCs sells here.
Reservoirs are very useful for filling and bleeding your loop; not to mention they usually look pretty cool as well. Reservoirs come in all shapes and sizes but the most common are tube reservoirs and bay reservoirs. You can also combine your reservoir with your pump using certain pump tops and reservoirs. Preconfigured pump/reservoir combos are also available here.
Fittings can get really confusing purely because there are several types and many different sizes. The main fittings you should consider for your loop are barb fittings, compression, rigid compression, and angled adapters. Barbs, compression, and rigid compression fittings are all meant to connect your tubing with your components. Barb and compression fittings are used for soft, flexible, tubing, while rigid compression fittings are used for rigid tubing such as PETG or acrylic. You will always want to be sure that your tubing ID and OD match the ID and OD of your fittings. Angled adapters are very commonly used in builds to help make routing the tubing easier and cleaner. They come in many different varieties like 90° rotaries, 90° dual rotaries, 45° adapters, extensions, and much more. It’s nearly impossible to be able to determine exactly what fittings will be required for a certain build, but careful planning can help you get an estimate of what you need. You will need two rigid compression, compression or barb fittings for each component in your loop. For angled adapters, you can try drawing a mock diagram of what you intend your build to look like to help identify the areas where you might want to use angled adapters. I highly recommend that you browse our wide selection of fittings here in order to get a better idea of what options you have available to you when planning your loop.
When selecting the tubing for your watercooling loop you typically start by deciding between rigid or soft tubing. Both are still widely used and offer different features. Soft tubing is typically much easier to install and makes maintenance easier. Rigid tubing is commonly used for its aesthetics although it also doesn’t break down or change color as easily when using colored coolants. Rigid tubing can either be bent or angled adapters can be used to route the tubing where it needs to go. Soft tubing also benefits from the use of angled adapters, as they can help the tubing make a tighter bend. No matter which type of tubing you decide to use, always make sure that your fittings are compatible with the tubing. You can find our complete selection of watercooling tubing here.
Although this was a very brief run down of the various components that make up a watercooling loop, I hope it will at least provide enough clarity for beginners to be able to start looking at what components they want to use for their builds. If anyone has further questions about watercooling and what components to use, don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself, as well as the community by visiting any of the links to our various social media platforms below: