If you’re like most homeowners, you probably keep your receiver, amplifier, router, network switch, or any other electronic equipment inside a cabinet… which means you have a heat problem. Heat is the enemy of electronics, and circulating air through and around anything electronic is vital to its performance and longevity. This is the cabinet at the Utah house that houses two Russound CAS44 amplifiers for a whole-house audio system, a DirecTV receiver, a Sony Blu-Ray player, an APC Back-UPS unit, a TP-Link network switch, a Ubiquiti WiFi antenna, an Apple AirPort Express, a Liftmaster MyQ gateway, and a bunch of power adapters for many of those devices — all of which produce heat (note my Amazon Echo Dot sits outside the cabinet where she can hear me):
To help increase airflow to all that equipment, I’d sometimes open the cabinet doors, but then I’d be stuck staring at the equipment, its lights, and a massive bundle of cables (even though I use zip-ties to try and tidy things up). But that’s not a good long-term solution, so I decided to install a 6″ AC Infinity AIRPLATE S3 fan.
The S3 fan has a street price of under $25, and uses a 6″ x 6″ fan. The entire unit is 6.3″ x 6.3″ with the brushed aluminum panel, which looks just as good in person as it does in the unit’s glamor shots, and would be at home in even the fanciest of cabinets. The fan moves 52 cubic feet of air per minute, with a noise rating of 23 dBa. Dual ball bearings help the fan run so quietly.
The unit came with clearly written instructions (surprisingly in grammatically perfect English), a plastic template to help visualize and cut the necessary hole for the fan, a USB power cable, and a separate USB power adapter. You can power the fan with the adapter, or by plugging it into any USB outlet of any device in your cabinet that delivers least 500mA of power (which will be pretty much any USB outlet). The newest version of this fan (shown above) has a multi-position power switch to choose fan speed, but I have one of the earlier units with a simple on/off switch. The unit also has a USB pass-thru cable, meaning you can daisy-chain up to four fans from a single power supply. Whoever designed this fan really thought things through, and it shows.
Using the provided plastic template, I marked the spot on top of my cabinet where I wanted to install the fan. I had previously removed all the equipment from the cabinet, as I planned to use this project as an excuse to tidy up all the cabling. But if you plan on leaving all the equipment in place, I recommend putting a towel on top of the equipment to protect it from falling sawdust.
Using a hole saw attachment on my drill, I cut a hole in the middle of the marked square, then cut a few more holes inside the markings, so I’d have less hand-cutting with the mini-hacksaw. Had I been in Seattle, I’d have used my reciprocating saw, but a drill is the only power tool I keep at the Utah house, so I did my best cleaning up the hole saw cuts with a mini-hacksaw. Using the fan to check my work, I finally had a hole large enough to flush-mount the fan:
Note that because the flanges on the fan are wide, having perfect edges on your cabinet isn’t necessary. Once the fan drops into the hole, everything looks neat and tidy… though I accidentally scratched the cabinet with the hole saw near the lower right corner of the fan:
The view from inside the cabinet shows my sloppy cuts, but this is a view nobody else will see:
The plastic template also has markings for screw holes, but I prefer to drill them using the installed fan as a template. I used a 5/32″ bit to drill four holes, then dropped in the supplied machine screws. I also used a wood stain pen to touch up the scratch I’d made earlier:
I also decided that while I had the hole saw handy, I’d create another hole in the cabinet to feed the cable for my Amazon Echo Dot… and future-proof for anything else I might want on top of the cabinet later:
Using the provided nuts, I secured the machine screws from underneath. Tightening the fan into place should help eliminate vibration and noise:
I plugged the USB power cord into the provided power adapter, plugged it into the battery backup unit I keep in the cabinet, then hit the on switch. I had to look at the fan to make sure it was running. It’s quiet… and I mean really quiet. I held my hand above the top of the fan, and could feel air flowing out of the cabinet (it’s better to “pull” hot air from a cabinet than it is to “push” cooler air in).
I replaced the decor items on top of the cabinet, making sure not to block the fan. The fan is so quiet, and so completely hidden by the decor, that you’d never know it’s there. The gap in the cabinet doors (you can see blue light from the DirecTV DVR through it) is wide enough to allow cool air to flow in as the fan pushes hot air out:
Had I wanted to get really fancy, I’d have purchased the same fan with the digital thermostat control unit, which could turn the fan on and off based on the temperature inside the cabinet. It’s about $44 on Amazon (compared to $25 for the fan alone):
But I was going for a “stealth” install on this project, so I might use the fancy controller on a different future project. It can control up to four fans.
AC Infinity also has smaller fan units, as well as units with two, three, and four fans, so you can probably find one that’s right for your particular project.
Bottom line? If you’ve got your electronics hiding inside a hot & stuffy cabinet, you can dramatically extend their service life by circulating some cooler air around them with an AC Infinity fan. Like a number of other items I’ve reviewed, this item falls in the “cheap insurance” category, and can easily pay for itself by preventing the failure of your expensive A/V or computer equipment. I’m a fan of this fan.
As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below.