Spending more than $500 for a place to put your A/V receiver, Blu-ray player, amplifiers and processors seems way over the top. I know I’d have a hard time dishing out the cash for that. But by the time I finished speaking with Rich Conklin, a custom electronics (CE) professional at Grand Home Automation in Grand Rapids, Mich., I was sold. It’s not like I’ll rush out today to buy a specialty rack today, but if I do ever expand my entertainment system, I’ll be one of the first in line for this product.
So what makes racks better than the shelves of my wooden entertainment cabinet? Lots of things, according to Conklin.
“The biggest advantage, that most people never consider, is that with a rack the installer can put together your system off site, test everything, then bring the whole prebuilt product right to your home.”
This saves both headaches and in the long run, money for the homeowner. By having your equipment “racked” off site, your custom electronics professional will spend less time at your house installing and programming the gear. “Instead of spending two or three weeks at your house, the installer is in and out in just two or three days,” says Conklin. Less labor is involved, typically, when an installer is able to test-drive your components before installing them, which means less money you’ll have to spend on labor. “If we build the rack in our shop, we have every widget available that we might need to fix a problem,” says Conklin. “That’s not the case once we get to the customer’s house.”
Should you or your CE pro ever need to service a piece of equipment in the rack (it’s bound to happen) or connect a new component, a rack makes it easy to do. Many racks feature a sliding base which allows them to be pulled out of a cabinet, closet or wall and swiveled so that you or a professional installer can easily reach the cabling and connections.
It’s possible, thanks to ventilated shelves and integrated power protection equipment that your components won’t need much servicing at all. The steel shelving is not only sturdy—able to hold hundreds of pounds of gear—but it can be rearranged to accommodate new equipment. “We might put at drawer in the rack for storage then switch it to a shelf when the customer wants to add a component,” says Conklin.
Lastly, there’s the aesthetic value racks provide. They might not be much to look at by themselves, but when they’re recessed into walls and cabinets, they lend a neat, tidy, professional appearance in any room. The shelves can even be fitted with faceplates to cover up less attractive equipment. If you don’t want to have a rack in your family room, freestanding models offer the options of storing your gear in a closet or utility room.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.