Things To Keep In Mind While Installing a Fanless Computer
Posted on October 6, 2021
In the world of embedded computers, fanless PCs are quickly becoming the norm. Requiring neither air conditioning nor a dedicated cooling system, these systems are ideal for industrial and commercial settings.
While fanless computers do not require much maintenance, thanks to the lack of active cooling components, they do require careful installation. What are the factors to keep in mind while setting up fanless embedded systems? Here is an overview.
The way fanless cooling systems work is by using the fins on the chassis as a massive heat sink. This means that a fanless system is going to generate hot air currents, which must be taken into account before installing the computer.
As there are no active components generating the airflow in the machine, care must be taken to leave adequate clearance around the computer to set up a natural airflow. No electronic devices should be situated above the system, as the rising heat can cause damage.
This obviously also means that fanless computers should not be installed in small enclosed spaces. A well-ventilated space is required to prevent a build-up of heat in the surroundings.
Unlike a normal PC, there is no fan pushing out a constant stream of air in this computer. A fanless system relies completely on the natural motion of warm air, so the manner in which it is installed is also of utmost importance.
The fins of a fanless computer are its outlets, and to ensure they can radiate their heat out properly, they must be facing the right direction. For a computer placed on a flat surface, this means keeping the fins pointing up, while for PCs mounted on vertical walls, the orientation should be outward.
While fanless systems are resistant to dust and high heat, they aren’t immune to these conditions. If the computer is placed in a harsh environment rife with dirt and particulate matter, even a fanless PC might end up developing problems.
Some consideration is required when installing the system to ensure that it is not placed directly in the path of contaminants. It might also be a good idea to block the ports not in use to minimize the chances of dust getting in.
Also, the computer must not be placed near other heat sources or direct sunlight. While the chassis is meant to get heated, that should be entirely due to its internal heat dissipation. External heat can lead to a spike in temperatures, adversely affecting the cooling efficiency of the system.
Supplying power to multiple devices in a single location is a tricky business. Often, the power is routed through a single DC bus and split into multiple outputs. While that may not be an issue with things like relay switches and motors, electronic devices like computers are far more sensitive.
Reverse voltage spikes can severely damage all kinds of computing systems, not just fanless PCs. This is why it is always advised to implement a separate power supply for your computers. Using the correct power adapter is also essential, as these are often calibrated for the specific system’s needs. It protects the computer from voltage surges or fluctuations and keeps it running smoothly.
Wear And Tear
Setting up a fanless PC doesn’t end with the initial installation. An industrial computer is designed to take a lot of punishment, but sooner or later, time does take its toll. The cabling to your fanless system is especially vulnerable to wear and tear.
Connectors can fail, stress points can break, throwing a wrench into your whole setup. Apart from regular inspection of the cables, it is also a good idea to support them properly in the first place, instead of relying on stop-gap measures.
Fanless PCs are more sensitive to things like location and surroundings than most. In the absence of an active cooling component, much of the heat dissipation is carried out by natural processes, which require some careful design.
That being said, fanless computers are also one of the more resilient and maintenance-free devices out there. Once you set them up properly, you do not need to invest much time and resources in just keeping them running, unlike fan-powered systems.
This is why it is a good idea to put in some extra effort upfront, preventing problems from occurring down the line.