JCL Energy Journal

“Let’s Get Physical” (An Inside Look at a Crypto Mining Rig)

“Bitcoin, and the ideas behind it, will be a disrupter to the traditional notions of currency. In the end, currency will be better for it.” -Edmund Moy (38th Director of the United States Mint)

The Physical Structure of a Crypto Mining Rig

Last week, the JCL Energy Journal took a look at cryptocurrency mining. Crypto is a global phenomenon that most of us have heard of, and many are jumping onboard and investing. Independent investors and corporations alike are looking into building “mining farms.” However, if you want to make a lot of money it is much more complicated than just connecting your laptop to the crypto network. Productive mining sites build crypto mining rigs. The most important physical aspects are: the software, the actual mining “rig,” a system for heat management, and the hefty power requirements. We took a closer look at each of these considerations. Here’s what we found out:

The Software:

Before mining can occur, you need the software that interacts with the crypto mining network and the blockchain. Luckily, a lot of software options are available for free. There are several options for Bitcoin mining software, and they work with all the “standard” operating systems. The Forbes Advisor did an article reviewing all the best options for mining software that can give more in-depth information on the pros and cons of some of the most successful softwares.

Depending on your needs and your rig, there are several options to choose from. Beginners may benefit from using a “cloud-based system” like ECOS. With the ECOS software, miners participate without setting up a physical rig. However, ECOS also requires you to buy a mining contract, so your low costs on physical aspects are counterbalanced by lower profits long-term. 

More advanced miners or larger mining operations generally prefer to choose a more powerful system with lots of customizable options. CGMiner and Awesome Miner are two popular options. CGMiner is actually one of the oldest crypto mining software around, and enables you to mine not only Bitcoin but some other altcoins as well.

The Physical Mining Rig

The software you choose will be influenced by the setup, or “rig”, you will use to mine crypto. Some people choose to use their current devices, such as gaming systems, along with the cloud-based software for very small mining operations. However, more and more individuals and companies are choosing to build mining rigs. These rigs range from small setups in your home to large scale operations that take up far more space than you have in your home. You can see some examples of these mining sites from around the world here.

According to an article put out by BitDegree.org, these are the main components of the physical mining rig:

  • The Motherboard
  • The Graphic(s) Card/The Processing System
  • The Power Supply
  • The Cooling System
  • The Frame

Let’s take a look specifically at the processing systems, the power supply system, and the cooling systems in a crypto mining rig.

The Processing Unit

To build a mining rig, there are a few choices to consider: CPU, GPU, and ASIC. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. Essentially, this is a typical computer processor, like you have in your laptop. CPU mining is by far the easiest to get started. All you need is software and your computer. There are many drawbacks, however. The electricity requirement causes a huge spike in your electricity bill. In addition, CPUs easily overheat and shut down. This option becomes far less popular as crypto mining grows.

GPU, on the other hand, is a far more popular choice for a mining rig. GPU stands for Graphics Processing unit. These processors are far more suitable for mining crypto. However, they can be expensive, so getting started may have a hefty price tag depending on the size of your mining operation. They also require huge amounts of electricity to run, and need consistent maintenance and constant cooling to keep them running.

The third option is an ASIC device, which differs slightly from CPU and GPU because it is a standalone device instead of an integrated processing unit. ASIC stands for Application-Specific Integrated Circuits. ASIC devices were designed specifically with the intention to mine cryptocurrency, so they are the most efficient way to go. The drawback is, however, that they are hard to come by, and generally very expensive. They are also controversial because they are so powerful that they tend to affect the rigs of other miners who are using CPU and GPU. 

Once you’ve selected the processing unit you want to use, you need to figure out just where all that electricity is going to come from.

Power Supply

Many people overlook the power supply for a mining rig at first. I mean, you just plug everything in and go, right? Wrong. The Power Supply Unit (PSU) of a crypto mining rig is a critical part of the process. It is extremely important to choose the correct PSU for your rig. A good rule of thumb is to see what wattage your system runs at, and add 20% for a cushion. If you have a 1000 watt processor, for example, you would need a PSU that is 1200 watts. Having that extra cushion helps your PSU run longer and with more stability.

Unfortunately, the best PSU in the world won’t help if you don’t have access to the electricity to run it. Cryptocurrency mining operations require enormous amounts of electricity. Luckily, the JCL Energy team are experts in the electrical transformer industry! This aspect of crypto is right in our wheelhouse. In May of 2022, the JCL team supplied and helped set up a large crypto mining site nearby our home-base in Western PA. We understand the specific requirements of a crypto mining farm. There are a large number of technical details involved when choosing the correct electrical transformer unit and specification for a job. Essentially, to mine crypto on a large scale you need a main transformer onsite to begin the process of converting incoming power into the correct voltage. 

Choosing a Transformer

When choosing the correct transformer, it is important to consider four things: The Primary Voltage, the Secondary Voltage, The Power Rating, and the Transformer Type. The primary voltage is the input coming from the utility lines. The secondary voltage is the output from the transformer that will power your site. The power rating is the overall power the transformer will provide, expressed in kVa (kilo volt-amps). There are two main transformer types used in crypto mining- isolation transformers and autotransformers.
If you plan on starting up a large-scale mining operation, work with a company like JCL Energy to correctly choose equipment. Our team members are experts that can help you through every step of the process to make sure you get exactly what you need for your mining site.

Heat Management

Needless to say, between the amount of power needed and the processing machines used, the whole operation produces an enormous amount of heat. Think about how much heat a regular laptop can put out. Now imagine 1000 laptops together in a box, running at peak performance. Things can get hot pretty fast! When a mining system overheats, it slows down the hash rate, which is the speed at which the rig processes the algorithms. Less speed = less crypto. Overheating also decreases how efficiently power is used, and can ultimately lead to a much shorter lifespan for the processing units. Clearly, a cooling system is necessary to a mining rig.

There are two types of cooling systems used in crypto mining, air cooling and immersion cooling. Air cooling is just what it sounds like; high-velocity fans force air across the components to cool the entire rig. Added air chillers increase the efficiency.

Immersion cooling, on the other hand, requires submerging the entire rig in a thermally-conductive liquid. There are a few different methods for immersion cooling. Regardless of which you use, it is an extremely effective technique. It works about 10 times better than the air cooling process, and some of the heat is recaptured and used to power the rig. Most experts agree that immersion cooling is the optimal method to use for crypto mining, if your budget and your project site allows for it.

Will You “Get Physical” With a Crypto Mining Rig?

As crypto continues to grow, the requirements to “get in the game” grow as well. Gone are the days when an individual could make good money with nothing more than their laptop and some software. Mining operations keep increasing in scale, and it is increasingly more common to hear about mining farms starting up around the world. If you ever decide that large scale crypto mining is for you, call our team at JCL Energy. We’ll help you get started to power your project!


Sources

“AIR COOLING vs IMMERSION COOLING.” EZ Blockchain, https://ezblockchain.net/article/immersion-cooling-vs-air-cooling-technologies-in-crypto-mining/.  Accessed 15 June 2022.

“Crypto Power Guide.” Raptor Power, https://raptorpower.us/about-us/ultimate-crypto-power-guide.  Accessed 15 June 2022.

Gkritsi, Eliza, et al. “What Does a Crypto Mining Farm Look Like?” CoinDesk, CoinDesk, 21 Mar. 2022, https://www.coindesk.com/layer2/miningweek/2022/03/21/what-does-a-crypto-mining-farm-look-like-striking-photos-from-siberia-to-spain/.

Rodeck, David. “Best Bitcoin Mining Software Of 2022 – Forbes Advisor.” Forbes Advisor, 26 May 2022, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/cryptocurrency/best-bitcoin-mining-software/.

Turner, Brian, et al. “Best Mining CPU for 2022: The Best Processors for Mining Cryptocurrency | TechRadar.” TechRadar, TechRadar pro, 11 Nov. 2021, https://www.techradar.com/best/mining-cpu.