Introduction: Budget Cpu Liquid Cooler

My project started when I helped a friend build a high end liquid cooling system for his computer. I had thought that I could do the same thing for a fraction of the cost. This is how I made my budget cpu liquid cooler that is both functional and looks great.

Step 1: The Pump

My system is built around the Corsair H80i liquid cooling system. It was a closed loop system that works excellent on its own, but it just wasn't aesthetically pleasing. I bought the pump second hand off a friend for $80.

Step 2: The Components

Components needed for the build

-Corsair H80i liquid cooler
-Barbed hose fittings
-1/2" vinyl tubing
-Fluid reservoir

Step 3: Dissecting the H80i

First I cut the flexible black hoses off of the pump and radiator, then drained all the fluid from both and set them aside.

Step 4: Building the Reservoir

For the reservoir, I purchased a kids water bottle for $7. The plan was to cut the top and bottom off and create an all acrylic reservoir.

Step 5: Building the Reservoir Caps

The caps were built from 1/4" acrylic I had laying around the shop. I didn't think that 1/4" was thick enough so I tried laminating two pieces together with epoxy. All of the bubbles were squeezed out of the epoxy and dried perfectly clear. I then cut the acrylic pieces into the desired shape. It turned out looking really good.

Step 6: Back to the Drawing Board

The laminated acrylic looked great, but when I started drilling it for the fittings, it started to de-bond. I gave up on that idea and turned to some 0.125" aluminum I also had in the shop. I cut it in the same shape as before and drilled and tapped for the fittings. To fasten it together, I drilled and countersunk 3 holes around the outside perimeter of the reservoir tube. I then cut 3 aluminum tubes to the same length as the acrylic and tapped both ends for a 10-32 countersunk screw. Next, I sealed the ends of the acrylic with clear silicone and assembled it all together. Then, I set it off to the side to set up and dry.

Step 7: Case Modifications #1

The case I have doesn't leave much space for a bulky radiator with dual fans. Some planning went into this step to fit everything to be effective, yet aesthetically pleasing. I also wanted to do some better cable management to clean up the look.

Step 8: Case Modifications #2

After I removed every component out of the case I cleaned it out completely with compressed air. I then took the motherboard and installed the pump.

Step 9: Case Modifications #3

The location I found that would best suit the radiator was in the front case fan mount. The problem was the hard drive bays were in the way. Since I only have two hard drives I have them installed on the top 2 racks and there was plenty of room underneath. In order to fit everything, the front hard drive rack had to be trimmed. In order to keep the structural rigidity of the rack, I used the same technique using aluminum tubes and tapped the ends to screw everything together. Once it was installed, I started to put all the components back in and clean up the wiring.

Step 10: Bringing It All Together

The last installation was the reservoir. I installed it so the top level was slightly higher than the pump to ease in priming the pump. I then cut the tubing to length, installed it and fastened it with zip ties.

Step 11: Leak Testing

After everything was back together, I filled the reservoir with distiller water, primed the pump and powered the computer up. I had no leaks and everything ran flawlessly. The cpu baseline temperature was 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the old fan.

Step 12: Adding the Coolant

The last step was to drain the water out and add the coolant. I used 60/40 coolant I also had in the shop. There was no change in temperature between the coolant and water.

Step 13: Summary

In total the project took me two days and a grand total of $100. 1/10th of the cost of the high end custom cooling system. My system runs flawlessly and looks great!