Data Centers

Use PC fans to keep your gear cool


Anyone who has more than a couple devices running in their living room or home theater knows that those devices can heat up very quickly. In my case, I have an XBOX 360 and a DirecTV H20 HDTV receiver that get way too hot. Keeping all of that heat trapped within my home theater equipment rack will shorten the life of those components.

After doing some research on ready-made cooling solutions which can cost $100 or more, I decided to create my own. With about $30 in parts and an hour or two of labor, you can make a DIY cooling system for your home theater.

The parts list:
  • 1.5-12V Regulated 300mA AC Adapter This will provide the power for your fan(s). I got mine at Radio Shack for around $17. Here is a similar model for $19.
  • Hobby power leads These will allow you to connect your power supply to your fan(s). Again, got mine at Radio Shack for around $3.
  • PC fan(s) I used 3 fans in my setup. You can grab these from NewEgg for around $5 each.
  • Y adaptaplug (optional) This allows you to split the cable from the power supply to support more than one fan
The tools/supplies:

  1. Soldering gun
  2. Electrical tape

The process:

  1. Solder the wires from the PC fan to the wires on the hobby leads
  2. Wrap the exposed portions of the wires with electrical tape
  3. Plug the hobby lead into the outlet on the power supply's cord
  4. Attach some velcro to your fans
  5. Attach some velcro to your equipment rack
  6. Attach fan to equipment rack using... yep, the velcro from steps 4 and 5.

Fans

3 fans wired to the 12v power supply. I eventually wrapped all of the wires in black electrical tape so that they wouldn't stand out.

Tweaks:

Of course, PC fans running at full speed can get noisy. That's where the adjustable power supply comes in. You can adjust the voltage of the power supply to run the fans at a lower speed. This will reduce the fan noise while still providing enough air flow to cool your components. You will need to play around with it until you get the right balance of noise and air flow.

Another little trick is to connect your power supply to a component with a switchable outlet like a home theater receiver. This will allow the fan to shut off when you power off the component. Otherwise, you will have a fan running constantly. Of course, for some components, like my DirecTV H20 receiver which is always on (even when you turn it off), you may need to have a fan going all the time.

You may also want to experiment with the direction of the air flow. I have found that blowing air across the top of my DirecTV H20 works better than trying to pull air out of the back of the equipment rack. However, for the XBOX 360 which has a rear exhaust fan, a fan pulling the hot air out the back of the equipment rack works much better.

Results:

I was able to reduce the overall temperature in my equipment rack significantly using 3 PC fans running at 9v. Everything, with the exception of the XBOX 360, runs at approximately the same temperature when powered on as when it is powered off. If you have $30 and a few hours to dedicate to the process, you can keep your components running cooler and extend their life by adding a few cooling fans.

Editor's Picks