Mining has been the lifeblood of cryptocurrency ever since Satoshi Nakamoto revealed the process by which his new creation, Bitcoin, would be created and the transactions verified on the blockchain. Cryptocurrency mining went largely unreported until Bitcoin began picking up the pace in 2017, with news outlets scrambling to make sense of how these giant warehouses in Sichuan were creating this magic internet money that was rocketing in price.
Since then, many reports on the positives and (mainly) negatives of Bitcoin mining have taken up column inches, but these reports have ignored an important subset of crypto mining – the home miner. Crypto enthusiasts have been mining coins at home ever since Bitcoin first saw the light of day, with adoption peaking during the 2017/18 bull run. Since those heady days, small scale mining has dropped off, leaving many wondering if and when it is worth picking up the metaphorical pickaxe again.
In this two-part series, we look at the various methods of mining cryptocurrency at home and see if any are still viable in the current market. So grab your hard hat and your torch and let’s dig in.
Application-specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) Mining
If you have a few thousand dollars to spend, you don’t mind excessive noise, you can find a way to dissipate great amounts of heat and you have a source of cheap renewable energy, then ASICs might be for you. Of course to have any chance of making your ASIC profitable you’re going to have to compete against the gigantic warehouse-sized mining farms in China, the US, and Canada. ASICs can only mine a select few coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum (for now) and Litecoin, so your options are limited. And they break. And they become outdated. Not really a logistical or financial option for an individual.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) Mining
GPU mining became so popular during the 2017/18 bull run that serious gamers were up in arms at the reduced supply of high-end graphics cards. Retailers were able to ramp prices up, knowing that crypto miners would probably buy them, and they did…until the bottom fell out of the crypto market.
GPU mining involves buying one (or more) graphics card and using some easy-to-run software to mine your coin of choice, of which there is much more than with ASIC and CPU miners. In the right conditions, mining altcoins on a GPU rig might offer a nice source of income, but this is dependent upon market volatility and your electricity costs. Logistically a GPU rig is easy enough to set up, although the more GPUs you add the more malfunctions can occur. GPUs still run hot, and running several at once can quickly get noisy, albeit not as bad as with ASICS. Nevertheless, adequate cooling still has to be considered.
GPU mining offers the best balance between performance and viability for enthusiasts. It does however involve multiple graphics cards running at full power 24/7, which can seriously increase the average electricity bill, so the up front and running costs have to be borne in mind when considering mining at home, and which coin to mine. Most coins are not currently profitable for the average GPU mining enthusiast, but if you can find yourself a cheap energy source it might be worth stocking up a few thousand of your favorite altcoin for the next bull run.
That’s it for part one. Check out part two to learn about the merits and pitfalls of CPU, cloud, and home console mining.