Sunday, April 2

How to extend the life of your ASIC mining equipment

Key facts:
  • Factors that degrade ASIC lifespan are temperature variations and vibrations.

  • Immersion cooling eliminates fans and fan vibration, but comes at a high cost.

The first batches of the Antminer S9 shipped in 2016, about 5 years ago from the time this article was published. They have proven to be incredibly durable mining equipment, with low failure rates even after years of wear and tear in harsh conditions such as dusty oil fields and icy tundras.

However, we really can’t expect the S9s to keep going forever. For early batches and those that have not received quality maintenance, failures begin to occur at higher rates. Miners who still rely heavily on this old-gen equipment need to take special care to preserve its useful life and keep it running until the next halving, and maybe even beyond.

One of the most important tools miners have to extend the life of hardware is also the one they most commonly associate with the opposite effect: custom ASIC firmware. While most of the attention is usually directed to the overclocking —a practice that maximizes hash rate but reduces ASIC life— self-tuning firmware can also be extremely helpful for Antminer S9, S19, S19 Pro, S19j Pro, T19, S17, S17 Pro, S17+ owners , S17e, T17, T17+, T17e & S9 [i, j] who want to maximize their return per watt of power consumed and increase the life of their ASIC at the same time.


Braiins OS+ firmware configuration of Antminer S9 for maximum hashrate. Fountain: Braiins

What factors affect the life of the ASIC?

ASIC hardware is not designed to last forever, no matter how well you maintain it. However, it is important to understand what causes mining rig performance to deteriorate over time and ultimately fail, assuming you avoid the more obvious failures like overheating and burning hashboards of course.

First of all, we need to understand the effect of temperature fluctuations on the environment. For air-cooled machines, rapid variations in outside temperature can cause all parts of the ASIC to expand and contract at different rates. For example, silicon hashing chips respond differently to temperature changes than copper and aluminum conductors, causing general wear and tear that can ultimately lead to mechanical failure.

In addition to those temperature fluctuations, small but constant vibrations can gradually wear down parts of mining equipment. The main cause of these vibrations are the fans used for cooling, as they are the only real “moving” part of the hardware. If you are in a hot environment and your ASICs are running at full capacity or even overclocking, you may need to run the fans at higher RPMs, which will result in stronger vibrations.

One of the best solutions to both of these problems is immersion cooling, as the dielectric coolant used in immersion systems has a much higher thermal density than air, preventing rapid temperature fluctuations. Plus, you no longer need to run fans when your mining rigs are submerged, meaning your hardware won’t be subject to much movement or vibration.

The problem with immersion, of course, is the cost. It is extremely expensive compared to air cooling and probably not a financially viable solution for use with older hardware like the Antminer S9. So when dipping is not an option, what else can be done to improve ASIC lifespan?

Maximizing the efficiency and life of mining equipment

Since temperature fluctuations and vibration are the main factors that degrade long-term ASIC lifespan, minimizing those two things is the key to giving your machines longevity. The safest way to do this is to run your ASICs at lower power inputs, something that is enabled by custom firmwares.

Antminer S9 Braiins OS+ firmware setup for maximum efficiency. Fountain: Baiins

For example, an Antminer S9 with Braiins OS+ firmware can have a power consumption between 400 W and 1800 W. At the lower power limits, the machine does not produce as much heat, and as a result, the fans do not need to spin as fast. With lower fan speeds, machines will vibrate less and will also be much quieter.

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Meanwhile, the lowest temperatures on hashboards are likely to be much closer to the ambient temperature of the environment. Having a smaller difference in those temperatures should result in less fluctuation and therefore less wear and tear on the different hardware components, extending their long-term lifespan.

Perhaps the best part is that these lower power consumption levels also result in mining rigs operating more efficiently (i.e. better W/TH/s). For example, in the image at the beginning of this section, the Antminer S9 produces 12.87 TH/s at 1 kW, for an efficiency of just over 77 W/TH/s. Stock specs for an S9 are 13.5 TH/s at 1160 W (86 W/TH/s efficiency), so this Braiins OS+ configuration draws 160 watts less but still produces nearly the same hashrate.

In short, if you have thin profit margins or simply want to minimize your operating expenses, it’s best to run on lower power inputs in both the short and long term.

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