Green Design Tip: Don’t Cut Exterior Walls
In-wall and in-ceiling speakers look nice, but they’re not for every surface.
If you’re thinking about energy efficiency, think twice about where you install architectural speakers.
July 23, 2009 by Steven Castle

Thinking about putting in-wall speakers in an exterior wall, or installing in-ceiling speakers in an insulated ceiling?

Don’t do it, says green designer and consultant Michael Anschel of North Minneapolis-based Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build and presenter of a recent CEDIA webinar, “Green Ideas to Stay Competitive.”

“It is a terrible idea to put a hole in any insulated surface, especially a ceiling, unless you have to,” Anschel says. The reason is airflow. Speakers aren’t good insulators, so you’ll be losing warm air out of that hole in the winter and cool air in the summer—both costing you significant bucks.

Instead, locate in-wall speakers on interior walls, and think about using on-wall, bookshelf or floorstanding speakers on your exterior wall. In-ceiling speakers in ceilings between the first and second floors are fine. But try not to install them on a second floor with an attic above, for example.

“You’re strongly advised not to do it,” says Anschel. But if you must, he advises building a box around the back of the speaker and spray-foaming insulation on the box or at the very least piling some cellulose insulation on top of the speaker enclosure.

Another good way to seal air leaks is to use foam-backed electrical enclosures. Electrical outlets become huge energy leaks, in the summer and winter. If you’re electrical outlets are already in place, you can buy foam inserts that fit behind the face plates to block the airflow. You can also get them for light switches. They’re available at most hardware stores.


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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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