There are positives in everything, and evidence of that is the University of Virginia's paper, The Data Furnace: Heating Up With Cloud Computing, which argues that data servers in homes or offices could offer lower emissions by working as a heater as well as a server. The authors and researchers behind the paper said the servers could conceivably offer enough heat to warm an entire building if connected to ducts and distribution systems.

“Computers can be placed directly into buildings to provide low latency cloud computing for its offices or residents, and the heat that is generated can be used to heat the building," according to the researchers. "This approach improves quality of service by moving storage and computation closer to the consumer, and simultaneously improves energy efficiency and reduces costs by reusing the electricity and electrical infrastructure that would normally be used for space heating alone.”

Heather Clancy writes on ZDNet's GreenTech Pastures blog that a homeowner could place the server in their utility room and use it for computing tasks at certain parts of the day, which could in turn help cut or eliminate heating bills.

The researchers said the cloud computing-based heating solution would cost about $400 a year to run each server, or $16,000 a year for a cabinet with 40 of them. Having these servers in homes and office buildings could help eliminate the amount of larger data centers, thereby reducing carbon emissions and furthering green IT.