Cheap fix for overheating LCD TV — a USB powered fan


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.

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