How to Keep Your AV Equipment Cool: Passive and Active Cooling Methods


Heat is the enemy of electronics, and when it comes to AV equipment, overheating can lead to several problems. From reduced lifespan to thermal throttling, high temperatures can cause permanent damage to your equipment’s components, and even pose safety risks. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep your AV equipment cool to insure that they last a long time. We’ll cover the sources of heat in your AV equipment, the benefits of passive and active cooling, and recommend some top products to help you keep your equipment at optimal temperatures.

Why Keep Your AV Equipment Cool

When your AV equipment gets too hot, it can cause several problems, such as:

– Overheating: This is when your device reaches a temperature that exceeds its safe operating range. This can cause permanent damage to your device’s components, such as melting, warping, cracking, or burning. This can also result in fire hazards and safety risks.

– Reduced lifespan: Heat can accelerate the wear and tear of your device’s components, such as capacitors, resistors, transistors, and chips. This can shorten the lifespan of your device and make it more prone to failures and malfunctions.

– Thermal throttling: This is when your device reduces its speed or power to prevent overheating. This can affect the quality and smoothness of your audio and video output, as well as cause glitches and errors.

To avoid these problems, you should aim to keep your AV equipment below 40°C (104°F), when measuring the outside chassis / case of the device. Ideally, you should keep it around 30°C (86°F), which is the optimal temperature for most devices. Any temperature above 40°C will start to shorten the lifespan of the electrical components.

Where does the Heat Come From in AV Equipment

The main source of heat in your AV equipment is the power supply. The power supply converts the AC current from the wall outlet to DC current for the device. This process involves some loss of energy, which is released as heat. The more power the device consumes, the more heat it generates. For example, an amplifier that delivers 100 watts per channel will generate more heat than one that delivers 50 watts per channel.

Another source of heat in your AV equipment is the processing unit. The processing unit is the brain of the device that performs various functions such as decoding audio and video signals, applying effects, scaling images, etc. The more complex and demanding these functions are, the more heat the processing unit generates. For example, a processing unit for a 4K projector that processes ultra-high-definition images will generate more heat than one for a 1080p projector that processes high-definition images.

Other sources of heat in your AV equipment include the motors, lasers, lamps, and other moving or light-emitting parts. These parts generate heat as they operate and wear out over time.

Passive Cooling

Passive cooling is the simplest and cheapest way to keep your AV equipment cool. It involves using natural airflow and convection to dissipate heat from your devices. Passive cooling does not require any additional fans or devices to work. However, it does require some planning and space management.

The key to passive cooling is to ensure that there is enough space around your AV equipment for air to circulate freely. You should avoid stacking your devices on top of each other unless the manufacturer states otherwise. Some manufacturers will suggest to stack their amplifiers to increase the natural convection effect, refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions.

You should also avoid placing your devices near heat sources such as radiators, fireplaces, or windows that receive direct sunlight. Ensure that there are enough vents or openings on your devices for air to enter and exit. You should not cover these vents or openings with anything that could obstruct airflow or trap heat. Cleaning the vents or openings of your device regularly to remove dust helps keep the air moving well and unobstructed.

Active Cooling

Active cooling is a more effective and reliable way to keep your AV equipment cool. It involves using fans or other devices to create airflow and remove heat from your devices. Active cooling requires some additional cost and power consumption to work. However, it does not require as much space as passive cooling.

Optimal Fan configurations and positioning for cabinet active cooling: Property of Ac Infinity

The key to active cooling is to choose the right fans or devices for your AV equipment and place them strategically. You should look for fans or devices that are compatible with your devices’ size, shape, noise level, etc. You should also look for fans or devices that have variable speed control or temperature sensors that can adjust their speed according to the heat level. AC Infinity have some really nice temperature controlled fans, see recommended products section below.

Place the fans or devices close to the hottest parts of your AV equipment such as the power supply or the processing unit, if you are using a unit-based cooling approach. A good way to determine where fans should be placed on your equipment is to carefully feel for heat on the unit after it has been on for some time. For cooling whole racks or cabinets, the best place to install fans changes on whether it is going to act as an intake or exhaust fan. Because heat rises, the best place for intake fans is near the bottom of the cabinet with the fan blow from outside in of the cabinet. The best place for the exhaust fan is near the top blowing out.

How much cooling do you need to cool your AV equipment? The amount of cooling required will vary depending on the system and whether you are looking to cool one component or a whole rack of equipment. For equipment stored in a rack or cabinet, the minimum requirement should be one fan to pull hot air out and one fan to push cool air in, while also providing air space around all components to allow air to pass over them. For individual pieces of equipment that you want to actively cool, a minimum of one fan is needed to pull air through the unit.

Whole Unit System: AC Infinity AIRCOM T9:

This is a temperature-controlled fan system that can cool AV receivers, amplifiers, and other AV equipment up to 17″ in width. It has a dual-ball bearing fan that operates quietly and efficiently. It also has a digital controller that displays the temperature and speed level, and allows you to adjust the fan speed manually or automatically based on temperature. It is easy to install and comes with a two-year warranty.

[Editorial Note by Roland Jutai: I use one of these fans to cool my Marantz SR6013 and it is a perfect fit without having to worry about it overheating. I've set it to automatic control and it spins up pretty much silently during a movie to cool the AVR. This has probably saved the Marantz from having a failed HDMI board, which is the worst offender in these early-generation 4K AVRs. It is a good idea to have for AVRs in general. The cost of the fan outweighs both the potential downtime and the cost of replacement. Highly recommended.]

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USB Fans: AC Infinity MULTIFAN S7:

This is a set of two 120mm fans that can be used to cool AV cabinets, racks, and enclosures. They have a speed of 2000 RPM and a noise level of 30 dBA. They come with a power cord and mounting screws, and can be daisy-chained to other fans or controllers. They also have a one-year warranty. I use these myself paired with thermal fan trigger for my rack and projector cooling.

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Cabinet Fans: AC Infinity AIRPLATE T7:

This is a set of two ultra-quiet fans that can be flush mounted to cabinets or panels. They have a speed of 1200 RPM and a noise level of 18 dBA. They come with a USB power cord and a thermal trigger that turns them on automatically when the temperature exceeds the set temperature. They are easy to install and come with a one-year warranty.

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Whether you choose passive, active cooling, or a combination of both, proper planning and equipment selection can help you maintain optimal temperatures for your devices. Please comment and share your creative solutions to keep your equipment cool.


Audioholics Reference

Mid Atlantic Products: Controlling the Temperature Inside Equipment Racks

AC Infinity Home Page

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