In our modern society, we have become very dependent upon our electronic gadgets and appliances. Most households (in the U.S) have Personal Computers with an Internet Connection. If we solely looked at the Personal Computer, we do a lot of thing with this product.
- We communicate with our friends, family members and business associates.
- We conduct financial transactions (e.g., buy or sell products on line)
- We create all kinds of documents (which are very important to our personal and business finances/operations)
- We store and play music (in the form of *.mp3 files)
- We (increasingly) store pictures that have sentimental value (and could be tough to replace if lost).
For many people, anytime their “computer dies”, it becomes a major inconvenience in their lives. If you were to look at some other electronic systems that we typically have in our homes, such as
- DVD Players
- Gaming Systems (e.g., Playstation, X-Box, Nintendo, Wii, etc.)
- Audio Entertainment Equipment
- Video Recording Equipment (for you people that like to post videos on YouTube.
- Appliances (such as Central Air Conditioning Systems, Heat Pumps, Microwave Ovens, etc.)
- HDTVs (e.g., LCD or Plasma)
All of these items entertain us, enlighten us and provide us with comfort. These products each require a considerable amount of money to purchase. Further, repairing and/or replacing these products is also quite expensive. Hence, I am quite amazed that people do not do more to protect their investment (in these electronic systems) and do whatever they can to extend the operating life time of these products.
In general, there are three (3) different destructive mechanisms that will either destroy or greatly reduce the operational life-time of your electronics. These three destructive mechanisms are
- Electrical Surge/Spike Events, and
- Electrical Noise
In this article, we are going to talk about HEAT. As we discuss Heat, we will cover the following topics.
- How is Heat destructive to your electronics?
- What can we do about heat – How to Protect Your Electronics from Heat and Extend the Operating Life of our Electronics?
2.0 HOW IS HEAT DESTRUCTIVE TO YOUR ELECTRONICS
Heat is an artifact of electronics. All electronic systems generate heat. Electronic systems accept electrical power (current and voltage) from the power line (via the electrical outlet). The electronic system uses a portion of this electrical power to perform work (e.g., the function that you want it to perform, e.g., play a DVD, cook a bag of popcorn, etc). The remaining portion of this electrical power is converted into heat.
However, heat is also an enemy of electronic systems. Few things are more effective in reducing the operating life-time of an electronic system, than raising the operating temperature of the electronic circuitry within your electronic system. If you were to speak with an Electronics Device Reliability expert, he/she would tell you that for every 10 degrees (Celsius) that you raise the operating temperature of an electrical device; you reduce the operating lifetime of that device by 50%. The impact of heat (in shortening the operating life) of your electronics is “huge”.
3.0 WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT HEAT?
As I mentioned earlier, all electronics generates heat. There is no way to prevent electronics from generating the very thing that can destroy it. However, there are a couple of things that you can do to prevent this heat from doing so much damage.
1. You can work to remove this heat from the electronics (as quickly as it generates it), or
2. You can do things to try to help the electronics to not generate so much heat in the first place.
I will address each of these approaches below.
3.1. REMOVING HEAT FROM THE ELECTRONICS
Many consumer electronic systems were designed with “Heat Removal” in mind. Some of these electronic systems (like desktop computers) contain “internal fans”. These fans were designed into these systems so that they could blow air through the area in which the system electronics resides. The intent behind having these fans to is blow the heat away from these electronics and to help keep them cool.
Other electronic systems contain “vents” (in their outer case) to provide an “escape path” for heat. Many of these vents are located at the top or in the “back-end” of the electrical system. On this basis, I have the following recommendations to permit the removal of heat from your electronics.
Make sure and keep papers, books, dust and other items from “blocking” the vents of these systems.
Leaving these items on top of your (DVD Player for example) will block the vents, and will not allow for heat to escape from your DVD Player. This will cause the temperature (surrounding the electronics) within your DVD player to rise; which will (in-turn) reduce the operating lifetime of your DVD player.
Make sure that the “back-end” of the electronic system is not “butt-up” against the wall or an entertainment cabinet.
It is important to make sure that there is sufficient air/ventilation space between the vents (in the back end) and the wall/cabinet to allow for Heat Removal.
Make sure and have your appliances (like your Central Air Conditioning system or Heat Pump) serviced.
Whenever these appliances are serviced, the service professional will do various things (like clean out dust and debris from ventilation path), therefore maintaining an unobstructed path for heat to escape from these systems.
Make sure that the fan (inside some of your systems) is working.
If this fan stops working, then you need to get it repaired quickly. Failure to do this will result in your electronic system having an early meeting with the “grim reaper” or an electronic waste disposal site.
3.2 REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF HEAT THAT THE ELECTRONICS GENERATE IN THE FIRST PLACE
Another approach to protecting your electronics from heat is to take steps to try to prevent your electronics from generating excessive heat in the first place. The amount of heat that is generated within an electronic system is often referred to as being related to the following expression for resistive loss: I^2XR, where:
- I represents the amount of current flowing through an electronic system and
- R represents the load impedance (or resistance) within this electronic system; and
- I^2 denotes ” I being raised to the 2nd Power, or “I-squared”
From this mathematical expression, you can see that if we were able to reduce the amount of current flowing through an electrical system, this would certainly help to reduce the amount of heat generated within this electrical system.
QUESTION: How can you reduce the current that an electrical system uses? Doesn’t it require a certain amount of current to do its job? The answer to this question is “Yes”, an electrical system does require a certain amount of current and voltage (electrical power) to do its job. However, it doesn’t need to use anymore current than that. Hence, we recommend that you use TVSS (Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors) components in order to reduce the current level (flowing into your electrical system).
Now, I know that some of you may be “scratching your heads” and wondering, “How in the world will this reduce the amount of current flowing into my electronic system” and (in turn reduce the amount of heat that it generates)? The answer is this: Anytime there is a large amount of electrical noise or spikes, or other forms of distortion in the electrical voltage and current in the power line, this also results in the flow of additional current into your electrical system. By using the TVSS components, you are eliminating this excessive current (due to noise, glitches, etc.) from the “power line” current, flowing into your electronic system.
In this case, you have now accomplished the following:
1. You have decreased the amount of current flowing into your electronic system, (which is the “I” in the expression “I^2 X R”) – which helps a lot to reduce the amount of heat that the system generates.
2. By reducing the heat that the electrical system generates, you are now lowering the ambient (or surrounding) temperature in which your electronics operates.
3. Lowering the ambient temperature will often times also reduce the load impedance/resistance in your electronic system (e.g., the “R” in this expression) as well.
QUESTION: How can you reduce the load impedance/resistance in an electronic system? Isn’t that a design feature of the electronic system? The answer to this question is “Yes it is”. You cannot change the load impedance/resistance by very much. But, the reason why lowering the ambient temperature will also reduce the load impedance/resistance is that many resistors have (what is called) a positive temperature coefficient. This means that as the ambient temperature goes up, does the resistor value of this particular resistor.