Digital gear especially is prone to misbehave at elevated temperatures and have its programming corrupted. Expensive electronics fail, and, on occasion, enclosure finishes are discolored. In extreme cases, we’ve heard of cabinet delamination occurring.

Interview – A/V Equipment Cooling and Ventilation

Frank Federman | Active Thermal Management

Interview – A/V Equipment Cooling and Ventilation

Interview – A/V Equipment Cooling and VentilationAuthor: Frank Federman, Active Thermal Management

Digital gear especially is prone to misbehave at elevated temperatures and have its programming corrupted. Expensive electronics fail, and, on occasion, enclosure finishes are discolored. In extreme cases, we’ve heard of cabinet delamination occurring.

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In the past, cooling for audio-video electronics wasn’t something people were concerned about; what’s changed?

What’s changed is the amount and nature of the gear used in home theaters now:

      • More audio channels, and more power per channel.
      • Types of equipment not used in home theaters a few years ago, such as high-definition cable boxes and satellite receivers with integral digital recorders that are on 24/7.
      • Computers and routers for sending signals to other parts of the home, lighting controls…  the list goes on, and gets longer as time goes by.

    Under what circumstances is equipment cooling required?

    Almost any time equipment is located in closed cabinetry or closets; when ventilation is restricted, temperatures start to climb.

     

Can cooling be added later if I find that I need it after installation is all done?

Yes, but that’s the hard way. Equipment must be disconnected and removed from cabinetry, holes cut in finished enclosures with the possibility of damage to the finish, relocating components in racks… and then putting it all back together. Far easier to build ventilation in at the beginning than to add it later, but yes, it can definitely be retrofitted.

 

What’s the worst that can happen without adequate cooling?

I doubt that anyone’s house would burst into flames, but the expected lifetime of A/V components is shortened as semiconductors go through more severe heating and cooling cycles, electrolytic capacitors dry out, and so on. Digital gear especially is prone to misbehave at elevated temperatures and have its programming corrupted. Expensive electronics fail, and, on occasion, enclosure finishes are discolored. In extreme cases, we’ve heard of cabinet delamination occurring.

 

Cooling means fans, and fans means noise – why should I/we trade a heating problem for a noise problem?

You don’t have to. Properly engineered cooling systems, properly installed, can be extremely quiet.  We typically use multiple slow-turning fans in our systems. This means low motor noise, little air (whoosh!) noise, and very long fan life. Intelligent thermal controls insure that fans turn on only when needed.

 

How is the cooling fan controlled or does it run all the time?

Our systems are all temperature controlled. Some just turn on and off at a given temperature, some have multiple speeds, and some use proportional control in which the hotter the thermal sensors get, the faster the fans turn. If necessary, though, all ATM systems are rated for continuous operation.

 

Mounting fans in my cabinet isn’t going to make it look any better; my wife/interior designer would never go along with that.

Yes, that’s the hard part – cooling per se is actually the easier part of the problem to solve!  We’ve written a series of white papers on cooling various types of installations, which discuss mounting locations for fans that minimize their effect on enclosure appearance. We have several systems which incorporate fans into attractive wood and aluminum grilles for those instances in which the fans must be visible. The woods are available in many species, unfinished, and can blend into a cabinet’s surfaces quite nicely.

 

My system is in a closet; why can’t I just run an air conditioning duct into it?

You could, but in almost every part of the US, those A/C ducts become heating ducts in winter. You can block them in winter, but then you have no cooling. Better to have a simple ventilating system (such as one of ours, of course) that does the job year-round.

 

How much does a typical cooling system cost?

Excluding installation charges, we have systems that retail from around $100.00 to over $500.00 Most are professionally installed, but several are appropriate for the do-it-yourselfer.

 

What does Active Thermal Management do and how can they help with design and equipment requirements?

We develop and manufacture the systems, of course – we have over 25 systems as of this writing. What sets us apart is the degree to which we work with our network of almost 2000 systems integrators in the US and abroad to help them identify and install the right ATM system for a given installation. Of particular interest to your readers, perhaps, is that we are also happy to work with end users who are interested in our products.

 

Frank Federman:

BSEE from Northeastern University

Career spent in A/V electronics

VP Engineering, Advent Corp.

Exec. VP, General Manager, Kloss Video Corp.

Consultant to Harman International

Founder, CEO, Active Thermal Management


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