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Noinoi
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So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:18 am

Feeling a little bored and kind of want to see how everyone's doing with their rigs, specifically how their case fans are set up, in conjunction with existing coolers within the system. Also think of it as kind of unofficially asking for tips on setting up optimal case fan layouts in general.

I use a Corsair 100R as the case, and after adding an additional pair of 12cm fans at the top, it's pretty serviceable and it does get the heated air out of the case quickly during and after intrusive GPU loads. Though my system has no fan intakes, so the air is kind of forced by the exhausts. I'd love to use front intakes too, but I'd need to get another pair of fans and some splitters... I guess I have to make do with an unbalanced situation. Thoughts? (Using the pair as front intakes made things stay hotter for longer, so nope.)
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:00 am

The biggest downside to negative pressure airflow is dust, since even if you've got intake filters, some dusty air will still get pulled through any other openings/gaps in the case. Maintaining positive pressure with filtered air will keep things much cleaner. This is somewhat less of an issue than it was back when every system had floppy and optical drives, since you don't need to worry about the drives getting clogged with dust any more.

The upside to negative pressure is that IMO it tends to provide more even cooling of the internal drive bays (assuming they're mounted up front). Cool air gets pulled in through the front vents and across all of the drives, instead of just being blown across whichever drives happen to be mounted behind the front intake fan(s). If you have lots of hard drives this may be a factor to consider. (Dependent on the design of your case and placement of intake vents, of course...)
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:01 am

Generally you want more intake than exhaust so there is positive pressure inside the case and dust isn't sucked into every nook and cranny.

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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:05 am

Main system specs in my signature has the following:
Intake = 2 x 120mm fans
Exhaust = 1 x 120mm fan
PSU intakes from outside the case
Tower-style CPU heatsink
GPU with 2 axial fans (not centrifugal)

Positive internal air pressure (more intake than exhaust) is best because it ensures the intake air is going through the fan dust filters and not being sucked in through any random hole/gap in your case unfiltered. Keeps the insides dust free.

If you're having temp issues, a fan mounted to the side panel is the absolute best way to keep things cool. You can easily add a side panel fan with a hole saw. I've done it before. mnpctech.com has a nice guide and templates. I'd recommend using silicon fan pegs to mount a side panel fan because the side panel on most cases is pretty thin and acts as a noise diaphragm for fan vibrations.

I think too many builders go overboard on the number of fans they use. IMO, the 2 x 1 setup (120mm fans for a baseline) is optimal for all but the most extreme setups. I'd bet my system temps wouldn't even change if I went to a 1 x 1 fan setup either.

There's a balance, more case fans = more case fan noise which is closest and least obstructed noise to your ears. But if you don't have enough cooling, your CPU/GPU fans may ramp up. It's all about finding the minimum amount of fans that keeps your temps in check. Various cases have better layouts for cooling than others also (ie hdd cage that blocks airflow from front panel fans/no cable management/etc etc)
Last edited by DPete27 on Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:06 am

Positive pressure here.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:16 am

Positive pressure for sure.

As others have said, negative pressure builds up dust, and running a negative pressure-only case is a bad idea because some areas might end up in dead zones, and you can have short circuit airflow (eg air flowing from rear exhaust to top exhaust, bypassing most of the case).
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:17 am

One 120mm rear case exhaust fan (900rpm), typically running at 500 rpm. Been running like that without issues for 3.5 years now, and very minimal dust buildup. (as in still does not have to be blown out)

Case..............hmmmmmmmm Lian-Li pc-7fn.

edit - psu sits on bottom and is fanless.

Heat rises, so if your case has big opening in the top for rad or fans, natural convection would probably work well enough.
If your case has screens or filters, one exhaust fan at the top should be fine and will assist with the flow of natural convection.
Last edited by anotherengineer on Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:18 am

Positive pressure, horizontally (front to back instead of bottom to top). 2x 120mm intakes, 1x 120mm exhaust.

Shopped around for many many cases, finally found a reasonably priced positive pressure case with an easy access dust filter. A tiny bit of dust gets in but nowhere near as much as what's on the filter.

I don't like bottom to top airflow cases because I can't stack anything else atop them.
 
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 11:28 am

I guess I probably have weird priorities if I prefer to have a fan layout that ensures that heat actually gets out. I actually tried different fan configurations for playing games and video card benchmarking with my Strix 970, and I've noticed that I get the best case temps (and in relation, CPU/GPU) if all exhausts are filled.

Guess I probably should think about a little bit of outlay for an additional pair of intake fans and perhaps two Y-splitters (just 3 case fan headers on mobo). Make it more balanced, it seems. Dunno if it'll make the cooling performance worse, though.

(The room ambient temp hovers around 29-32C all year round, so getting the heat out is my first concern. Dust can be removed later, and last time I checked through the windowed case, it's still pretty darned clean after 4 months.)
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 12:01 pm

Depends on the case. But in general I always try to have these rules:

Positive pressure for the reasons already listed.

Fans exhausting across all spinning disks. I don't like to rely on passive flow over disk drives, so I always make sure to have a case that I can mount a fan directly in front of any spinning disks.

Front-to-back airflow, like GodATX intended.

No major intake/exhaust points without a fan. If a case has 3 fan openings in it, I either fill all of them with fans or I seal the extra openings off. This helps prevent dust, and also helps me directly control airflow. This also goes for large vents in the case (like these side vents on the CM Elite 110), which I seal off. This goes hand-in-hand with my next point.

Redundant fan layout. I try to set it up so that if any one fan fails, the passive air flow from the remaining fans will ensure there is no stagnant air. In smaller cases like the Elite 110 linked above, I can rely on the combination of the main fan in the front and the power supply's fan so that if the front fan fails, the negative draw from the PSU fan, combined with the fact that all the extra vents are sealed off means air will continue to flow front-to-back, across the hard drives. In a larger case, I try to make the setup close to neutral pressure, but slightly positive, so that if one intake fan fails, the case will switch to negative pressure, and the opening the failed fan is covering will still get a small amount of airflow. I try to also use at least one temperature-sensitive fan in the case so that any failure of the other fans will be somewhat corrected for by the temperature controlled fan.

I cut my teeth building machines in the height of the 150+w Prescott CPU era, where a single fan failure would get the system so hot it would practically turn normal CPU grease into epoxy (I've removed many heat sinks from boards with the CPU still attached, and had to pull the CPU from the heat sink with a vice). Many of my builds are for machines in a factory environment without HVAC so I tend to make sure I over-think cooling.

The part that always bugs me is I still don't think there's a proper standard that takes into account the massive wattage output by modern GPUs. I greatly dislike the unorganized nature of the airflow created by GPU fans that just recirculate into the case, but the tiny ~10 cm2 opening on the second PCIe slot cover really isn't a substitute for even the ~100cm2 opening on a 80mm fan, which is the smallest fan usually on a CPU heatsink, even though the CPU consumes ~90w and the GPU can be well over 200w.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 12:39 pm

SuperSpy wrote:
The part that always bugs me is I still don't think there's a proper standard that takes into account the massive wattage output by modern GPUs. I greatly dislike the unorganized nature of the airflow created by GPU fans that just recirculate into the case, but the tiny ~10 cm2 opening on the second PCIe slot cover really isn't a substitute for even the ~100cm2 opening on a 80mm fan, which is the smallest fan usually on a CPU heatsink, even though the CPU consumes ~90w and the GPU can be well over 200w.


Heh. This is the part that made me add the pair of additional case fans in the first place... The rear exhaust wasn't cutting it and led to significantly hotter case temps (though not dangerously hot) inside the case, even after the load is removed, for quite a long time.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:05 pm

I run all noctua PWM fans controlled by fan xpert on the asus motherboard. 2x140mm + 1x120mm in the front. 1x140mm in the rear. At low load it's impossible to hear them. All front fans have dust filters which are regularly cleaned.
 
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:25 pm

Corsair Carbide 88R case

Rear exhaust fan is stock 120mm that came with the case... and now it's actually plugged in properly (unlike when I made my thread asking about an exhaust fan)

Case didn't come with any other fans but I've added an inake in the bottom fan slot on the front, an "Aerocool 12cm Turbine fan" which is quiet and slow spining, and above that I have my water cooler radiator (Corsair H75) intaking (it's two fans in a "push pull")

The drive cage is right in front of those fans so they get the bulk of the intake airflow.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:49 pm

Slightly positive pressure is all you need to ensure that the dust is collected by the washable filters instead of your components.
If you're using the PSU as an additional exhaust, count it as half an exhaust - so 2 intake, 1 exhaust + PSU is usually adequate, otherwise 2 intake 2 exhaust is fine as long as you reduce the RPM of the exhausts slightly with fan control.

It's also certainly possible to go overkill on cooling. A couple of low-RPM 120mm intake fans will provide something like 70CFM of cooling, so if your case ~2CF or so, it's enough airflow to completely replace all the air in the case in under two seconds. More fans is just more noise so if you're struggling for cooling you should look at the airflow path in your case rather than just adding more fans. Quite often something as simple as moving a drive bay to an alternative location is enough to dramatically reduce GPU temperatures by clearing a path for fresh air to reach the GPU cooler.

As for fan location, intakes are best kept low and the ultimate location for them is on the floor of the case blowing up directly into the GPU cooler, assuming your case feet provide adequate ground clearance. Otherwise, at the front and as low as possible. It sounds dumb, but seal off the unused areas of the intake panel(s)if you're using 120mm fans in 140mm and any unused fan bays; Air is a very low viscosity fluid and will always take the path of least resistance so if you have a smaller fan in front of a large fan bay, much of that fan's airflow will just get infinitely recycled through the gap.

Sealing gaps is only really necessary around the intakes; Getting fresh air into a positive-pressure box is vital but preventing rogue exhaust air from leaking out is not of any benefit. The only reason to seal other locations is to help direct airflow in a specific path, but even low-RPM fans provide enough airflow to completely cycle your whole case so these other vents and gaps are usually best left open to prevent pockets of static air, especially if they're vertically higher up than the intakes.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:53 pm

A lot of people focus on positive pressure, but I'm not sure how significant it really is.

In the usual positive pressure setup, the intake fans move air at atmospheric pressure into a case at higher pressure. The output fan(s) move air at higher pressure out into the atmosphere. There would also be some air flowing out of the case at other locations (not due to activity of the output fan(s)). The question is whether, in the absence of airflow out of the case at those locations, dust would settle into the case.

I'm prepared to concede that dust might enter the case. But until someone takes a case, locates the most frequent regions where dust enters, and measures the pressures at those locations with different fan configurations, I'm not entirely convinced.

I suppose it comes down to a question of how dust enters a case. Is it most frequently kicked up from the floor? Does it accumulate by falling down onto the top of the case?

It's probably best to go with a positive pressure setup, because it's likely to have some benefits, but I'm still not convinced it's as universally beneficial as some people might claim.
 
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:56 pm

Positive pressure really only controls where the dust ends up:

If it's negative pressure it will end up being sucked in through gaps in the case and getting stuck on your components.
If it's positive pressure it will end up being sucked into a fan filter which is easy to remove and clean.

Given the RPM and lack of sealing on a case, we're talking very very very tiny differences in air pressure, but that's enough to completely change where the dust goes.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:58 pm

The positive pressure thing is just about forcing all air taken into the case to come from the intake fans, under the assumption they are pulling through a screen or filter to prevent dust.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:04 pm

Speaking of dust, in a positive pressure case like I described above, should I get a magnetic air filter of some sort for my top unoccupied fan vents? Any recommendations? (it's two 120mm slots)
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:19 pm

To piggyback Chrispy's explanation to morenames, I think it'd be difficult for a reasonable positive pressure case to be able to prevent dust from entering through an unoccupied top fan vent/s. (unless MAYBE if you've got something like 4 fans intake and 1 exhaust)
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:21 pm

pikaporeon wrote:
Speaking of dust, in a positive pressure case like I described above, should I get a magnetic air filter of some sort for my top unoccupied fan vents? Any recommendations? (it's two 120mm slots)

I would say no. All they will do is trap any dust that made it past the intake filters, and impede overall airflow.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 2:23 pm

pikaporeon wrote:
Speaking of dust, in a positive pressure case like I described above, should I get a magnetic air filter of some sort for my top unoccupied fan vents? Any recommendations? (it's two 120mm slots)


You won't need filters on your exhaust vents in a positive pressure case, which is what the top vents sound like.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:10 pm

This thread reminds me that I need to clean my intake dust filters.
 
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:24 pm

Noinoi wrote:
(The room ambient temp hovers around 29-32C all year round,


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edit - wow lots of comments about dust!!! You guys must have dusty homes?? (a definite yes if you're on baseboard heating though I guess)
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Thu Feb 11, 2016 2:45 pm

HAF-X with two 200mm fan intakes, and a triple 140mm radiator exhaust in the top and 140mm exhaust on the back. PSU draws its own air in from underneath, the only thing I'd probably change. Lots of slow, large fans all around to quietly move a lot of air. I run the system under 24/7 load, so I wanted the components to stay cool but retain a silent profile at the same time. Despite 24/7 loads I have yet to wear out a single watercooled GPU out of the three I've owned, so I think that speaks for itself. :)

The intake 200mm fans have the stock filters, which I can blow out ever couple months. This allows me to only have to haul the entire case/system outside for a quick Datavac dusting one ever 6-8 months roughly. Still using the stock 200mm Cooler Masters, surprised they haven't worn out yet. All 140mm fans are Noctuas.
 
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Thu Jun 16, 2016 11:10 pm

You can eliminate some of the dust issue by raising your computer off the ground. I have one on top of a file cabinet up at eye height.

The more air you push through your case, the more dust gets in so push enough through to cool it and no more.

Heat rises so you don't want your air flow path to fight that.

I don't mind if my PSU runs a little warm so I prefer the PSU on top tower configuration with the PSU fan acting as an exhaust fan.

Almost any CPU heat sink fan will stir up the air enough to make sure your motherboard runs cool.

If you consider what hardware you actually need in your PC and omit rarely used stuff that adds heat and takes up space, you will get better results (HDDs...).

Do some cable management and pay attention when you are installing your hardware. I am a little OCD about this and I think case windows are silly so I only see it when I open up the box but I like it to be nice. The benefit is better air flow.

In a case with poor cooling, a blower style GPU that exhausts out the PCI bracket can be better than the popular open fan style.

Block off any unused openings and possibly create some partitions to guide your air flow where you want it.

I try to avoid inlet fans. I'm not against the concept of positive pressure but fans are noisy and if I can get away with one in the PSU (exhaust), one on the CPU and one on the GPU, I am happy.

Fans with filters or grills on them are noisier than without so I remove them whenever possible.

So far dust hasn't been a problem for me.
 
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Thu Jun 16, 2016 11:23 pm

more intake is much more important than exhaust imo

i have
6X 3000rpm scythe ultra kaze fans intake on 2X 360mm rads
2X 2600 rpm xspc xinrulian fans intake on a 240mm rad
1X noctua lowrpm fan exhaust

dont worry they dont run full rpm all the time i have a pretty good fan controller setup and most of the time all the fans are under 1000rpm
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Thu Jun 16, 2016 11:25 pm

My setup has 3 Intake fans and 1 exhaust, i have also setup reminder on every 4th week of Saturday to use blower to clean the inside.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Fri Jun 17, 2016 2:26 am

THIS!
I have such a problem cause of my r9 290 jus dumping hot air within the case....
My case is no slouch though it has 4 140mm 1 120mm intake and 1 120mm 1 140mm exhaust and has plenty enough room in to fit 2 adult cats.
The blower style fan before i had on my previous GPU was soo efficient at keeping hot air out i thought this cooling was overkill little did i know the effect of having a 250w (?) can giving of soo much heat enough to affect everything else in the PC.. i can only imagine what people with 2 or 3 of these GPU's go through, still im happy with the tri-x cooler though keeps things under 90c at 1170 core with +110 on voltage although at 100% fan speed.. :P
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:41 am

Positive pressure here too. I have 2x140mm intake on the front and 2x140mm exhaust up top. Intake fans are on all the time at lowest speed, exhaust fans turn on when the CPU starts heating up. Fan profile is designed so the exhaust fans lag the speed of the intake fans and have a lower top speed.

Negative pressure is fine, but I find that dust deposits on heatsinks are much smaller with positive pressure. I don't want to have to clean those all the time, or risk overclocks being unstable so I run positive pressure.
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Re: So how do you guys do case airflow?

Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:13 am

Old system:
Case: Silverstone PS09B
Intake: 1x120mm fan, 1x80mm fan (both intakes essentially unfiltered) - Both front
Exhaust: 1x92mm fan, 1xPSU (120mm fan) - Rear

Current system:
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv mATX
Intake: 1x200mm fan (filtered) - Front
Exhaust: 1x140mm fan - Rear
PSU in separate compartment, bottom intake (filtered), exhausts to rear

Airflow much improved in the new case, even with minor modifications to the Silverstone (dremeled out the intake fan grilles). Summer brought up my GPU temps to 80C, moving to the new case brought them back down to 65C.

Case has a bunch of vents at the top for convection/rad mounting points, so I'm trying to run positive pressure.
Last edited by Voldenuit on Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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