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Power Distribution Options - What is a Bitcoin Miner to do?

DisclaimerThis is presented as information only that should be used to structure a conversation with your licensed electrician on design choices.  Doing unlicensed and unpermitted work can create an unsafe environment that can have increased fire hazard or death of personnel by electrocution.  Please be smart and safe.
In this next article we will be talking about power and some of the different options for getting that all important electricity from your local PUD into your Bitcoin mining farm.  This is an important question to address early on in your mine design phase.  Electricians are not cheap and the choices you make here will follow with you over the duration of the Bitcoin mines' operation unless you decide to change direction or removing the old distribution to make way for the upgrades. 
Many miners may think their only option is surface mounted receptacles but this can be costly and for some miners (Spondoolie SP35), basic residential or office power will not work for normal hashing operation.  In addition, if you are using racks, you will need extension cords that are rated for your load and that can add up.  Other options are using higher density power rails (PDU) that can support more amperage so you can deliver more power in a more compact form factor and have superior cable management options.

Another idea to keep in mind that Bitcoin mining is a 24/7 operation so that means all of your equipment will be running continuously.  Not all equipment you will use in Bitcoin mining will be rated to take that amount of load all the time.  This is where gear like PDUs, Datacenter HVAC, commercial network switches and the lot, shine.  Getting new or used equipment that was used in a datacenter or other heavy load environments will give you a lower failure rate, safer environment and more overall hashing. 
Voltage?  (Why does it matter)
First off, I want to make it clear I am not an expert on this subject and honestly my father who did this for 30 years would and does run circles around me.  What I am trying to do it emphasize a few points that will help a Bitcoin mine operator or someone designing a new Bitcoin mine out. 
In the United States power voltage comes in three basic flavors 120v, 208v and 480v (3p).  The small "v" signifies voltage as you can see.   It is key to know this number when speaking about power ratings of Bitcoin miners because you need to be able to find our the amperage rating do you can figure your overall power load and make sure your gear is spec correctly for said load.
Here are the 3 basic parts of electricity:
Voltage (Volts)
Amperage  (Amps)
Wattage (Watts)
A river is a good analogy for what the different parts of power, Volts is the width of the river, Amps are the speed of the river and Watts are the amount of water in the river.  These three parts are interconnected and all the gear needs to play nicely.   Most power in a home or commercial office is 120v with some 208v mixed in for your appliances.  The current debate is whether to run at 120 volts or to step it up 208 volts.
Note:  When you see 120v, 208v or 480v, please note these are ranges and not exact numbers.  110v-125v - 208v-240v - 440v-480v. 
What you need to know is the power is mainly delivered from the power pole or transformer as 3-phase 480 volt or 208 volt power into the building.  From their you need to "transform" the power into the different useable forms.  This is what transformers do, you need to look at all the gear you are going to run to make sure you have the electrical distribution grid that can handle that. 
Most important thing to know is that every time you step down the power, you lose some power efficiency.  It is approximately between 1-4% loss compared to not using a transformer.  Also if you have gear that needs 120v, 208v and 480v then you will need potentially three power transforming solutions and that will increase costs because of the additional hardware needed.  Simplifying and matching the least amount of voltages will save you money and hassle over time.
Last item is distance, this will be the single largest determiner of cost for electrical upgrades.  The distance you have to run power and the amount you are running will determine how much conduit and wire will need to be run to handle your needs.  Cooper is not cheap and it adds up quick.  Keeping the distance from your main service panel and where you mine will be operated will save you tons of money in the long run. 
Hope this helps you think a little clearer on this subject.  This article just scratches the surface and I will be writing more over time.  Do more research and prepare good questions for your electrician and this will help inform you better. 
Lauren Miehe

Co-founder of   Washington State.


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