The Mini Fridge Case Mod
I never really understood the mentality of someone that overclocked there computer for actual every day use. Sure, I have overclocked the hell out of computers and had a lot of fun doing it. It can give you a great edge in the gamming circles. But this group of overclockers using refrigerants and liquid cooling on an ongoing basis.. Well it seems a little unnatural to me to save 50.00 on a CPU to get a lesser one to overclock and make up the difference at the risk of the whole system. but some where in there is that self destructive geeky tendency we celebrate screaming to the surface. So with all the focus on making a cold computer case, I decided to make a case into a drink dispensing refrigerator just in honor of the hard core overclockers.
When I decided to do this project I started with the desire to do a case mod. Something unusual and different, but I wasn’t sure what. I looked far and wide for a case that inspired me enough that that I would just have to tare it apart to turn it into something else. But what type of case, and what project should I do? Should I make this cool looking, or cool performing? A basic window kit or none at all? So after mulling this around I decided to jump on Newegg and see if I could get inspired, and there it was. The case and the inspiration for the project, the mid tower mini fridge! Next I had to decide weather to use a compressor based refrigerant system or maybe a peltier based heat pump. Sticking with a desire to use some tried and trued overclockers favorites for the actual cooling system, the peltier was the obvious choice. While giving it that air of “look I made this my self and it didn’t blow up!”
What a royal pain in the butt finding the right case was. I had toyed with several different cases from several reputable makers. So why did I choose this one? Well frankly it reminded me of a refrigerator. The case is all brushed aluminum so it has that nice appliancey feel to it. And the front door opens up just like a fridges doors! It’s a good mid ATX case with some cool lighting effects. But when it comes down to it, it’s a Thermaltake case, and what could be cooler than modding a cool case to be cooler than cool?
I did a fair amount of hunting for peltiers when I started this project. Peltiers are fairly common devices and they run a rather large gambit of prices. Looking mostly at a price friendly solution I looked for some surplus peltiers on eBay. While that yielded many good useful results, it still was a little more than I wanted to spend. So I decided to go to the ole S-Mart. After some looking at there mini fridges and about a million other products I didn’t need, I found in there camping section the powered coolers. For 14.99 each I picked up 2 of these babies with healthy sized peltiers and all the heat sinks, fans, cold plates and even wiring all ready to go.
So once you have the ability to cool something down you need to keep the cool where it matters. Home Depot has sheets of Styrofoam board 1 inch thick for about 5 bucks each. This stuff is fairly sturdy as it is laminated on both sides, and this will also help cut down on the mess it makes. We will need just one sheet for this project total.
The Power supply:
One of the bonuses of using the thermal take case we got is it came with a 400 watt power supply with it! While this cant is mounted normally so as not to suck all our cold air out of the case, its still about perfect as it has a 2 fans in it and draws air out of the bottom to the back of the case. With some simple hotwiring it can be made to run when the power supply is turned on.
One component that we absolutely had to have was a nice LCD display so we could closely monitor the heart and sole of the inside of the case. We found this great thermal monitor / controller for about 15.00 on newegg.com. This is really nice to add to the case so you know when your cold ones are cold enough.
This stuff is really fun to play with! We will use this self expanding foam insulation to both seal any air leaks in the case, but to also adhere the panels of foam together in the case. Just be careful because you will never know trouble like getting this on your skin and cloths
I chose to use plexy in this project because it’s easy to work with and has good thermal characteristics. If you used a window kit in your project this also adds a “cool” factor for lighting and what not.
The uncorrupted min-fridge is really a splendid gadget. By reversing the polarity one can turn it into a mini heater. I installed a diode after some testing to make sure that was imposable for me! There are several brands and makes of mini-fridge out there, but they all probably use the same vendors for the peltier as there are few manufacturers. One thing to closely look for on the packaging is the power information. All the mini-fridges we looked at had some form of watt consumption on it. We got the biggest ones we could get in this unit some where about 65 watts each.
So our next step is to start liberating the peltier from the housing. When I started this step I thought it would be real easy… boy was I wrong. They used those damn torqs type screws with the post in the middle of them so none of my torqs drivers would work. And additionally they also used one of the longest drivers I have ever seen in an s-mart tare apart. I ended up just taking the darn thing and getting a 1/2 inch drill bit so I could just drill out the holes and there for the posts in the case. After that it was just a matter of jumping on both sides (causing the deformation to the sides you see) and then some mild expletives while trying to remove the Styrofoam with out making a nightmare level statically charged mess. But with that all said I found out that sears had the tool I needed for about 5.00 or so. meh… so if you do this… you can choose the road you travel.