We have a switch that is contained within a locked enclosure that draws air into the enclosure. The building is a foundry and during the summer I am told the ambient temperature can get very hot (new hire so no data to back this up but I won't doubt it). The users report dropped connections daily and their solution seems to be to turn off the switch, wait a few minutes to an hour and then plug it back in which does seem to fix the issue but is far from ideal. My question regards the best way to handle the cooling of the switch. Should I reverse the fan and draw air out, mount the switch so the fan blows directly on it or just mount the entire switch outside the enclosure?

The switch itself isn't very advanced and has no visible moving parts but does get covered in soot.


If the enclosure itself has decent air movement, I don't think changing direction will help much. BlackBox and a few other manufacturers make industrial switches meant for high heat/dust environments.

I used one in an outdoor enclosure in direct sun in Las Vegas (inside temp probably got to somewhere around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, maybe more, during the summer). It worked great.

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  • A black box seems like a very good idea. The current hardware is very SOHO and doesn't translate well into a foundry setting. – user92017 Jan 26 '12 at 20:42

The ideal solution would be to get something like an air-conditioned server rack - with proper air filtering for all of the soot it sounds like you're also dealing with - especially if you have more hardware besides just one switch that is of concern.

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=air%20conditioned%20data%20rack&tbm=shop currently returns one result that looks like it may suit your needs nicely, and the price even looks reasonable - especially for commercial purposes.

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  • Better to post an actual make/model rather than a link which could go stale. – Jonathan J Jan 26 '12 at 20:23
  • @JonathanJ - My understanding was that StackExchange's policy is to not offer specific product recommendations. Additionally, the specific reason I gave the link that I did is that the link won't go stale - as it will always return any products that meet the criteria in the URL. – ziesemer Jan 26 '12 at 20:40
  • @ziesmer, good point. I was just going by the mantra of posting a full answer rather than a link. I guess you have to weigh which option provides the best result. – Jonathan J Jan 26 '12 at 20:48

You could look into swapping the switch for an industrial grade unit, which are designed to work in these kinds of environment. I've seen these on some of our customers sites (where dust is an issue), although I've not had any involvement with the hardware, so don't take that as a recommendation. I don't know anything about your set up, so you need to ensure that if you go down this route that any product you select is fully compatible with what you already have.

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Foundry + "soot" says to me "very fine metal dust which will short things out". I would suggest doing as ziesemer said and getting a rack with air filters at the very least (I'm familiar with XRack Pro but they're pricey).

I would also advise three additional steps:

  1. Test your cables
    If it's only a few stations having trouble you may have a bad cable and power-cycling the switch is just a coincidental fix. If it's every station you can probably skip this step :)

  2. Replace the switch
    (and consider replacing other equipment sooner rather than later if it's been breathing this dust)

  3. Start doing temperature monitoring in your rack
    If you buy a good managed switch it probably supports SNMP, and may have temperature sensors. Otherwise consider a standalone monitoring system (like this).
    This will let you determine if you need additional cooling, and if you do it will also warn you if that cooling system fails.

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  • Re: #1 -- I have also seen where a faulty network interface in a device connected to the switch can have a cascading effect. Simply disconnecting and reconnecting the cable to the failing interface resolves the issue, albeit temporarily (power cycling the switch has the same effect). Replacing the interface resolves the issue permanently. – Jonathan J Jan 26 '12 at 20:32

I hope I'm not stating the obvious, but have you tried opening the switch and cleaning out all the dust that's build up inside?

I agree with the other answers that the proper solution is hardware intended to operate in the hostile environment; but if it has any heatsinks that are clogged cleaning them should reduce its tendency to overheat.

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