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Thread: Condensation in controller enclosures

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2022
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    Default Condensation in controller enclosures

    Hi All, New to the pixel hobby. Planning and already building out my 2022 display.

    One concern that I can't seem to find any information on is issues with controllers, PSU, and receivers creating condensation issues in their enclosures.
    This past Christmas we had the coldest weather I can remember. The overnight lows were -40c (no point in conversion at that temp haha) Highs were mid -30's for a couple weeks on end.

    I'm worried that with the heat from the equipment in an enclosure and these extreme cold temps that we would end up with a lot of condensation developing inside the enclosure. Has anyone had a similar issue? I just want to engineer a solution before its a problem.

    Thanks!
    Jeremy

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Condensation in controller enclosures

    I dont worry too much about water in my cases. I design them so that water has a way to collect and leave the box. I also make sure wind wont drive snow or rain up into the box. Then I put gun oil on all of the terminal blocks and connectors. Have not had water issues using this setup.


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  3. #3
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    Jan 2021
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    Default Re: Condensation in controller enclosures

    What I did was run cheap Arduinos in outdoor boxes first and.see.how they do. I have managed to fry both a few Arduinos and a few USB wall warts in the process. I think one time, an Arduino might have fried due to condensation. However, last summer I ran two Arduinos right out in the open,.no box, when I knew it wasn't going to rain. They.worked beautifully. The idea is that I'm only putting cheap Arduino clones at risk,.and not $100.controllers.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Condensation in controller enclosures

    Iím in Wisconsin and we can have very cold weather also. I donít vent my enclosures except for where the cables come in. I do not turn off the power from Thanksgiving till New Yearís Day. Never had any condensation issues. When I take it all down I leave the enclosures lay open inside for a couple days then put them away for the year.


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Default Re: Condensation in controller enclosures

    Condensation happens and you have to deal with it. Unless the electronics is potted, it's impossible to keep the moisture out. During the daytime, sunshine can heat up the controller box and at the end of the day as the temperature drops, the humidity in the air that's inside the box can condense on interior surfaces, including the PCBs. This can freeze and actually cause mechanical contacts to separate as the ice expands. It can also accumulate -- I've easily had 1/4 cup of water pour out of a controller in the spring when I can finally get the gear out of the yard that's been frozen-in for a couple months...

    The best mitigation methods I've seen is to mount controllers vertically so that moisture has a chance to drip off the PCBs and have an ample-sized drain or other egress hole in the bottom of the box to let the water exit. Painting controller boxes black isn't helpful, either as black paint absorbs sunlight and heats up even more. It's best just to hide them and protect them from wind/rain/snow as best possible.

    About the only parts of a controller that may get warm when it's idle and not controlling lights is likely the transformer and voltage regulator(s), if the controller has them. If the controller has a crystal oscillator or other parts that aren't certified for really cold climates, it's likely that the controller may get flakey when the temp drops down below -20F. All of my controllers that use a crystal oscillator have a 4watt incandescent "night light" bulb inside the controller box to help keep the ambient temperature warm enough so the controller functions properly. As I use opaque CG-type boxes, the light from the bulb doesn't show outside the box.

    Here in Minnesnowda we sometimes have to build things a little differently...

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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2022
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    Default Re: Condensation in controller enclosures

    Thanks Guys,

    I was thinking leaving the system on would keep enough heat in the cabinet to keep the moisture at bay. The PSUs would be running about 20-30watts on idle. Should keep things cosy during the cold days.
    I was planning on using air/water tight ammo boxes for the controllers and PSU w/ water tight connectors. I would only be dealing with the moisture that was in the box in the first place, so if I seal them up inside (20% humidity) I should be ok?
    I like the idea of vertical mounting things just in case. Probably keep them an inch or so off the bottom of the box too just to be safe.

    I was also thinking of putting those little silica packs at the bottom (comes in clothes, shoes etc to absorb moisture) Might keep the moisutre content down even more.

    Wasn't ever planning on venting due to how bloody cold it gets.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
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    Default Re: Condensation in controller enclosures

    That's an awesome idea! Recycle the dessicants in other disposable products. I remember them in medicines, dog treats, and jerky.

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