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Oh Say Can You See. . .What’s In The Refrigerator?

July 3, 2019

Question: how do you keep electronics from overheating when sitting in a steel cargo trailer, in the middle of a field, in Utah, in July?

Last year, we tried fans. We have electricity. Of course, otherwise the electronics would simply be so many silicone chips sitting on table. Last year every afternoon the electronics would overheat and shut down. We’d have to open up the trailer, air it out and then restart the Raspberry Pi.

Over the winter we strategized about how to keep the chips cool. We knew we’d be back in the field at the mouth of Grove Creek Canyon in the first week of July.

We thought of several ideas. Most of them impractical or too expensive. We considered building a “box” that included an air conditioner inside it. We considered putting an AC inside our trailer with the exhaust pumped outside. It’s not my trailer, so I’m limited on how much I can modify it to accomodate my annual summer project.

We finally hit on what seemed like the perfect solution: refrigerator! I had an old mini-fridge. It was the perfect size to store the radio transmitter and the Raspberry pi. We drilled a hole in the front of the door to feed the cords through and it was perfect!

The first day we had it up was a couple of days ago. And eventually the fridge decided it was just too hot to try to keep its cool. The compressor was hot enough to the touch to cause blisters. So, we unplugged the refrigerator and the temperature inside immediately started to rise.

Now what? The fridge would provide some insulation from the heat inside the trailer, but the electronics themselves generated heat. That heat was being trapped inside the sealed refrigerator. I wondered if I’d be buying a new fridge just so we could cut holes in it. The prospect wasn’t appealing. We are self-funding this entire project and I had to lay out $40 to license a waving American flag clip.

Finally I opted for the most obvious choice of all. . .ice. I bought a block of ice and moved things around so that it fit into the bottom of the fridge. The ice would melt, of course, but all the wires were above the hole we’d cut for the cords. And the cords were all-weather insulated. Any melted water would (hopefully!) drain out the bottom of the fridge.

Today it was about 95 degrees in Pleasant Grove. Inside our trailer it was about 160 degrees. And inside our ice packed refrigerator? Well, the Raspberry Pi reported its temperature as a temperate 120 degrees.

After an entire day in the sun, there was still plenty of ice left.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

Oh, our project? We are broadcasting a playlist on frequency 87.7FM for the Pleasant Grove based “Follow The Flag” events. Tomorrow, they will unfurl Big Betsy, the largest free flying American flag in the world.

You can see it from all over the valley. But, if you happen to be driving around Pleasant Grove’s East bench, tune your radio to 87.7 and feel a little of the patriotic spirit and realize the station is on ice.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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