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Cooling and Ventilation: The Fundamentals of Installation

Extend the life of your products and make some profits with crucial cooling products.


Fred Harding · August 14, 2008

Years ago, I was working at a doctor’s house in Minneapolis, tuning up a system that another company had installed.

The system was a classic Audio Access PX600 preamplifier coupled to a pair of NAD 906 amplifiers. The system was located in a beautiful cabinet with glass doors and inset halogen lights that shined down on the equipment.

The system sounded great, as you might expect with that level of equipment. Cosmetically, it was a handsome installation.

So why was I was there? The heat that was generated by the halogen lights, amplifiers and enclosed cabinet was so great that the front panel of one of the amplifiers distended out from where the power supply was located.

The amplifier had melted from the heat.

It was so bad, a person could have braised some short ribs in that oven-like environment.

Cool the System Through Fans

To solve the problem, we needed to cool the system. Since the only air flowing into or out of the enclosure came through the spacing on the glass doors, the first order of business was to increase that air flow.

Simply blowing air around inside of the space wasn’t going to solve the problem; we also needed to introduce cooler air into the space (i.e., by removing the hot air).

Since hot air rises, we ended up skillfully modifying the cabinet so that there was a vent at the top rear that sucked the heated air out. A second vent was installed at the bottom of the cabinet, pulling cool air into the space.

The shelves were remodeled as well, with scoop-like holes cut into the back of the wood, providing a chimney for the heat to travel up and out. We installed small fans at the intake and output vents, which were triggered to turn on whenever the system powered up.

The sad part was that the beautiful cabinet had to be rebuilt to accommodate our ventilation. The good part was that when the work was completed, the system sounded as good as it originally had, and ran substantially cooler.

To my great surprise, NAD covered the repair of the amplifier under warranty, although the bulging faceplate was not replaced.

This was my first real exposure to heat management. From that day on, all the systems that we installed took into account the heat generated by different components.

As time has passed, there are more devices that generate heat than there were 15 years ago. In addition to amplifiers, satellite receivers, cable boxes, media servers, whole-house systems and others all radiate significant amounts of thermal energy.

Vent the Rack to Stay Cool

Active Thermal Management, a manufacturer of cooling products, cites in one of their technical documents that “[a] rule of thumb is that, for each 10 degrees (Centigrade) rise in junction temperature, the expected life of a semiconductor is halved.”


  About the Author

Fred Harding is in sales and technical support at Capitol Sales, a full service distributor of electronic installation hardware. He is a frequent contributor to CE Pro, writing hands-on product reviews and technical tips. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Fred at fharding@capitolsales.com

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