To make more room in the house (converting my home office into a bedroom), I moved my homelab into the garage. It’s still a work in progress, the cable management is a mess, but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for a while, as I have other things to attend to, but here’s the progress so far.
Homelab Equipment in Ascending Order:
- Eaton 5P 1500RT UPS Battery Backup
- 3 Mini-ITX Supermicro servers running Proxmox VE and TrueNAS Scale. You are loading this website from the server on the left. In hindsight, I should have gotten rackmount servers, but I didn’t think I’d ever put them in the garage.
- 24-port Patch Panel (Amazon)
- UniFi 24-port managed switch (Amazon)
- UniFi Dream Machine SE – Firewall / IPS (Amazon)
- Brother MFC L3770CDW LED Printer
- And above that is a Prusa Mini 3D Printer
Move to the garage:
Rack: To facilitate moving to the garage, I purchased an adjustable depth 42U StarTech server rack. It’s a bit overkill, but I might as well install the tallest rack possible to make efficient use of vertical space and get some of the other office equipment in there. With a few shelves, I could also get the 2D and 3D printers out of the house.
Server Rack Rule #1. Estimate the tallest server rack you think you’ll ever need. Then double it.
Rack Shelves: Since I was moving from my office, not all the equipment is rack-mountable (I’m not even sure if they make rack-mount printers), so I added three shelves. Two NavePoint shelves and one StarTech shelf. Both work but the StarTech is a lot deeper (more space efficient since it provides a few more inches of shelf space), so I prefer that one.
UPS: Coincidentally, my UPS battery backup failed just prior to the move, so it was the perfect time to switch to a Rackmount UPS, so I installed the Eaton.
Grounding the rack: I was going to drive a ground rod just outside the garage and run a ground wire through the wall, but Mike told me driving a new ground was a bad idea–he said something about ground loops. Apparently, it’s better for everything in your house to tie into a common ground. So, I ran a copper wire to the cold water pipe on the hot water heater.
Server Rack Rule #2. Always ground your rack to a common ground.
Cabling: I re-routed the fiber internet to the garage and a few cables for the PoE WiFi back to the house for WiFi.
Hot Water Heater Drainage Reroute: Even though the rack is on casters, I wasn’t comfortable having the hot water heater pan drain right into the garage floor, so I drilled a hole in the wall and ran a PVC pipe outside and designed it so that it will primarily drain outside the house, and will overflow into the garage floor only if the PVC pipe freezes. Again, I have the casters, so the servers should be okay, but I didn’t want the default situation to be standing water under the rack.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the roof doesn’t leak. But if it does, just throw a tarp up to keep the servers dry. I always keep a tarp in my truck so should be good.
Server Rack Rule #3. Do not let the servers get wet.
Fire Safety. I figure if there is a fire in the garage, it was most likely to be electrical or liquid, so I installed an ABC (paper/wood, gas/liquids, electrical) fire extinguisher, which should cover pretty much any flammable material in the garage.
So, I noticed there are no fire alarms in the garage. I figure with the servers in there, I’d still like to get an early warning to abandon house. I installed a Splenssy heat alarm designed for garage use above the rack–if there’s a fire in the garage, the alarm should sound. I’m not sure we’ll hear it from inside the house, but it should set off the dogs.
I know this is reliable because the dogs alert me when the 3D printer fault alarm goes off. Finally, the dogs are starting to pay off! Good job, dogs.
Every time I park in the garage…
I have four inches to spare with the cars parked in there. But it’s a pretty nice setup holding my networking gear, servers, printer, and 3D printer. The only annoyance is I have to pull the truck out to do any maintenance.
A few concerns I had about putting the rack in the garage
- Dust. There is a lot of dust in the garage from the concrete. I would say dust accumulates at a faster rate than in the house, but I think it’s fine if I blow out the servers every couple of years.
- Humidity. Initially, I was concerned about garage moisture and condensation on the servers… but I’ve had no issues at all. I then realized that an ice-cold drink collects condensation–but not a hot drink. The servers should always be warmer than the ambient temperature, so this shouldn’t be an issue at all.
- Cooling. So this summer, I had an issue with cooling for a few weeks in the hottest part of the year. My Intel CPU Xeon-D CPU server was throttling due to high temp. I ended up failing most of the workload over to the AMD EPYC server and shutting down non-critical workloads for a couple of weeks. The AMD EPYC CPU didn’t have to throttle at all. This could probably be addressed by pointing a fan at the server rack during the hottest week of the year or installing some sort of ventilation system. Most of the time North Idaho gives you free cooling.
- Access. Now, whenever I need to use the printer, I have to back the car out–to say that’s annoying is an understatement. However, I can always print and just pick it up next time I leave or come home since I’d be pulling the truck out anyway–I suspect checking the printer before I pull into the garage will become a habit, like checking the mail.
My homelab probably saves me ~$290 in monthly hosting fees, but boy, after all that work and considering it’s eating up 6 square feet of garage space, the cloud becomes quite tempting.