One of the best things about most home electronic systems is that once they’re installed and configured, you never need to see or touch them again. And thank goodness. The processors, switchers, controllers and other high-tech contraptions that interpret and route commands from keypads, remotes and touchscreens to the appropriate lights, thermostats and A/V equipment are not much to look at. Left out in your living room or kitchen, they would make your home feel more like a laboratory than a place to put your feet up. That’s why it’s important to save a special spot for storing these valuable yet unattractive pieces of electronic circuitry.
Best for a Basement
An unfinished portion of the basement is an ideal place to build an electronics storage room. There, everything can be centrally located, which simplifies the initial installation as well as follow-up service and modification. Your installer can set up camp in the room, and you’ll never even know he’s there. And when something needs to be changed or added to your systems, he’ll be able to handle the job from one room rather than having to traipse all over your house. Of course, a back room in the basement will never feel as cozy as your living room, but at the very least, make sure that the equipment room is well ventilated (so that the area won’t get too warm) and that it has enough lighting so that your installer can see what he’s doing.
We all crave the organization that a storage solution can bring. It makes things easier to find and prevents clutter from overtaking our homes. This same approach should also apply to the electronic systems in your house. You’ll want them to be installed in an orderly, tidy fashion so that you and your installer can get to a particular piece of equipment for servicing or reconfiguration without having to tear apart the room.
One of the best ways to organize a large group of equipment is by placing it inside a special electronics panel, also called an enclosure. An electronics enclosure can be made of plastic or steel and is about the same size as an electrical breaker box.
Depending on the types of systems you plan to incorporate into your home, your equipment room may need several panels. Each panel could be dedicated to a particular system. For example, you could use one panel to hold all of the components of your home’s whole-house music system; another panel for the security system; and a third for the routers, switches and servers that comprise your home’s high-speed computer network. These panels should be ganged together on the wall so that they can be easily interconnected. For example, your security system, lighting system and music system could all be attached to a central home control system so that one command could synchronously activate the security sensors, dim the lights and shut off the music.
Once the connections are made, most installers will attach a hinged door to each panel to protect the equipment from dust and moisture. However, if you envision your equipment room as a place to showcase rather than hide all that wonderful gear, your installer could organize the components inside open equipment racks instead. A fascia could be applied to the front of each rack so that only the faces of the components were visible. This design imparts a high-tech look, but it can be tough to service. If you choose to dress up the racks with fascias or framing, be sure to leave plenty of room behind them so that you can access the backs of the equipment when you need to redo the wiring or reconfigure something.
Putting every single piece of electronic hardware in one spot is a good idea for some households, but other families may find it more convenient to spread out the systems between two or three storage spots. For example, if you plan to distribute music and video from one entertainment system to speakers and TVs throughout the house, you may want to locate the DVD players, media servers and CD players in a closet on the main floor rather than in the basement. That way, when you need to load a new DVD or CD, the players will be only a few steps away.
Another popular storage option for audio and video equipment is inside an entertainment cabinet built flush into the wall of your family room or rec room. A built-in cabinet is an attractive way to showcase a home theater system, but once the unit is on the wall, there will be no easy way to reach the backs of the components when you’re ready to add a new piece of equipment to the system. For this reason, it’s important that you ask your builder to construct a small access closet directly behind the cabinet. The spot doesn’t have to be huge—just big enough so that you can walk in and readjust the wiring. The entrance to the rear access closet can be located in the room behind the entertainment cabinet. You can apply a standard closet door to the opening to make it look like an ordinary part of your house.