Many people believe that there is only one way to cool a case, that isn’t always true. There are a lot of factors that are involved if you want to cool your rig as efficiently as possible. Below, I broke down some factors that should be considered, as well as different configurations when it comes to setting up your “Air Flow System”.
People forget how important it is to choose the right case for the right setup. A properly cooled computer starts with a case. Look at your budget and choose the appropriate case depending on what you are trying to achieve. A well ventilated case ensures the most critical and power hungry components of the computer get the cooling they need in order to operate efficiently. Make sure to check each case’s features, some are ideal for gaming others are more suitable for quiet computing.
Fact: The Arrhenius Equation – Component life doubles with each 10 degree temperature decrease
Cable management is very important for any builds. The excess cable clutter can prevent optimal air flow throughout the system. Having disorganized cabling is one of the leading causes of having dust build up within the case. Dust build up can prevent air flow making the system run hotter. Also, many cables are designed for maximum thermal insulation and they can still radiate heat towards other areas of the computer. Simply put, cable management offers better air flow, safety, and aesthetics.
Cable management is not a must for all system set ups, however it is highly recommended if you’ll be using your system for gaming or over clocking.
Air Flow Configurations:
Equalized Airflow – Push / pull or Fan in / Fan out System
– Warm air naturally rises, so the ideal way to remove the heat it is to draw cool air from the lowest points of the case and exhaust through the highest points of the case. Adding a push/pull configuration in the front of the case fan adds faster airflow through the case for more cooling capabilities (if your case supports it). You can setup your airflow however direction you want, as long as the flow is in one straight line…or more like an “S” flow of air, this setup is called Equalized Airflow. Insufficient cooling can shorten your component’s lifespan and degrade their performance.
Positive Pressure Airflow – More Air in Than Air Out
– This setup is recommended for an enthusiast-oriented configuration. Positive pressure is overwhelmingly a benefit; it reduces dust in your system. If your case is well designed, it should include fan filters in an attempt to catch most of the dust before it can get in the chassis before a dust build up. Positive Airflow improves heat transfer and will aid the rear/top exhaust fans. This set up also Maximize graphics card cooler’s efficiency; most GPUs are designed to exhaust air toward the rear to prevent heated air from being recycled back into the chassis.
Negative Pressure Airflow System – More Air Out Than Air In
– This setup will pull out more heat but will suck in more dust through the expansion slots and other mesh area of the case. As I mentioned above, most GPUs exhaust air through the rear, having an exhaust rear fan may potentially suck the warm air coming from your GPU back into the case, which isn’t good. It can build up heat quickly if the airflow is restricted in any way so you need to be sure you temperatures are in the safe ranges during heavy gaming activity because heat can build up quickly. If you are not over clocking, a properly designed negative pressure airflow system will work well with exhaust fans only and no intake fans at all, unless spot cooling is needed for a hot spot.
So which is better? Negative, Positive or Equalized airflow?
It depends on the case, components used and how they are arranged. In other words, what works better for one setup won’t be the best option for another. That is why I don’t think there is a “best” best setup out of the three. Some cases are much more suited to one over the other. Especially when account for obstruction. A good example is a server case, pretty much all of them are designed for positive air pressure configuration, but they are all designed around air channels and set flow paths in their cases.
First of all, check if the temperature is right. Then you can test its effectiveness by allowing smoke to be sucked into the case. If the smoke is almost immediately evacuated, your case is set up properly. If it lingers in the case for a while, or get in the corners without being evacuated, you need to change your cooling setup. Since every case is different, you will just have to experiment with fan placement, power, and direction to get the best airflow. Here’s a quick tutorial video I found on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU5oXqfg7vo
**On a side note: Direction is key, having the flow directed at the components you want cooled makes all the difference**
Positive Airflow = More intake fans than exhaust
Negative Airflow = More exhaust fans than intake
Equalized Airflow = same number of intake fans to exhaust
Adding a side fan(s):
– I’m a big fan of side fans. You’ll hear/read people gripe about how it interferes with their fan orientation, but if you have a well balanced intake/exhaust and position your fans correctly, it can be very beneficial. Basically, you are feeding cooler air directly onto your Motherboard/CPU, where it’s needed the most. Air coming from the front intake fan, passes through most of the case before hitting your crucial components; absorbing heat all along the way.
In the end, it is really up to you, if you decide to just to a quick build to save you time, go for it, but be prepared for complications that might occur later. I DO however highly suggest looking into airflow configurations and learning about properly cooling your rig. Building a system is like an investment where you put a good amount of time and money in to, so taking the appropriate pre-cautions are the way to go.