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  • Cooling an entertainment center


    by AJ Peck (aka usacomp2k3)


    One of the difficult aspects to having all of one’s equipment in a cabinet is knowing what to do about the heat. In my setup, the 3 main heat generating equipment are the xbox 360, the receiver, and the DVR (in descending order to the best of my knowledge). I have resorted to just leaving the cabinet doors open when in use to allow for ventilation. However, having some active ventilation would certainly be a a better solution. In the past I’ve looked into adding cabinet fans. However, these tend to be rather expensive. I don’t need anything complicated, I just want there to be air moving when the equipment is on, and then turn off when not in use.


    Just as a little context, I’m using one of the old outlet strips that has the ability to turn off power to a specific outlet at the press of a button. (similar to this one except the buttons are on a separate small device hard-wired to the outlet strip) I have all of the equipment (except the DVR) plugged into another outlet strip that is plugged into one of those switchable outlets, and so we flip the switch on when we want to watch something, and then flip it off when we are done. This way there is no wasted power but components being vampires in standby mode.


    Anyway, since I’ve got a background in computer components and case modding, I thought I’d do a little DIY project. I went to fanwholesale.com/ and spent $26.82 for 3 120mm fans, plus 6 120mm fan grills. I’m going to be using one of these in my Media Center PC to help with the cooling, so the total cost for this project on the entertainment so far is $18. One of the nice things about the way that PC fans work is that they run off of straight DC voltage. The max is 12V, but if you give them less voltage, they will just run at a lower speed, and thus less noise. However, the fans I purchased were low-speed anyway, so I went to a local thrift store and spent $1.50 for a 12V power supply. The fans are rated for 300 milliAmp each, so I needed to get a power supply that can supply at least 600 mA. The next step was to connect the wires. I cut the connector off of the new-to-me power supply and took an old molex cable I had and connected the 2 wires of the power supply to the yellow (12V) cable and black (ground). Each of the fans has a male and a female connector, so I simply connected the cable that is from the power supply to the first fan, and connected the first fan to the second fan. Voila, all done. Well almost.


    The last step is to figure out where to mount the fans. Since heat rises, I decided to mount the 2 fans in the top corners of the entertainment center. I held the fan in place and used my cordless drill to make the holes for the screws. I then used a random round object I had to draw a circle on the back of the cabinet and then used a jigsaw to cut the hole out. Lastly, I took a screw, put it through the first grill, then the fan, then the screw holes I had drilled in the cabinet, and lastly the 2nd grill. I went digging through my workshop in the garage and didn’t have any machining screws long enough, so I opted to temporarily just use regular wood screws and put a plastic wall-anchor on the back to have a non-sharp edge. Voila, project done. Another problem I ran into was putting one of the fans on backwards so that the grill was hitting the fan blades. It was simple to unscrew the fan and flip the grill around.


    As always, here are some pictures of the project:


    Cutting the holes:


    The left hole with the piece that I cut outThe right hole. Notice the screw holes.


    A view through the cabinet:


    View from the front with the hole. View from front after fan installation.


    How it looks from the back all finished:


    Finished view Finished View.


    All-in-all, a successful project, in my book. Total time was about an hour of work. Total expenses were around $20.


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    Well about 5 minutes ago I finished installing the machine screws that I got from Lowe's. $2.10 later and all is how it is supposed to be. I also got around to cutting the hole in my Media Center for the 3rd 120mm that I bought. I also finally finished cleaning up the wiring in the library. Those plastic wire clips make a huge difference.
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    nice job. i'll be honest, i would not have thought of that but now that i see it, it seems so obvious. i have most of my stuff wall mounted to i don't have to worry too much about trapping heat. the only component that does not have much breathing room is my soundbar mounted right under the tv, but it doesn't run too hot. good to have this solution in the back of my head though in case i ever come across this situation.
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    Nice job. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a rats nest of cables lurking behind the entertainment center! I bought a cheapo laptop cooler that has two fans and plugs into USB. I plug it into anything that has USB to cool one of my ent. centers. My Dish DVR even has USB although it's not enabled the power still works.
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    I did the same thing, but I mounted my fan on the outside of the cabinet, as it was too tight on the inside. Works great I must say.
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    Good tips you have in here. That's the use when you are intelligent. You can always find ways on how make things easier, just like with what you did in your cabinet.
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