How To H2Ocool Your Power Supply

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Uses oil – Charles Gilliatt

In this article we tackle an often overlooked item when water-cooling a system – the power supply unit.

I know what you are saying already “Just slap a block on the built in heat sinks and be done with it”. Well it isn’t quite that simple. Many heatsinks inside a power supply are live, and as we all know electricity and water are a bad combination. Now the second issue that most people bring up “Well, what if I purchase a power supply with isolated heatsinks or modify one that is live with ceramic pads to isolate it.”

Well that wouldn’t work all that well, even if your heatsinks had a flat area to mount a block to, or even if you custom made a block and mounted the mosfits to it. Most people forget that the entire power supply gets hot and the entire unit requires cooling, not just the heatsinks.

So here’s what you can do over a weekend and make all your buddies stare in awe. First you will need some basic supplies:

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You will need a high quality acrylic adhesive, the cheapest block you can find, a generic fan is optional and is fun for the “bling bling effect”, the guts of a power supply (in this case an Enermax EG465P-VE 431W unit), a good metal ruler, a good plexiglass cutter. Items not shown include a builder’s square – trust me this is GREAT when cutting plexi and a sheet of 1/8″ thick plexi.

A word of caution: When dealing with the power supply unit, be very careful when extracting the unit as they do hold a charge well after they are unplugged – hook up a fan to the power supply and turn the power supply on while unplugged to discharge the capacitors.

This article is for information purposes only – neither the author or Overclockers.com will be responsible for direct or consequential damages if you modify a power supply as descibed herein.

Before tearing my computer apart, the Enermax power supply was tested and run with ~125 watt load measured by a Seasonic Power Monitor. The Exhaust temperature was read 1″ from the grill at 32ºC.

Now let’s begin: The first thing you will need to do is take measurements of your case to see how big you need to make the box – in this article I will be placing the PSU in two of the 5 ¼” bays on my Lian Li PC-V2000 case. As always, measure four times and try to only have to cut once. Remember to make sure that the block clears any part of the powersupply, you will see what I am talking about later, and also take into account the thickness of the plexi.

For those of you that haven’t dealt with cutting plexi, here are a few tips: First DO NOT take off the protective paper, in my case it is brown but it also comes in clear and a slight green tint, from your plexi until the project is DONE. This will prevent scratching of the plexi as you are working with it.

Next when laying out your measurements, remember to account for the thickness of the plexi when making your final measurements for the box. When using your builder’s square, score the plexi several times, however many times it takes to get about 35-50% through the plexi.

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Then rotate the plexi so the scored edge is right at the edge of your work surface – I like to use clamps on the edges. My preferred technique to snap the plexi is to give it a good quick hit with the palm of my hand near the score joint. When cutting larger pieces I would suggest using a straight edge across the joint, applying equal pressure on either end while pressing down.
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If all goes well this is what you get:

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If you don’t get good results, keep trying; I have perfected my technique through five years of art school (at least I learned something). Now repeat the process over and over until you get all the pieces required:

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Now take a moment to remove about ΒΌ” of the protective covering from all edges that require gluing and use a bit of sand paper to rough up JUST the 1/8″ of plexi that will receive glue:

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Now apply the acrylic cement per the manufacturer’s instructions, using whatever is handy build the box; after you’re done, you should have something like this:

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This would be a good time to do a quick test fit as well. If it doesn’t quite fit sand it down some and try again.

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Fantastic a good fit….

OK – now to fit the PSU into the box. I used some little plexi scraps to create feet for the power supply to glue it to the bottom of the box; if the PSU isn’t fixed to the bottom, it tends to move around and we don’t want that.

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Then just glue the feet into the box; at this point you can also glue in the fan of your choice and simply wire it into the onboard fan leads – an 80 mm works the best – this isn’t required but can add a bling factor. At this point I would also attach an extra bit of wire to the ground terminal of the PSU, usually a short length of green wire that was connected to the shell of the PSU. Once the PSU is installed in your computer, just attach it to bare metal in your case – this is what you should have at this point:

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Now we turn our attention to the lid.

Notice that in the above image I have added some blocks to stop the lid from sinking into the box – depending on the method you choose, these blocks may not be required.

First we need to drill two holes to mount the water block to the underside of the lid, allowing the two hose barbs to stick through. Again measure four times and drill once. When drilling plexi, make sure you are far from the edges and are using a good sharp bit:

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Now that your block will slip up through the two holes, remove the protective backing from the inside of the lid and glue the top of the block to the underside of the lid; this is really just added safety, as the hose clamps are more than strong enough to hold the block in place.

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Notice the notch in the corner – that is to allow the power leads out of the box. Now the fun part and the “secret” to this method:

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That’s right – lots and lots of baby oil. I would suggest spreading around the “love” a little and purchasing a bottle at a time from several stores. You can’t imagine the strange look the clerk gave me when I went to buy 5 bottles at once – buy one get one free AND a 50 cent off coupon was my excuse, although I don’t think that helped put the clerk’s mind at ease.

The concept is fairly simple – the mineral oil (baby oil) acts as the non-conductive medium between all the hot components of the PSU and the block on the water cooling loop.

  Thermal Conductivity (W/m-k)
Mineral Oil ~.133
Air ~.024
Water ~.58
Copper ~400

The table above illustrates that while mineral oil is not as good a conductor of heat as water, it is still vastly better than air. When used in combination with a copper block and a water loop, the heat will be quickly removed from the bath of mineral oil.

Before filling the box I would suggest giving it a good cleaning with some compressed air and even a little vacuuming to get any dust and loose bits out. Then remove all the protective covering from the inside and fill with the oil:

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Once filled, pop the top on, slip it into your case, add into your H2O loop and enjoy. From the front, all your friends will think that your PSU is submerged in water. If all goes well, you should have something like this:

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A powersupply that appears to be submerged in water. And the “bling-bling” of the blue LED fan just adds to the Lian Li’s blue power LED. On a side note, once the fan is submerdged it is totally silent – no churning, no nothing. The power supply under the same 125 watt load heats the mineral oil to a max of 49.1ºC – this temperature is taken 2 cm from the heatsinks on the powersupply.

I have run this PSU in my main system for close to one month now and have no problems what so ever.

Charles Gilliatt

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Discussion
  1. Highendtoys, if what you say is true, definitely email the writer of the article... it needs to be edited if theres any danger.
    LOL, on second thought, theres danger by default. :D

    STOP!!!!!
    Before you do this there is something else that needs to be done. I have worked with other people on submerged PCs before and a very important item was over looked that will destroy your PSU within 6 months.
    The capacitors need to be sealed with silicone sealant before placing it in the oil. If not then they will absorb the oil and the unit will no longer work. Like I said, I have experience in this and the unit will not survive if this is not done.

    I am the original author of this how to article and there is one correction that is being made to the review, that power supply has run for just over a year now without a problem. However I do agree if there is penetration of of the oil into the capacitors it will cook the PSU.
    I would however not "freak out", as you seem to have done about this, remember watercooling your system in general has a great risk of cooking your system and this particular mod is not to be done by the faint of heart.
    SirCharles
    I just don't understand the benefit of this... most powersupplies dont run too hot. and do people overclock the power supplies? lol... im just not seeing any relavant point to doing this beyond a big waste of time and an incredible risk.
    :rolleyes: you must not have seen what hippro did to his 700W Zippy :D :p
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=53424
    actually overvolting (pretty close to the equivlent to overclocking) PSU's is pretty common and there are guides out there :D
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=37574

    okay thats cool... but how would i ever see that, i dont go there ever... lol
    and @infinite
    no but for cpu's and gpu's i understand because everyone wants to push them to their limit. With psu's i had no idea people actually did anything to them beyond tightening the rails. OVerall i do find watercooling awsome for those who need it but i just didnt see any point to this before.
    I guess if you were running max power on your PSU then you might wanna do this, but i'd rather just go buy a bigger power supply, its not like it costs much and after buying all the baby oil you could get a darned good PSU. lol
    but ya, awsome, k thanks guys. im out of here. lol
    boris.. I don't disagree with you as far as usefullness is conserned, even voltmoded PSU's don't generate enough heat that air cooling wouldnt do an effective job, and there are quiet fans but I'm sure silence has to be the main purpose of this mod.
    I just don't understand the benefit of this... most powersupplies dont run too hot. and do people overclock the power supplies? lol... im just not seeing any relavant point to doing this beyond a big waste of time and an incredible risk.

    Boris,
    Just about everything any of us do is really an increadable waste of time and risk, why not just spend the money on something bigger and faster to begin with?
    The point of doing it was to prove you can and to make a really snappy mod at the same time and,as someone later posted, this was done for silence, the machine that this was running in was completly fanless.
    SirCharles

    The point of doing it was to prove you can and to make a really snappy mod at the same time and,as someone later posted, this was done for silence, the machine that this was running in was completly fanless.
    SirCharles

    um didnt you leave a Fan in the OIL soaked PSU :D
    Big fan of Silence here and if this works for you, great.
    Overclocked and Silent is the way to go IMHO, aka just say no to deltas
    OK, it would seem that everyone wanted to get off topic.
    I have a little experence in this and anyone doing this mod should be using marine sealent where the cap meets the board all the way around. The insides of these things will suck that oil up and cause a failure. Now who really wants their power supply, the one thing in a PC that can cause everything to die with one mistake, to fail.
    Also, that system that I just linked to belong to the current Director of Marketing for Connect3D.
    aka just say no to deltas

    Blasphemy! Kill the heretic! Burn him at the stake!
    You're right though, Deltas are not built for silence.
    So I missed how the PSU is water cooled. You're using the baby oil to transfer the heat to a water block which is connected into your loop? Is the block on the top of the container or is the block actually submerged as well?
    Are the caps the only hardware which might be affected? Would the resistors also absorb some of the oil and become more resistive over time? Would you ever have to change the oil?
    I'm actually thinking of doing this with a pelt PSU, as my 20A@13.8V kicks off quite a bit of heat, and is the major reason why I don't want to pelt yet.
    I imagine unless contaminants get in the oil, it can be kept much longer than water. It's more viscous and actually KEEPS components clean.
    Looks like heat is being transferred from the components i.e. HS, caps, res. etc. and not really a "waterblock" per se. Direct heat transfer because of the nonconductive medium:)
    Pretty sick, and if it ever leaks, it won't ruin the motherboard or anything.
    I imagine unless contaminants get in the oil, it can be kept much longer than water. It's more viscous and actually KEEPS components clean.
    Looks like heat is being transferred from the components i.e. HS, caps, res. etc. and not really a "waterblock" per se. Direct heat transfer because of the nonconductive medium:)
    Pretty sick, and if it ever leaks, it won't ruin the motherboard or anything.

    Can you Imagine the mess tho yuck !!!
    Looks cool but Ill stear clear of this mod :D