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Avoiding Corrosion howto? Oil spray? Any other idea?

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March 1, 2007 11:40:41 AM

Hi people. I manage a small network in a office right next to the beach. The office has been set up some 8 months ago ( with brand new machines ) and my machines are starting to "dye" one by one ... I openned them up and what I saw was that, basically, components were beeing eaten up by corrosion.. I supose it is beacause of the salted air environment ( as I said, it's right next to the beach ): Some contacts of memory chips (from RAM and GPU) were almost gone, and there was "rust" (not "rust" but I don't know the english word for it) building up in chip contacts, in the that are close to fans (memory gets air from cpu fan, graphic card memory is cooled by the GPU fan... ).

Well, anyway, I would like to prevent this and I don't know how. One thing that crossed my mind (particularly after reading about the "oil cooling" articles) was that maybe I could spray the motherboards with some oild-based spray (WD40 maybe?). Could anyone comment on this? What do you think?
March 1, 2007 12:22:10 PM

Why not install water cooling and mount the Radiator outside the case, then seal off the case?
March 1, 2007 12:25:24 PM

I think a thin coat of oil would probably help the situation. WD40 is a mixture of solvents; I'm not sure it's the best choice. WD40 can actually dissolve other lubricants. I think there are sprayable silicone lubricants on the market that may work better. Also, you can try sealing up the system as best you can with a water-cooling solution. That way you won't have a constant flow of the corrosive air through the heart of the computer case. Make sure all the contacts (mem chips, video cards, cpu) are well established before you coat everything. You don't want to hinder the electrical contacts with too much grease.

Good luck!
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March 1, 2007 12:25:38 PM

Certain types of oil can be conductive and you don't want to merge traces and short your components.
March 1, 2007 11:24:55 PM

WD-40 is a mix of Kerosene and motor oil, with some additional minor stuff for flow and propellant reasons. It would be an extremely bad idea to spray this on the MOBo - it would eat it real quick.

Based on your description of your operation, the problem is not so much the humidity, as it is the salt. Mind, the humidity doesn't help.

About the only reasonable solution that I can see for your particular situation is to build boxes for each system and put a small window-mount air-conditioner on each one. Feed the output from the air conditioner into the box. The box should be fairly tightly sealed so that it will have a slightly positive pressure inside. You should also have a container of dessicant in the box. Ensure that there is flow out of the box at a reasonable rate.

For dessicant, you should use indicating silica gel. It comes as fairly coarse crystals that are a deep to medium blue when the dessicant is dry, and turns pink when it is saturated whith water. The really nice thing about silica gel is that it can be re-generated by heating it in oven at around 130 degrees C. Overnight is usually long enough and all you need is a large rectangular Pyrex casserole dish to hold the gel. Bigger is better, to maximize surface area. You should be able to get silica gel from any chemical supply company. It is not a controlled or restricted substance, so there should be no problem getting enough for your needs. I suggest that you use between 1/2 and 1 kilo of dessicant per box. Put in something shallow with a large surface area. You need to have enough gel on hand so that you can maintain a constant supply of dry gel for when you have to swap it out of a box.

Hope this helps.
March 2, 2007 12:05:02 AM

That is a bad problem you got there. I haven't heard of this problem before. I have a friend who lived in Naples, Florida in a beach condo and he didn't have that problem, I called him after reading your post. The solutions provided will probally help your problem but its a lot to go through.
March 2, 2007 3:00:44 AM

Beach condos in Florida, and most other coastal cities in the US tend to be fairly well sealed and include air-conditioning. Which is why your buddy doesn't have the problem. The OP is running systems on a beach right next to the ocean in a warm environment. The building where he is operating can't be sealed from the environment. Sounds like some sort of tourist operation that rents recreational sports equipment.

Since the OP can't seal the building the only reasonable option is to seal off the individual systems, and air condition each box individually. Reason for AC is to dry the air and remove the salt before it goes into the computers. Cooling the air is a bonus in this case. Big PITA and pretty expensive, but less expensive than replacing systems every 4 to 6 months. Don't forget to factor in data loss and recovery issues and costs and loss of business due to system failures.
March 2, 2007 3:31:48 AM

What about some Araldite? :lol: 

EDIT: Well you could use it to seal your case as someone said... just dont expect to be able to open it again.
March 2, 2007 4:19:22 PM

Quote:
What about some Araldite? :lol: 

EDIT: Well you could use it to seal your case as someone said... just dont expect to be able to open it again.


Sealing the case with glue won't actually address the issue of keeping the salt and humid air out of the case. The OP noted in another thread that water cooling is not an option. In any case, it is not possible to completely seal up a system and have it usable. As one example, the front of the optical drive(s) must remain open so one can actually use it. Pretty large opening for ambient air to get in. As another case, all the USB ports and switches and card slots on the back of the case. I trust you get the picture.

The only other alternative to building a special box equipped with an air conditioner for each box is to replace the desktop cases with "ruggedized" notebooks that meet military spec for operation in the field in harsh environments. But there are only a few companies that manufacture these and the price of an individual system is very high. Based on some prices I've seen, it is significantly cheaper to build a sealed box and run a small AC unit into it. Mind you, the notebooks would be portable and easier to handle. But this could be a serious issue in terms of theft of the system, given where the OP actually has his facility.

If you are going to make suggestions, try to provide something that approches reasonable and semi-intelligent.
March 6, 2007 9:10:16 AM

Hi everyone, thank you for the answers provided.

WizardOZ: many thanks for following the thread commenting on the opinions given. Yes, indeed we (in Portugal) have a mild weather/temperatures all-year round, and our houses are not build with proper insulation... and near the shore we have this humidity problem (this region in particular is located north from a hill so it has a particular micro-climate more humid than average : during the night the north wind chills the nort-side of the hill and during the morning the sun is from the south side of the hill, does not hit directly this region, so humidity only clears up later during the day). Besides the insulation, yes, this office acts as a tourist shop ofering for instance internet access, rental video, and other, so it is basically a shop.. therefore the doors open all day long.
I'm thinking of you sugestion of "air condition each box individually": Are there "small AC units" ? I always think of AC units as very big boxes... I think I've never seen a small one. How small is "small" when we talk about AC?

WizardOS: what does "OP" stands for? Original Poster?
March 7, 2007 7:02:14 PM

Yes, OP stands for original poster.

When I said small, I meant something that could fit in a window in a single room. Some of these units are about 30 cm x 40 cm x 50- 60 cm (HWD) and weigh approximately 15 to 25kg. They are powerful enough to cool a medium sized room. You may be able to reduce the number of units you need by feeding the output of one AC unit into 3 or 4 individual cases using something like the flex tubing that exhausts the air from a clothes dryer. The main reason I am suggesting an AC unit is because it dries the air as it cools it. The dehumidification process will also remove the suspended salt from the air. The cooling effect is a bonus in this particular case. You have a fairly serious issue to contend with, so no matter how you deal with it, it will cost you some cash.

You may want to seriously consider some of those "ruggedized" notebooks, especially if you are in a position where you have to replace an existing system or two. The upfront cost of the notebook will be higher than a new system, but it may come out about the same as buying a new system, building the box and setting up the AC unit. The operational costs will be lower. AC units tend to use a lot of electricity. You are the one on the spot, so you know what things cost there.

Hope this helps.
March 7, 2007 7:44:06 PM

Get a dehumidifier. I live in Florida so I know all about humidity... and people who are confused by voting and old people and hurricanes and people wearing mickey mouse hats and mosquitoes and deadly snakes and high property taxes and high house insurance. :x God I hate Florida.
March 7, 2007 8:03:46 PM

The OP would not benefit from a dehumidifier. Reason is that his facility is wide open to the outdoors during the day. A dehumidifier would work fine in a closed room, but not in the circumstances the OP described.

PS if you hate Florida so much, why are you still there. If you can`t move suck it up - don`t whine.
March 7, 2007 8:24:33 PM

Years ago I worked for a company and we put a special coating on communications equipment destined for high humidity locations. Unfortunately I can't remember what the coating was called, but it worked even in a rain forest environment where humidity is extreme.
March 7, 2007 8:58:10 PM

First off Great question/problem. I don't mean I'm happy that you have trouble but I like to push problem solving to the limits!

How about this:

Could you build or find a semi-central closet that you could seal off?

If so, You could place all your computers in this one room and run extender cables to the monitor/kb/mouse of each terminal. There are some length restrictions, but there are also some extender/booster products for industrial environments that may help. This may even bring up that renovation you have always wanted to do!! :) 

I would highly recommend you find some place to store/backup your server data that is no way effected by this problem.

I agree that your problem is only "enhanced" by the high humidity. The salt air is your real problem here.

Good luck with this. And if you have the time please keep us posted!
March 7, 2007 8:59:51 PM

I'm not sure if it would work, but try some TV tuner cleaner/ lubricant it might leave enough of a film to protect your contacts. Please do a little research before trying this. I don't even know if it is made or sold anymore.
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