Junk-box Fan Speed Controller

My new home theatre receiver was getting rather hot in the close confines of its cabinet, with the temperature reaching over 40°C after only about 30 minutes of use. To help lower the temperature, I decided to install a fan in the cabinet. A 75mm hole was cut in the shelf under the receiver, and a 12V fan salvaged from an old computer power supply was mounted underneath. The fan was powered from a 12V DC plugpack. This did the job, keeping the temperature below 30°C even after prolonged use on a warm day. However, the fan was annoyingly loud when running at full speed. To reduce the noise level substantially, I built this fan speed controller with temperature feedback.

The circuit was culled from variety of ideas found on various sites on the internet, with the final circuit designed from what was in the "junk box". Air temperature in the cabinet is sensed via an LM335 (TS1). It is glued to a piece of aluminium about 25mm square with instant glue, which is then attached to the top of the receiver with "Blue-Tack". About 300mm of audio coax makes the connection back to the circuit board. The LM335’s output rises 10mV per degree Centigrade. It is calibrated to zero output at -273°C, so at 20°C, the output will be 2.93V. This is applied to the non-inverting input of a 741 op amp (IC1).

Circuit diagram:
Junk-box fan speed controller circuit schematic
Junk-box Fan Speed Controller Circuit Diagram

A 1N4733 5.1V Zener diode provides a voltage reference for the inverting input via trimpot VR1. The output of the op amp drives a TIP122 Darlington transistor (Q1), which in turn drives the fan motor. The op amp gain was calculated to give about 12V to the fan at 40°C. To keep the transistor cool, it is mounted on the metal base of a small plastic box, which is also used to house the components. Initial setup should be performed with everything turned off and the ambient temperature at about 20°C. Adjust the 10-turn pot until the fan just stops running. I used a gasket made from foam strips and "blue-tacked" them between the feet of the receiver to direct all of the airflow through it. The temperature now remains at about 32°C, the fan runs very quietly and continues to run down for about 30 minutes after the receiver is switched off.
Author: Martin Cook - Copyright: Silicon Chip Electronics