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updated 4/2/2008 4:28:31 PM ET 2008-04-02T20:28:31

A new computer center in Switzerland is making novel use of the hot air thrown off by its servers and communications equipment: The heat is being funneled next door to warm the local swimming pool.

When computing companies talk about "greening" their energy-guzzling data centers, that usually means powering the centers with renewable sources or using more-efficient servers.

In a few cases, the heat produced by the computers is used to warm nearby offices. In what appears to be a first, the town pool in Uitikon, Switzerland, outside Zurich, will be the beneficiary of the waste heat from a data center recently built by IBM Corp. for GIB-Services AG.

As in all data centers, air conditioners will blast the computers with chilly air — to keep the machines from exceeding their optimum temperature of around 70 degrees — and pump hot air out.

Usually, the hot air is vented outdoors and wasted. In the Uitikon center, it will flow through heat exchangers to warm water that will be pumped into the nearby pool. The town covered the cost of some of the connecting equipment but will get to use the heat for free.

Steven Sams, a data center services vice president for IBM, said the Swiss project should be a model. After all, IBM says, the computers in the Uitikon center will throw off enough heat to warm as many as 80 houses.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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