February 19, 2008 by Marshal Rosenthal
We take for granted that our TV, DVD player and other home theater components will work without fail. But while these devices have become increasingly dependable through the years (with some notorious exceptions), there’s no getting around the fact that situations beyond one’s control can reach out and zap them right before your eyes.
So it’s important to do what you can to insure the health of your HT. While there’s not enough space to list all the possible ways to go about doing this, we can discuss some of the most common problems and offer some real-world solutions from our experience.
Keep Things Secure
Loose cords and wires can be unsightly at the least and deadly to small children and pets at the worst. Companies making twist-ties and tube enclosures for holding wires together and PVC cord and wire channels for hiding them are legion; finding the best solution is just a matter of browsing at a Best Buy or looking online at a Crutchfield, Amazon or any other web site. Some folks can have wiring go through their walls, but most of us don’t have this luxury (in addition to housing codes, electrical work of this nature can be dangerous). As example, our home theater in the living room consists of a front projector on a stand with an HDMI and AC cable running some 14 feet to the component shelf against the wall. Rather than having this exposed, the cables are held inside a sheath matching the color of the carpet, with thinner sheaths covering the wires leading out from the wall to two free-standing surround speakers (had we any wiring on the walls, camouflaging wire channels would have been used). Meanwhile all of the A/V cables, AC cords and Ethernet wiring found at the component shelf has been bundled into tubes. There are also devices that provide for power cord management while adding surge protection. Belkin’s Conceal Surge protector (it hides cords and leads them away from the outlet while blending in with the wall baseboard) and Compact Surge Protector (routes the cords in one direction) are two examples. As a result of this, accessing, replacing or adding new cables becomes easier to do while also decreasing the strain on the existing infrastructure.
Keep Things Clean
Dust is no friend to consumer electronic devices. Regardless of whether your components sit on a shelf or inside a rack or cabinet, there’s going to be some dust accumulation. Not to mention other debris such as pet hair or smoke ash. Wall mounted displays or projection screens aren’t precluded from this either, since bezels will catch dust quite readily, and static will draw debris to a screen. In general, using a lintless, all cotton cloth is recommended, and remember the idea is to lift the dust off, not just smear it around. I’ve had great success using the Audio Duster, a 14” sheepskin duster head that easily reaches behind components (the natural lanolin attracts and holds dust, which can be twirled away between the hands later outside). For cleaning and polishing screens, micro-fiber cloths will work well - aided by a spray designed to not only be anti-static but free of alcohol and ammonia. This can be found from many vendors, such as Klear Screen. Just remember to never apply any kind of cleaner to the surface of the screen directly.
Cleaning the general area around the components can be done with a vacuum cleaner, provided care is taken with any loose wiring and making sure no power spikes occur from the vacuum that could put a component at risk (we don’t recommend using a regular vacuum cleaner to pull dust away from components). Small “dust-busters” work well for hard to reach areas, as do the tiny keyboard-type vacuums that run off of batteries or USB power. These can be used to remove dust from tiny cracks and crevices - for example around the lip of the disc slot of a Playstation 3 or even on a DVD’s disc tray. And having a small LED flashlight when poking into dark corners will prove immeasurably helpful as well.
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