The time has come. You have done all your homework and, after much deliberation, have finally selected all of the electronic components for your fancy new media room!
This is an exciting project, but before you pull the trigger on that new gear, it’s important to ask yourself one key question. Have you given enough thought to how you’re going to protect your investment? After all, these components are not cheap. However, with a small amount of extra planning at the outset, you’ll enjoy your smart home electronic systems for the longest time possible. Keep reading for three effective ways to protect your electronic equipment.
One of the primary considerations that must be given to protecting your equipment has to do with power. The electricity feeding your components has traveled a long way to get to the outlet in your media room. In the course of that travel, numerous factors have likely affected its integrity. The degree and manner in which possible degradation of electricity occurs is beyond the scope of this article. What’s important to understand is that before that power enters the circuitry of your new gear, it needs to be cleaned up. Most often this is accomplished by using a separate piece of equipment commonly called a “power conditioner.” This term is a bit of a catch-all to describe a device that will perform a few different functions, depending on the make/model. These functions include surge protection, voltage regulation, noise filtering, and battery backup. Take the time to understand the purpose of each of these features, then purchase a unit that checks all of the boxes you deem necessary.
Proper Structural Support
Proper structural support for items like flat-panel TVs is critical. In addition to protecting your investment, this is also a matter of personal safety, and is particularly important if you have small children in your family. Make sure that your TV bracket is mounted securely to the studs behind the wall. Anchors and toggle bolts are rarely an acceptable option. If you’re not 100 percent confident in your ability to safely hang a TV, or if certain factors preclude you from mounting to the studs, contact a local professional. This is a straightforward and inexpensive task and could save you a lot of headaches in the future.
Structural considerations do not only come into play with TV mounts. This is also a consideration that affects your cabinet or A/V rack. If your gear is going to live in a cabinet (particularly on adjustable shelving) make sure that the shelves are properly supported. Heavier devices like amplifiers and battery backups should always be installed at the bottom of the cabinet. If a heavy device must be placed on an adjustable shelf, reinforcement should be added. If you are using a freestanding rack instead of a cabinet, be sure to mount heavy devices at the bottom. This will prevent the rack from getting top heavy and potentially toppling over. If you live in earthquake country, be sure to secure the rack to the wall. This can be accomplished easily by purchasing some screw eyes and ratchet straps from your local hardware store.
Cooling and Ventilation
All electronics produce heat, to varying degrees. It is critical that this heat not be allowed to build up within the cabinet. Studies have shown that 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the maximum safe operating temperature for most electronics. These studies have also shown that for every 10-degree rise above this threshold, the life of digital equipment is reduced by up to 40 percent.
For installations with a small number of devices, ventilation by natural convection is usually sufficient. This simply means your cabinet needs to be “breathable.” A vent or series of small holes at the top (and preferably near the back) of the cabinet will allow hot air to escape. Equally important is the need for make-up air, the cool air that will naturally draw in as hot air escapes out the top of the enclosure. Again, use a vent or series of small holes, this time placed down low (and preferably at the front) of the cabinet to introduce cool air into the cabinet or A/V rack.
For cabinets and racks with lots of gear inside, natural convection may not be sufficient and a system of forced convection should be implemented. This can be accomplished simply with the use of some small fans. There are dozens of options on the market built specifically for this type of application. The best device for you will depend largely on the particulars of your installation. Take the time to research your options. A final note on cooling: Plan on installing fans prior to placing any other equipment inside the cabinet. The fan installation will likely require drilling and/or cutting of multiple holes in wood. Not only is it far more difficult to do this in a cabinet full of gear, but it also creates a ton of dust, which you obviously do not want covering your electronics.
Outfitting your home with new technology is a fun process. In the excitement of purchasing a new system it can be easy to overlook a few key facts about equipment protection. When preparing your home for the installation of your new gear, make sure to consider factors such as power conditioning, structural support, and equipment cooling. EH
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Jason Griffing is the Director of Business Development at Harrison Home Systems in Denver, CO, (HHSUSA.com) and co-hosts two industry related podcasts at HomeTech.fm & AVShopTalk.com