Use racks that are the right fit
One of the best things you can do for your equipment is to purchase racks that are appropriately-sized for the individual pieces of gear. Attempting to “shoehorn” gear into racks that aren’t the right fit can lead to heat buildup and shortened equipment lifespans. Keep in mind that the fit between a piece of equipment and its rack is more than just about the actual lengths and widths involved. It also includes factors such as orientation and depth, too.
For example, if you can’t fit an amplifier into a rack horizontally, but it can comfortably rest in a vertical orientation, you may feel fine with the solution. However, the truth is that most gear is designed to rest in one orientation in order to maximize the cooling of the unit. Locate ventilation holes on your equipment and make sure that your racks allow for equipment to be properly mounted in order to discharge excess heat.
Keep equipment clean
An oversight that is easy to commit is allowing traveling equipment to become dirty. Since road gear is rarely cleaned with any regularity, and it is also exposed to a lot of potentially dirty environments, it can become filthy and dusty. While the cosmetic considerations may matter little, the potential for overheating increases as the dirt load also rises.
Dust, dirt and other accumulated debris can block cooling vents, settle on fan blades and even serve as an insulating “blanket” on the exterior of equipment cabinets. All of these things lead to potentially-destructive overheating of equipment.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to prevent this problem by following a couple of sound practices:
Use fully-protective cases that enshroud equipment when not in use or in route to a destination. Don’t leave equipment exposed needlessly to the elements during periods of setup.
Bring along a small shop vacuum and dusting brush to use periodically during down times. The nozzle of the shop vacuum can be pressed against cabinet vents and will remove lots of accumulated dust and fine debris.
Make room for cooling fans
Another way to keep your gear cooler is by using fans placed in strategic spots inside racks or other confined spaces. The fans don’t need to be large, and you can cool down the ambient air with even small USB-powered fans that move hot air out of the case. In some circumstances, battery powered fans may be of use, but just be sure to keep fresh batteries available.
If you have a particularly hot piece of equipment, you may want to consider investing in a permanently-installed fan inside the interior of the case cabinet. It is wise to consult with a qualified technician regarding installation options and costs before attempting to perform such an installation yourself.
Allow for a cooling-off period after use
When the show is over, eager roadies may hurry to get gear back into cases and button-down portable racks, but such haste can lead to heat-related damage. Immediately turning off equipment and not allowing it to cool down can be a mistake, especially if gear contains integral cooling fans that are also shut down when the plug is pulled.
As such, always give your gear plenty of time to air out and cool down after use. Don’t pack the case while still hot and allow cooling fans to do their job. If necessary, use a portable infrared thermometer to monitor temperatures; these devices are inexpensive and can instantly tell you when gear has cooled down sufficiently.