Many homes and apartments use electric heat. Electric heaters are 100% efficient at turning electricity into heat, but all they do is turn electricity into heat. Computers are also nearly 100% efficient at turning electricity into heat, but they can also do other useful work in the process! We wanted to find an energy-efficient, convenient solution by using your computer power to run Folding@Home and heat your home in the process.

What it does

Our solution tackles this waste by using your computer, which is effectively an electric heater, to contribute its computational power to science! When your thermostat detects the temperature is less than your ideal, it will run Folding@Home on your computer to heat your room. Rather than buying a space heater that contributes only heat, you can use your own computer to heat your space just like a space heater and you even contribute to science! Since your computer would already be running, our software would be more energy-efficient than buying a separate individual space heater. In addition, older computers could continue to lead useful lives well after their obsolescence, by contributing to both science, and keeping you comfortable in your home.

How we built it

We used the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol to allow communication between a temperature sensor and your computer running Folding@Home. The extensible nature of the MQTT protocol means you can utilize an existing smart thermostat or add zoned heating with a microcontroller and thermometer! Once the temperature in the room drops below the thermostat setpoint, your computer receives the _ turn on _ command and begins contributing to Folding@Home. Once the room temperature has reached the set point the heat is turned off. In addition, Heating at Home utilizes OpenRGB to control RGB lights on your computer to show when it is heating. Further integration with other smart home features such as lighting or thermostat presence detection is easy due to the extensible nature of MQTT!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

The electricity that is used in electric heating is only used for heating. By using that same energy to run Folding @ Home, we can contribute to important science and heat homes. (And we got RGB working!)

What we learned

We learned how to use the MQTT protocol with clients and brokers, and how to control RGB peripherals using OpenRGB

What's next for Heating at Home

Expanding our software to use other home appliances to use energy more efficiently. Also, conduct climate studies with BOINC.

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