Cheap fix for overheating LCD TV — a USB powered fan
November 2, 2008, 3:51 pm by bottleman. Filed under: diy.

I’ve never been one to agree that thrift — as in trying to live “simpler” and “cheaper” on a purely personal basis — is much of a solution to global environmental challenges.*** Still, nothing motivates me to get thrifty more than planned obsolescence.

It just offends my cheapo scion-of-a-depression-era-farmgirl-and-WASP-engineer sensibilities when perfectly good, or even quite nice, product designs are made of crappy materials and/or nonrepairable parts.  Many products seem designed to fail precisely 1 day after the warranty expires — take the nonreplaceable Apple iPod battery as the most famous example.

My LCD HDTV seemed to be on a similar plan — failing for an obvious reason, just a few weeks after the warrranty expired.  Damned if I was going to be a victim and go out and buy another one.  Here’s how I fixed it.

The TV is a 20″ Sharp and I like it because it’s really a modest presence in the room — I hate when TV’s dominate.  It’s only a few inches thick, and with an inexpensive wall mount from Ikea, it can hug the wall or turn whichever direction is most appropriate.

Shortly after the warranty expired, the TV started failing. It would go about 70 or 80 minutes, then turn black and shut itself off.  It was quite frustrating as the failure would hit right as most movies were really getting into the third act .  After restarting it would only last a couple of minutes.

The screen felt hot so I was pretty sure it was overheating.  I blasted the thing out with compressed air to try to eliminate accumulated dust, etc. but that had no effect.  Then I tried cooling it with a little fan.  It was pretty simple because this TV, like many newer TVs, has its own USB port (undocumented actually, but it’s still there) as a convenient source of power.  And you can get cheapo USB powered fans everywhere for just a few dollars.

The first 2 fans I tried worked fine, but were way too loud.  Then I found the “Thermaltake” brand model you see in the picture above.  It’s only about an inch thick and very quiet — using the speed control, I can keep it basically silent most of the time. I deconstructed it a tiny bit so it would strap to the back of the TV. No one has ever noticed it unless I point it out to them.

With that problem solved, I was ready to return to more important ways of saving the world — like voting and ogling at the same time.  See you at the polls!


*** Of course a sustainable world will need to consume much less, especially in places like the USA, where 93.2 % of energy consumed is generated from nonrenewable sources (here’s the data), and finite materials are used to make throwaway goods. Sadly, scrimping — changing light bulbs to CFL’s, taking shorter showers, maintaining the right air pressure in your tires, reusing scraps of paper, etc. — is a lot of work for minimal return. Those kind of things save maybe 1 or 2 % against the big totals. They don’t change our basic ecology of production and consumption.  Even worse, the psychic message of scrimping is one of suffering and poverty, when really a green life should be a rich one — in sensations and experiences of course. That’s why my tiny house project works hard at being lovely. [back to top]

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Hi. Great post. I think this is a solution for a lot of the problems of new flat panel TVs. One question, how did you attach the fan to the TV? I have similar vent slots in the back of mine. Thanks.

Comment by Erik on 14.11.2008 um 2:09 pm

Yeah, I noticed on web forums that a lot of people had similar problems (sudden shutting off, hot hardware). I attached this fan to the back of the TV by hanging it through the ventilation grille with two short wire twists. (You can see one in the picture, near the little bubble level I also stuck on the back of the TV to help with positional readjustments.) I also put two tiny little rubber bumpers between the face of the fan and the tv so vibrations from the fan would not generate noise against the TV case. I could have done a slicker job, by running some very skinny machine screws through the grille and into the fan case, but since the whole setup is very low key and unnoticeable anyway, I decided to skip that part.

Comment by bottleman on 14.11.2008 um 3:00 pm

I bet this would cure the pop of death on the vizio tvs.

Comment by Thomas Lucas on 10.12.2009 um 11:22 pm

Thomas, I really have no clue about what’s happening with the vizio tvs. Sounds like some people have had some more permanent problems with their vizios? But if the TV works for an hour or two, then goes blank, then returns to normal after being unplugged for a few hours, that would suggest overheating is the issue and a fan could treat it.

Comment by bottleman on 11.12.2009 um 12:52 pm

Good idea! putting a fan in tv..Caring your tv is good, I have read all about that since I have my hdtv projection television until now it has a good quality.

Comment by hdtv projection television on 23.02.2010 um 5:22 am

Great post, I ordered one. I am also experiencing overheating with Vizio (pop of death). Hopefully, this will take care of it.

Comment by Chad on 11.02.2011 um 3:33 pm

Great post, superb idea. Thanks a lot bottleman!!

Comment by Mauritius on 02.11.2012 um 10:30 am

Hi five from me m8 worked like a charm!!

Comment by Spiderman on 12.05.2014 um 11:44 am

Unfortunately, this did NOT work on my old Vizio VX37L. I have a USB-B to USB-A adapter, but as soon as I plug it in to the USB-B port on the TV (which is labeled “service”), the TV shuts off completely. Even the front panel VIZIO light goes black (not white and not even orange!).

Comment by oddTodd on 22.02.2015 um 12:07 pm

I know this post is old. But, it’s among the first I found while googling about the idea of adding fans to a TV.

I want to confirm and make sure everyone knows you do not want your fans blowing into your tv set. You would be disturbing the natural airflow and risk overheating the LCD itself. You want to be pulling the heat out.

Cannot really tell but it appears to be blowing into the tv set in that picture.
I’d imagine some units might tolerate this. But, why blow hot air around inside it when you can pull it out.

Comment by Josh on 14.04.2015 um 6:01 pm

Hey Josh, thanks for chiming in. I understand what you’re saying, but in practicality “blowing in” and “pulling out” are pretty much the same, because most pieces of hardware have at least two sets of vents. When you blow cool air in one vent, the heated air tends to go out the other(s) — for example, practically every laptop’s internal fan works this way. Besides, I am not pushing this hack as the ideal way to do things. It’s just a last-ditch measure to try to keep some hardware going. If the hardware had been properly designed in the first place, there would be no need for any of this. Good luck!

Comment by bottleman on 14.04.2015 um 6:22 pm