Cooling EA380 with P182 fan (Mike C's radical suggestion)

PSUs: The source of DC power for all components in the PC & often a big noise source.

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catkin
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Cooling EA380 with P182 fan (Mike C's radical suggestion)

Post by catkin » Thu Feb 12, 2009 6:17 am

Hello :)

Once upon a long time ago in the Seasonic S12 Fan Upgrade thread Mike Chin made a radical suggestion:
MikeC wrote:I know that this topic is about modding an S12 with a quieter fan for use in a P180. I have a radical suggestion.

1. Remove the cover off any (halfway decent?) PSU.
2. Remove the fan.
3. Mount it coverless and fanless in the P180.
4. Block the extra vent holes below the PSU exhaust on the back panel of the case.
5. Mount the quietest 120mm fan you can get your hands on in the PSU chamber and run it at the lower voltage that it can start at.
6. Relax and enjoy the quiet w/o worrying about the PSU overheating.

Caveats:
1. POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS EXPOSURE TO HIGH VOLTAGE if you open the case when the system is powered up or plugged into AC.
2. It will work more "safely" (thermally speaking) with more efficient PSUs that have bigger heatsinks.
3. You might even want to bend (or cut away) the "intake" panel so that the airflow from the mid-way fan can go unimpeded straight into the PSU.
4. If you have a PSU with a smart fan controller (like the Seasonics), you have the option of powering the 120mm fan via the PSU fan controller.

I have been meaning to try this for some time. Maybe next week... I've always meant for the P180 to be a silent PC experimenter's dream case. ;)
Has anybody done this?

I'm contemplating something similar for an Antec EA380 PSU in an Antec P182 case.

I live in India where availability of specialist components is limited, hence the choice of PSU. After importing S-Flex SFF21E fans to replace the stock P182 fans, the biggest source of noise is the EA380's fan.

How about doing something like Mike suggested, removing the EA380's fan and hooking up its fan controller to the SFF21E fan in the P182's bottom air chamber? The only exit from the P182's bottom air chamber is the PSU's exhaust; openings into the upper air chamber and to atmosphere have been sealed.

BTW, the quietest-of-breed PSUs don't appeal for the P182. All the ones I've looked at use an intake fan on the big face. When fitted in an Antec P182 this results in an air path with a narrow channel under the PSU and a right angle turn from that narrow channel into the PSU; this cannot be good for power consmption vs. cooling efficiency and hence not for noise. "Not good" but maybe not significant?

Best

Charles

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Post by Ch0z3n » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:20 am

Using a PSU with a 120mm fan isn't necessarily bad in a P182. A lot of people use them and swear by them. In the P182 I generally prefer a PSU with an inline 80mm fan just because the air doesn't have to change direction as much. For what you are talking about doing it would be best to use a PSU with an 80mm fan because then it will be designed for air to flow over it that way.

That seems like a whole lot of work and voiding of warranties for probably not a great deal of gain. You could consider just swapping out the fan for a slightly slower one that is quieter. That might be your best bet.
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Post by blackworx » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:23 am

I'd never seen Mike's post until now, but came up with the same idea in an email discussion with a friend last year. I decided against it at the time, but now I can't remember my reasoning as it all looks like a really good idea again! I think I will go digging in my email archive to find out...

EDIT: Found the email. Turns out I ditched the idea because my PSU (Antec Neopower 650 Blue) has quite a restrictive exhaust grill made of square mesh almost identical to the surrounding mesh of the P182. I decided the PSU would suffer from lack of airflow because of the significant back pressure from such a restrictive mesh. An S12 with its wide open hexagonal mesh wouldn't have that problem; quite annoying because I believe the NP650 Blue was actually made by Seasonic...

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Post by samuelmorris » Thu Feb 12, 2009 9:58 pm

EA380? The Earthwatts unit? Many true silencers prefer 80mm fans for PSUs and it's easy to see why, it's completely devoid of any grind like most 120mm PSUs (BeQuiet, Corsair for example). My EarthWatts 380W is the quietest PSU I've ever owned, including the relatively good Corsair HX 520W. I don't really see much to be gained from modding one.

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Post by catkin » Mon Feb 16, 2009 8:47 am

Thanks all for your input :)
Ch0z3n wrote:Using a PSU with a 120mm fan isn't necessarily bad in a P182. A lot of people use them and swear by them. In the P182 I generally prefer a PSU with an inline 80mm fan just because the air doesn't have to change direction as much. For what you are talking about doing it would be best to use a PSU with an 80mm fan because then it will be designed for air to flow over it that way.

That seems like a whole lot of work and voiding of warranties for probably not a great deal of gain. You could consider just swapping out the fan for a slightly slower one that is quieter. That might be your best bet.
Yes -- I, too, like the idea of an airflow with less direction changes but what you say about many people being happy with the alternative suggests it's not so significant.

The existing EA380 is an 80 mm fan design

Work I can do :lol:, warranties I don't care about :twisted: and I anticipate gaining a significantly quieter system without buying any extra components. The last is important because availability of specialist components in India is limited and importing is difficult ("Buying on a UK debit card for delivery in India? You must be joking, sir!") and expensive (GBP 40 for FedExing 4 DIMMs after delivery to a friend in UK) .
blackworx wrote:I'd never seen Mike's post until now, but came up with the same idea in an email discussion with a friend last year. I decided against it at the time, but now I can't remember my reasoning as it all looks like a really good idea again! I think I will go digging in my email archive to find out...

EDIT: Found the email. Turns out I ditched the idea because my PSU (Antec Neopower 650 Blue) has quite a restrictive exhaust grill made of square mesh almost identical to the surrounding mesh of the P182. I decided the PSU would suffer from lack of airflow because of the significant back pressure from such a restrictive mesh. An S12 with its wide open hexagonal mesh wouldn't have that problem; quite annoying because I believe the NP650 Blue was actually made by Seasonic...
Thanks for digging back into your records. Why did you think the restrictive mesh would be more significant using the P182's bottom chamber fan than the Neopower's internal fan?
samuelmorris wrote:EA380? The Earthwatts unit? Many true silencers prefer 80mm fans for PSUs and it's easy to see why, it's completely devoid of any grind like most 120mm PSUs (BeQuiet, Corsair for example). My EarthWatts 380W is the quietest PSU I've ever owned, including the relatively good Corsair HX 520W. I don't really see much to be gained from modding one.
Yes -- the Earthwatts unit. Do you know why most 120 mm PSUs "grind"? My EA3800 is not loud but it is the the biggest source of noise in the system. Perhaps mine is noisier than yours -- an example of sample variance?

OK -- I'm going to try it and see how it goes, intending to report back here. Anybody foresee any issues hooking up the EA380's fan controller to an SFF21E (3 wire) fan?

Best

Charles

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Post by samuelmorris » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:11 am

I can't hear the Earthwatts 380W over any 120mm fan turned up beyond 800rpm, even relatively good ones, but the unit is never under much stress as it isn't powering a game system (well it is, but the system isn't normally used for games), the highest load it usually sees is 130W or so from the socket.
120mm fan PSUs typically grind because they use ball bearing fans, which are noticeably noisier than sleeve bearing fans (which tend to hiss instead). They use ball bearings, as sleeves take less kindly to being mounted horizontally and exposed directly to heat.

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Post by jhhoffma » Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:53 am

samuelmorris wrote:EA380? The Earthwatts unit? Many true silencers prefer 80mm fans for PSUs and it's easy to see why, it's completely devoid of any grind like most 120mm PSUs (BeQuiet, Corsair for example). My EarthWatts 380W is the quietest PSU I've ever owned, including the relatively good Corsair HX 520W. I don't really see much to be gained from modding one.
What do you mean, "True silencers prefer 80mm fans for PSUs?" That's a blanket statement that I wouldn't agree with and I own an EA430 and an S12-330.

I will say that as far as 80mm-cooled PSU's go, the Earthwatts aren't that bad, IF you can keep them isolated or otherwise cool. If you put them in a standard ATX setup with some medium powered equipment, the fan controller will ramp up quite a bit and you will have one loud PSU on your hands.

Overall, 120mm are quieter than 80mm. It's a simple fact. A well-made 120mm fan will be able to run slower than an 80mm fan while still producing the same CFM. If you need something other than my opinion, this is a good place to start. You don't see a lot of 80mm-cooled PSUs there for a reason, and the ones you do that perform well are made by Antec, who produces cases that isolate the PSU from the rest of the heat-generating components? Coincidence? Not likely. Fan controller and fan choice matter as much as fan size.

For the average user who has a standard ATX case and uses medium powered hardware (no SLI or highpowered QuadCore), I'm recommending a SeaSonic S12 or Enermax Modu82+ as they are dead quiet and proven so.
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Post by samuelmorris » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:23 pm

I would agree, for the same workload, 120mm fans are indeed quieter than 80mm fans. However, due to reasons I don't fully understand, presumably the manufacturing process, apart from vibration 80mm fans seem to be able to achieve lower minimum noise levels than 120mm fans, at any speed.
The difference of opinion on what a medium powered system is clearly varies, as my gaming PC uses 6 to 7 times that of my fileserver, which could use far less if I removed the graphics card.
The S12s are certainly admirable units, though I don't know how they stack up to the Corsair HX units - mine seemed to run just as quiet at full stress (400W DC) as it did at idle, and I listened pretty carefully to check this. I tend not to recommend people the Modu82 units, as I can't shake the number of failures I keep seeing on various forums.

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Post by blackworx » Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:48 am

catkin wrote:Thanks for digging back into your records. Why did you think the restrictive mesh would be more significant using the P182's bottom chamber fan than the Neopower's internal fan?
I figured pressure would be lost because of 1) the increased distance from fan to exhaust vent, and 2) general leakage into the main chamber.

I've been thinking about it more since you posted though. My PSU is now out of warranty, plus I was planning to replace the fan anyway (it recently started grinding :evil:) I will probably give it a shot. I won't have the time for a couple of weeks though, but watch this space.

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Post by jhhoffma » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:43 am

samuelmorris wrote:I would agree, for the same workload, 120mm fans are indeed quieter than 80mm fans. However, due to reasons I don't fully understand, presumably the manufacturing process, apart from vibration 80mm fans seem to be able to achieve lower minimum noise levels than 120mm fans, at any speed.
...
The S12s are certainly admirable units, though I don't know how they stack up to the Corsair HX units - mine seemed to run just as quiet at full stress (400W DC) as it did at idle, and I listened pretty carefully to check this.
Well the HX Corsairs are made by SeaSonic, if that tells you anything. So were the early Earthwatts, now they're made by Delta.

However your previous statement just doesn't make sense. Apart from vibration, the only other noise you have is motor noise and airflow. Unless you don't have an SPCR quality fan, you shouldn't be hearing much motor noise at all (Scythe Slipstream, Nexus 120mm, GlobalWin NCB, etc). And if you're comparing 80mm and 120mm fans at equal RPM, then you're not doing apples to apples. The 120mm will be pushing a lot more air at equal RPMs and you will hear much more whooshing.

I'm not sure you'd find anyone else here to agree with that statement. You might want to provide something more than anecdotal evidence to support that opinion, though. The problem with sound is that it's truly subjective and different people hear different things differently (whoa). Numbers only tell half the story; which is why SPCR comments on sound quality in addition to the dBA stats. You may indeed have some 80mm fans that are quieter than your experience with 120mm fans, but is it more likely that you have some sample variance or subjective bias, or that the entire industry is heading in the wrong direction (larger, slower fans) based on faulty data?

Not trying to beat anyone down on this, I just want to make it clear that this is in complete opposition to the (generally accepted) unspoken truth at SPCR. An opposing viewpoint is always welcome, but should be backed up with facts or extensive subjective testing.
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Post by samuelmorris » Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:01 am

I meant for the same CFM, not the same rpm, and they do. Even in Nexus fans this is obvious, the 80mm fan noise is very smooth, the loudest noise a 120mm Nexus makes up until 700rpm or so is the bearing hiss, and this is prevalent in all four 120mm fans I have, bought in two pairs years apart.

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Post by jhhoffma » Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:58 pm

samuelmorris wrote:I meant for the same CFM, not the same rpm, and they do. Even in Nexus fans this is obvious, the 80mm fan noise is very smooth, the loudest noise a 120mm Nexus makes up until 700rpm or so is the bearing hiss, and this is prevalent in all four 120mm fans I have, bought in two pairs years apart.
Please clarify what you mean in this post. The only thing I'm sure of you're saying is that that a Nexus 120mm makes a hiss...

If you are saying that you compared 80mm and 120mm fans at the same CFM, how did you accomplish this? And the fact that to get the same CFM from an 80mm fan as you would a 120mm fan you would have to have between double and triple the rpms, seems unlikely that the noise character due to the bearing could be comparable or heard over the excess airflow.

Maybe to you a smooth bearing noise means that it's a higher frequency and exhibits less chuffing from the blade tips, which is a valid point, but I wouldn't say that it's quieter unless you can show something that all of SPCRs reviews don't.
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Post by samuelmorris » Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:53 pm

I compared by looking at the CFM readings the 80mm and 120mm Nexus fans get respectively in SPCR's reviews, and adjusting their speed accordingly.
You don't seem to get that I'm in agreement with SPCR, not trying to discredit it.

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Post by jaganath » Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:44 am

let us put a stop to this bickering and point out the obvious: both 80mm and 120mm PSU fan layouts have their benefits. This is highly dependent on the case it is installed in and the PSU role (ie does it only have to deal with its own heat or that of the case). In the classic ATX configuration (ie evacuating case heat), you would have to favour a 120mm, simply for the greater air-moving ability. However, in a well-designed case such as the P182, where the PSU only has to deal with its own heat plus possibly a couple of hard drives, the advantage of 120mm vs 80mm is not quite so clearcut. But again, this only applies to well-designed PSUs, with intelligent fan controller that only increases speed as little as possible in order to ensure sufficient airflow. A rubbish 80mm vs a rubbish 120mm is still going to be rubbish, and vice versa. The Antec NeoHE series was an example of a well-designed 80mm PSU.

However, the issue is largely moot nowadays as most 80mm PSUs are either cheap rubbish (ie Deer, Codegen, Eagle, etc) or hugely powerful gaming PSU (e.g. Antec Truepower Quattro), neither of which are quiet by SPCR standards.
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Post by samuelmorris » Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:48 am

I would agree with that, but I like to think that the Earthwatts 380W is a exception to that rule, or at least mine is. For its intended use, it's a nice quiet unit. For any higher load though, I'm sure 120mm fan PSU would work out being quieter.

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Post by catkin » Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:04 am

Hello :)

OK, I've opened the PSU and learned four things:
  1. The PSU fan is a two wire model so a two pin plug is required to connect the three wire SFF21E fan.
  2. The exhaust grille is retained by screws tapped into the fan casing so equivalent nuts are required.
  3. The P182's PSU clamp (with anti-vibration rubbers) requires the PSU casing.
  4. The PSU casing vents guide the airflow over the heatsinks and, on one side, onto a presumably hot area.
So ...

A cheap fan will provide the two wire socket and, corners sawn off, nuts for the exhaust grille retaining screws (I don't want to cannibalise the OEM fan so it can be refitted if necessary).

Contrary to Mike's original idea, the cover will stay in place to provide something for the P182's clamp to clamp on and to direct the airflow where needed.

After the modification is done, there will be little information about what's going on except the HDD temperature and feeling the flow and temperature of PSU exhaust air. Perhaps the SFF21E fan's RPM indicator wire and a wire forked off its 0 V wire could be taken to an unused fan header on the motherboard to allow monitoring of the SFF21E fan's speed. Does that sound practicable?

To give a bit more background for the debate about noise from the EA380 Earthwatt PSU, it is the biggest noise source in the computer, despite providing relatively little power because the computer is designed for low power consumption. I don't have an input power meter so I can't report exactly how much/little but:
  • the CPU is a 45W model (Athlon x2 Dual Core BE-2300).
  • the video card is modest (GeForce 7200 GS).
  • a low power consumption HDD is fitted (WD3200AAKS-0063A0).
  • the CPU cooler fan (on a Triton 75) typically runs about half the time (depending on the workload, of course) at the minimum speed that ensures reliable starting (~500 RPM) at which speed I cannot hear it without getting close to the system unit.
  • the only high power item is 4 GB of DDR2-800 DIMMs
Best

Charles
Last edited by catkin on Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by samuelmorris » Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:06 am

Can't you just plug the connector on anyway and leave the rpm pin exposed, since its on the outside?

Your system uses a lot less power than the one my Earthwatts runs:
Core 2 Duo E4300
Gigabyte EP31-DS3L
2x1GB Corsair XMS2
Radeon X1900XT Passive
6 3.5" HDDs (all the noise in the system :S )

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Post by catkin » Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:20 am

Wow, samuelmorris, you were quick! :)
samuelmorris wrote:Can't you just plug the connector on anyway and leave the rpm pin exposed, since its on the outside?
Thanks for the suggestion. It's not possible without modifying something; the shape of both connectors prevents it but I'll investigate the possibility of removing some material from the accessible one.

What you have just reported about your system's components and hence an indication of the power your EA380 is supplying makes it more surprising that your EA380 is so quiet - unless the racket from 6 HDDs is drowning out everything else! (Joking -- please don't take offence)

My best theory is that we are deep into sample variance here and either you are very lucky in having an unusually quiet EA380 or I am very unlucky in having a very noisy one! To be fair I am lucky in having very little ambient noise (no traffic, no heating or AC, only neighbour asleep ... only a few crickets and a dog barking in the distance) and the only other fans (CPU and case exhaust are driven off the same CPU case temperature) amble around lazily half the time; the rest of the time they are stationary. The noisiest thing of all is the keyboard!

Best

Charles

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Post by samuelmorris » Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:49 am

Well, when I stick my ear right up to the back of the unit, I can only hear the faint roar of the air coming out, nothing else. No offense taken btw :)

Maybe I do have a unusually quiet unit, but I would consider the EA380 noticeably quieter than the Corsair HX 520 I've owned, and that is well known for being a very quiet unit in most people's books.

I really hit it lucky with our student house, you don't hear a peep out of the neighbours except when the vacuum cleaner is on or the baby is bawling (and even then, in my room it's hardly audible the walls are so thick) and there's basically no traffic, oh and no crickets :)

Quite a nice environment for testing quiet PC components, of which I've done a lot. I powered up the system with no other noise generators plugged in but the case fans, and the unit was very smooth, and amazingly quiet, quieter than a nexus 80mm fan when held in my hand (so no vibes), and surprisingly, almost no noticeable vibration either. From listening closely at that test and with the rest of the system it doesn't sound like the fan ramps up at all.

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Post by maf718 » Wed Feb 18, 2009 3:51 pm

catkin wrote:
samuelmorris wrote:Can't you just plug the connector on anyway and leave the rpm pin exposed, since its on the outside?
Thanks for the suggestion. It's not possible without modifying something; the shape of both connectors prevents it but I'll investigate the possibility of removing some material from the accessible one.
Usually you can simply pull off the plastic shroud aroung the 2-pin connector in the PSU, with some fine-nosed pliers, and then the three pin fan connects perfectly - the pin spacing is generally the same.

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Post by catkin » Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:01 am

Hello :)

The modification is completed and the system is quieter. Sorry - no camera so no pics. The EA380 PSU's fan controller is good at starting the SFF21E fan in the standard position in the P182's bottom chamber -- starting nicely and running at low speed, better than the motherboard (Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3 Rev 1.0) running fancontrol under ubuntu is controlling two other SFF21E fans.

Thanks to maf718 for making the job easier:
maf718 wrote: Usually you can simply pull off the plastic shroud around the 2-pin connector in the PSU, with some fine-nosed pliers, and then the three pin fan connects perfectly - the pin spacing is generally the same.
With the shroud removed, the SFF21E fan's 3 pin plug fitted the bare pins perfectly. The EA380 PSU's circuit board even has the 0 V pin identified by solid marking.

Regards canibalising an old fan to make nuts for the PSU exit grille, I chose not to cut off the corners as planned but to leave the outer casing intact, removing only the fan and fan supports. Advantages are a) the four nuts are in a single unit so easier to line-up and fit and b) better (more laminar) airflow through the shaped fan casing than through a plain hole in the PSU case.

Holes in the P182's bottom chamber fan bulkhead/bracket were blocked up to minimise air bleed from the high pressure side to the low.

The gap around the PSU output cables leaving the bottom chamber for the top was better sealed.

BTW, this EA380 PSU's fan was an ADDA AD0812HS-A70GL. I can feel bearing roughness from this one after spinning it up by hand in its normal orientation and direction. Perhaps it is an unusually noisy example of its type and hence the quietness gained by this modification.

So far, so good ...

Best,

Charles

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A disadvantage

Post by catkin » Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:08 am

One disadvantage of this modification is that the PSU is not cooled unless the case sides are fitted -- or it may be a useful discipline!

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