Here are a few short white papers to help you avoid problems with overheating components in your home theater installations.

Cabinet Venting Tips

Cabinet Venting is the most common application for cooling products. The  growing trend is to install components in cabinetry and conceal them behind  closed doors. While this may be aesthetically pleasing, heat becomes an instant  problem. By using our Cabinet Venting products, installers can quickly and easily solve the issue.

When designing a thermal solution consider aesthetics but, more importantly, also consider the type of equipment and the amount of heat that will be generated. Our Cabinet Vent (VS-CV) is our best selling product but the SlimSix (VS-S6), HiFlo Lite (VS-HFL) and HiFlo Basic (VS-HFB) systems are also for venting cabinets and move significantly more air.

While installing cabinet cooling solutions, the first step is to ensure good airflow within the cabinet. Space components according to manufacturer specifications, well, as much as possible, and create natural airflow between shelving – think beyond holes for wiring! If the size and design of the cabinet dictates that you must stack components on top of each other, consider using one of our Component Units (CP-CC) between the pieces of equipment to facilitate airflow. Then, install venting products high in the cabinet and focus on exhausting the hot air. Cool air will be drawn into the cabinet through even the smallest openings.

By following these basic guidelines, you can extend the life of your customer’s equipment, eliminate annoying thermal shutdowns and reduce heat-related service calls. 

Rack Cooling 101

There are a few basic types of rack installs and each one requires a different approach to cooling. In this article, we will look at the most common type of install – a simple, open rack.

 In an open rack the primary consideration is spot cooling the individual heat generating components such as amplifiers and receivers. The Cool Components Cool Racks (available in 19RU and 40RU versions), have integrated cooling and are a great starting point. The Cool Racks ship with two 50mm 4-fan kits to install in the sides of the top or bottom pans of the rack or in the side panels of the 40RU. Optional 50mm and 92mm fan kits are available to complete the rack. The Cool Components 1RU and 2RU Universal Coolers (CP-UC and CP-UC-2) are great options to spot cool individual rack mountable components. The Cool Components 2-Fan and 4-Fan Rack Side Coolers (RK-SC-2FN and RK-SC-4FN) can be mounted to the side rails and provide extra cooling for side-vented components without consuming precious rack spaces. The entire line of Component Cooling Units (2-Fan, 4-Fan, 4-Fan with Cover, Fully Loaded and 9-Fan) can be placed under or above a component for extreme cooling. For components that are not rack mountable, consider using a Cool Components Cool Shelf (available in 2RU and 3RU) with integrated cooling to keep a hot component sufficiently cool.

The next consideration is venting the enclosure, closet or equipment room where the rack is located. The construction of the home, location of the rack and ambient temperature of the enclosure, closet or room will dictate the proper venting solution. The rack install featured in this month’s Coolest Install did not require any additional venting. The space under the stairs where the rack and equipment is installed was already well ventilated due to proper planning by the builder and integrator. Unfortunately, that is not normally the case. If the rack, such as a swivel or pull-out rack is installed in a cabinet or enclosure, a Cool Components HiFlo Basic (VS-HFB) will typically suffice. Simply install the unit in the upper portion of the enclosure to exhaust the heat. A passive vent, such as a toe kick grill (GR-215), may be required to maximize airflow. For small to medium-sized closets and equipment rooms, the Cool Components HiFlo Vent System (VS-HFS) can be installed in the upper portion of a side or rear wall to exhaust the heated air into an adjoining room, closet or hallway. Typically, the space under the door will provide sufficient passive intake to allow for proper airflow. In larger areas, or where it is not possible to vent through a wall, the Ceiling Vent System (VS-CVS) or Inline Duct Fan (VS-IDF) can be used to vent up through the ceiling. Utilizing 4” flexible duct, both products can be connected to the home’s HVAC return system or exhausted to another location within the home.

Obviously, as a custom installer, each situation will present different challenges. By following these basic guidelines (and combining them with some common sense), you should be able to devise a practical and effective thermal management solution for your open rack installs. And remember, your team at Cool Components Inc. is available to help you design a viable thermal management solution for your projects.

Venting Closets and Enclosures into Attics or Outside

OK folks, it is time, once and for all, to set the record straight on venting air outside of the house. The real problem is the number of companies saying that it is OK to vent outside what we call in electronic terms, HOT AIR, but in HVAC terms, it’s just warm air. It is warm, already ‘conditioned’ air.

The reason that these companies have recommended this is because they have simply taken an HVAC’s remote, inline attic-mounted bathroom/range hood fan and are calling it a room/closet cooler. They are also following the manufacturer’s recommendation to vent out of the house or into the attic. That is for the application the fan was intended for which involves hot, humid, smelly air, NOT air that has just been warmed by electronics and DEFINITELY NOT for extended periods of time. A bath/range hood fan is intended to be run for minutes, not hours if it is essentially set to run when equipment is on.

Here are the calculations for why this should not be done: Take a 5,000 Sq Ft home with 10′ ceilings. That gives you 50,000 cubic feet of airspace. Add in a fan unit which vents 200CFM of air outside of the house. Now this is easy math – it will take 250 minutes, or a little over 4 hours, to theoretically completely remove all of the currently conditioned air out of the house! You might as well leave a window open all day.

So what is happening? This is not magic folks, air that is removed is replaced from the outside – it is a zero sum game. First off, negative pressure is being placed on the home and in that case, air will find its way into the home. Even with the best construction it can come in through penetrations in light cans, light switches, electrical outlets, around doors and windows or, even worse, through the chimney – in the wintertime this can be very dangerous, pulling carbon monoxide back into the home. But let’s just say the home is sealed tight. What happens then is also an easy answer – nothing. If air cannot be pulled into the home, the home will become ‘vacuumed’ up to a certain point and then the fan will not be able to pull any more air. So the simple fact that the fan is running and exhausting air is an indicator that air is entering the home from somewhere.

During summer months in most areas, this means hot, humid air is entering the home. One of the key functions of the HVAC system is to remove humidity from the air; as the warmer air is drawn across the cold evaporator coils the resulting moisture drips into the drain pan. It is easier for the system to recycle and cool drier, previously conditioned air; higher humidity makes the system work harder decreasing AC efficiency by as much as 15%.

Now here’s the big kicker – what about during the winter? Are you going to pull in cold air to vent warm air??? Where is the logic?????

So the bottom line is to just use common sense and simple calculations to form your own opinion on this subject. We simply do not recommend venting AV cabinets and closets into the attic or outside of the home. Instead, either vent to another room or more preferably, directly to the HVAC return vent. Even if the HVAC system is not running, the air will be distributed throughout the vents and into the home until the system is turned on.

Integrated vs. Ala Carte Automated Control

A very common question is why our products do not have built-in automated control but the answer is simple.  It is not an effort to up sell but instead, the last time I checked, the basis of the custom electronics industry is ‘customization’.  Other companies that are far less committed to cooling, but yet claim to be professionals, dictate that your cooling solution should be run at the slowest speed possible just so they can call their products quiet.  To take it either further, with some products, they even dictate when your fans should turn on and off and if you’ll have variable speed control.   By integrating these features, they are taking away your ability to control the fans appropriately for your application.

Cool Components leaves these decisions to the professional installer while providing the widest range of control options.  While many systems are similar, the fact is that the cooling requirements are not.  We are the first to recognize that not all systems require a massive cooling system with all the bells and whistles, but at the same time, many do in the custom world.  Are you installing the same receiver and other equipment you use for a $5k system as you are in a $150k system?  Why would one think that you would install the same cooling solution as well?

The bottom line is that Cool Components provides by far the greatest level of options and control over your cooling systems.  This makes sense however as we are a specialized, truly professional and qualified cooling company.  We are seeing more companies offering a few cooling products to compliment their core line of products but do you want a company that is simply trying to add to their bottom line, or a company that is 100% dedicated to the category?  For this reason, some manufacturers have come to us to be an OEM or to simply partner with us over copying what we, or others, have already done. 

The control options are pretty straightforward as there are two primary points of control.  The first is to control when fans turn on and then off.  The next control factor is fan speed as often times it is favorable to have fans blow more aggressively as the temperature increases.  This provides for a nice balance between keeping fan noise to a minimum but also providing more cooling as required.  CCI provides both manual and automatic control over both fan speed and on and off.  By using a variable output power supply, speed can be controlled by adjusting the voltage to the fans which is a very easy and cost effective way to put control in the dealer’s hands.  People sometimes ask why have this feature and another easy answer?  First, why not?  We have not reinventing the wheel with variable output power supplies, we have only utilized them in a way that no one else has.  Then the logic is that if you run a cooling product in a closet, noise is not as big of an issue but airflow is.  The opposite is true if equipment is installed in a listening zone, thus, let the application and installer in the field dictate the fan speed, not some supposed ‘professional’ sitting behind a desk…  The bottom line is that ‘one size fits all’ does not work effectively and is honestly senseless. Other manufacturers kick down the voltage because they do not have magic fans, they simply reduce the voltage down to around 7V to make them quiet and you have no option or control.

Turning fans on and off is also accomplished many ways.  One is by simply plugging the power supply into a switched outlet.  In some cases may want to a fan run full time as is the case with some DVRs and other equipment that generates heat whether it’s on of off.  If or when you require control though, Cool Components offers several products to do just this.

So take control over your cooling.  While our industry is also all about ‘integration’, building in control features with cooling fans is integration that simply want to avoid.