10 Ways to Protect Home Theater Equipment

In How-to-Guides, Power by Jonah Matthes1 Comment

Home Theater equipment is quite valuable and should be protected as best as possible. I did some research regarding the best ways to protect home theater equipment.

What are the best ways to protect home theater equipment?

  • Use surge protectors
  • Use a power conditioner
  • Plug the equipment into a UPS
  • Dust frequently
  • Avoid stacking equipment
  • Add fans to increase airflow
  • Use a ventilated cabinet if possible
  • Limit the volume on the speakers
  • Avoid daisy-chaining surge protectors, power strips, and UPSs
  • Use a licensed electrician to run high voltage power

Your equipment is always susceptible to power surges, overheating, blown drivers in speakers, shorting out, meltdowns (hopefully not), or burnt-out projector bulbs. You really don’t want any of these things to happen. Some electronic components are extremely sensitive and troubleshooting exactly what is going wrong with the system is a pain in the rear end.

In this article, we will discuss the different methods to protect home theater equipment. All of these things will contribute to the protection and security of the home theater equipment. Do keep in mind, even if you do all of these things, it isn’t a 100% guarantee that it will protect all of your equipment.

All electronics aren’t made equal and some will fail for various reasons that you have absolutely no control over. But it’s always a good practice to protect your equipment to the best of your ability. Projectors, receivers, speakers, and other devices can last 5-10 years easily if they are properly taken care of.

1. Surge Protectors

Protect Home Theater Equipment with Surge Protectors not Power Strips

Surge protectors are the most essential item on this list. You probably have and use a standard power strip with 5 to 6 outlets that states that it’s a “surge protector”, but in reality, it could barely stop a static shock from hitting the equipment. A surge protector is a multi-outlet power distribution device that protects the connected devices from voltage spikes or surges.

If lightning hits your home or even another home connected to yours, it’s possible for the energy from the lightning strike to travel throughout the electrical wires. These large voltage spikes can hit sensitive electronics such as televisions, projectors, receivers, speakers, etc. All of the equipment in a home theater system is interconnected by power cables, HDMI cables, speakers cables, and others.

The voltage spike can definitely hit all of this equipment simultaneously and cause thousands of dollars in damages. Now with a surge protector, it stops the voltage spike at the very source. The surge protector will detect the large voltage spike (surge) and automatically re-route it into the grounding line, blocking access to the connected equipment. These are essential!

We’ve been using surge protectors by Panamax for a very long time now. I recommend the Panamax PM8-EX (on Amazon), it is more expensive than other “surge protectors”, but we have never had any issues with these units. A high-quality surge protector is definitely the number one way to protect home theater equipment.

If you want additional options for surge protectors, then check out my article on the 10 best surge protectors!

2. Power Conditioners

Protect Home Theater Equipment with a Power Conditioner
This is the power conditioner that we use to protect our home theater equipment.

Power by nature is dirty. The AC power running throughout your home isn’t always clean. This means that power running throughout your home has small dips and spikes that can cause small amounts of damage to your equipment over time. A power conditioner will filter out the small dips and spikes in voltage to better protect your equipment.

Power conditioners will typically filter out AC line noise as well. Panamax shows a great demonstration of this here. I would only recommend a power conditioner for your most expensive equipment. You don’t need one for your accessory devices, that would just be absurd and overly expensive.

Check out my list of the 11 best power conditioners for some really great options!

3. UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply)

A UPS is an uninterrupted power supply. It’s basically a backup battery for devices that require power from an outlet. If the power were to go out in your home, the UPS without any interruption (ba dum tss) will take over and provide power to all of the connected devices.

They are typically bulky in size because they contain one or more batteries. But the great thing about most high-quality UPSs is that that also surge protect and provide power conditioning to everything connected. It’s basically an all-in-one power distribution and protection device.

Having backup power for your sensitive equipment will be extremely beneficial because it allows you time to properly shut everything down. This definitely applies to projectors. A projector usually takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to fully shut down, depending on how long it has been running. Projectors get very hot after running for extended periods of time. If power is abruptly removed then it doesn’t have enough time for the fans to properly cool the bulb and other components to a safe temperature. This is also the case for televisions and other electronic equipment. It’s always a good practice to properly shut everything down.

For instance, when you want to turn your desktop computer off, do you properly shut the computer down? Or do you rip the power cable from the back of the unit? You aren’t an animal, so I hope you shut it down correctly.

The CyberPower CP1350AVRLCD (on Amazon) is a great UPS with a very reasonable price tag. This unit surge protects and conditions the incoming power, so it’s a great all-in-one UPS with outstanding reviews.

4. Dust Frequently

This may seem obvious, but removing dust will definitely protect home theater equipment. Dust is going to build up on top of and in-between all of the equipment inside of a cabinet, equipment room, or entertainment center.

Lots of electronic equipment contains some type of cooling system. Whether it’s an active or passive cooling system, dust build-up will cause the internal temperatures to rise.

Equipment with active cooling systems will usually have an in and out fan. The in fan sucks air inside of the unit and the out fan blows air out of the unit. If there is a lot of dust in an enclosed space, it is very likely that the dust will be sucked into the piece of equipment and stay inside. Over time the dust will build-up will cause damage to the sensitive components within the device.

Let’s be adults and use a duster to clean our expensive electronic equipment from time to time.

5. Avoid Stacking Equipment on Top of Each Other

You should avoid stacking audio/video equipment on top of each other. Especially if the equipment is contained within a small space where the air is not constantly circulating.

A/V equipment tends to get very warm. And when all of the components are touching the heat transfers very easily. This can cause some equipment to overheat past its safety threshold which will damage the sensitive electronics. So when using a rack mounting system, make sure there is space between each piece of equipment.

If everything is placed within an entertainment center or cabinet, then I suggest adding spacers between each piece of equipment. Use some type of thick plastic or rubber so that the heat doesn’t transfer as well to each device inside. Heat is one of the main things to worry about with a lot of equipment, especially, with smaller devices that don’t have a fan.

6. Add Fans to Remove Excess Heat

Computer fan

Fans do a great job at moving air to cool down hot equipment. This is why you see and hear them inside of projectors, receivers, and computers.

If your equipment is placed in a more enclosed space, such as an entertainment center or decorative cabinet, then there is likely a lot of stagnant air. Stagnant air is not good because as the equipment gets hotter, so will the air around it. And hot air is not good for most electrical equipment.

Sensitive electrical components are damaged when they reach a higher temperature than what they are meant to handle. To combat this, simply add fans to move more fresh and cool air to the equipment. For an enclosed cabinet, I suggest cutting two separate holes to install fans. One intake for providing cool air and one outtake fan for removing warm/hot air. When positioned correctly, they will provide a constant stream of air that will increase the longevity and performance of your equipment.

If the equipment is in an open entertainment center, then there shouldn’t be any need for fans. If your equipment is in a cabinet, then consider purchasing a fan meant for a cabinet (on Amazon.com) and is powered by USB or a wall outlet.

7. Place the Equipment in a Ventilated Cabinet if Possible

Depending on where your system is located, a great way to protect home theater equipment is to place the equipment inside of an enclosed cabinet. If the equipment is placed in a closet or small room, then I highly suggest putting it in a server cabinet (link to Amazon.com).

Many enclosed cabinets have either built-in fans, or pre-drilled holes to install fans. The nice thing about cabinets is that you are able to space equipment out properly which allows air to flow. And if the cabinet is fully enclosed, it significantly reduces the amount of dust entering the enclosure.

Simply add filters to the fans and any open areas, to block dust and other particulates from entering. This also allows the fans to move air more efficiently, adding cooler air to the enclosure and removing the warmer air. This is a sure-fire way to protect home theater equipment in many aspects!

8. Limit the Volume Levels

One of the most common ways to damage speakers or even a receiver is to crank the volume up too loud. Speakers are only meant to handle so much power, and if too much power is output then it can damage their internal components. On the other hand, a receiver is only meant to output so much power.

A large speaker system with 7 speakers can draw a lot of power from a single receiver. Cranking up the volume too much can cause the receiver to start clipping. Clipping a when an amplifier is overdriven and attempts to deliver an output current or voltage that is beyond its max capability. This means that the receiver is sending out more power than it can handle.

When clipping occurs there are 2 things that can happen. One, the receiver is working too hard and begins to overheat. Or two, so much power is sent to a speaker that it overheats the tweeters and causes irreversible damage to the speaker. Neither of these outcomes are good because it means that you will need to replace either the receiver or speaker(s).

Most modern receivers allow you to set a maximum volume level. This is typically found in the OSD settings. Set the maximum volume level to the desired level and leave it there. This will protect your home theater equipment, as well as, save your ears in case someone accidentally turns the volume up higher than intended.

9. Avoid Daisy Chaining Surge Protectors and Power Strips, and UPSs.

You should avoid daisy-chaining surge protectors, power strips, and uninterrupted power supply units at all costs. Doing so puts you at a far higher risk of an electrical fire occurring. Instead, plug each device into a standard wall outlet.

Most surge protectors are built to handle the number of outlets available on it. A surge protector with 8 available outlets should only have 8 devices connected to it. Yes, you could simply plug a 6 outlet power strip into the 8 outlet surge protector, but this is NOT safe. You’re now expecting the surge protector to handle more of a load than it was designed and built to.

If the surge protector is drawing too much power from the home outlet, the cable could start to heat up too much. This is a very dangerous situation. Instead, plug your higher load drawing devices into the larger surge protector, and the lower load drawing devices into the power strip.

Yeah, the power strip may not handle a super high voltage spike, but it’s better that only a few devices are fried. Compared to everything getting fried in the event of a lightning strike.

This is actually a really controversial topic. Some will say it’s perfectly fine, and some may say the surge projectors will blow up. It most places, it’s against fire code to daisy chain surge protectors and power strips. If you are seriously worried about this, then simply purchase another surge protector. Protect your home theater equipment by being smart with your power distribution.

Check out our recommended surge protectors or our recommended power conditioners to find great solutions for power safety in your home.

10. Use a Licensed Electrician to Help with Power Issues.

Nobody wants to hear this, but use a licensed electrician to run any high voltage power in your home. The laws vary from state to state, so research what the laws are for your state. If it’s legal to run your own power lines, then be very cautious of what you are doing.

High voltage power is dangerous and should be handled with care. If you don’t know what you are doing, please hire an electrician to help. It’s possible it will save you a lot of headaches and trouble in the future.

Also, if you having an issue with your home theater system tripping breakers, then definitely hire a professional. They can come out and advise what is necessary to provide ample power to your system. Whether it’s running a dedicated line for your system or installing a higher amp breaker in your electrical panel.

It’s worth the money to hire someone who truly knows what they are doing.

Conclusion

Overall, it is extremely important to protect home theater equipment. Many people invest thousands of dollars into their systems. Nobody wants to see an entire system get fried or damaged when it can easily be avoided.

These different tips will improve the protection and stability of most systems. Please, don’t risk compromising your entire system because of a measly $100 or so. Get the necessary devices to properly protect your equipment. You will be extremely grateful in the long run!

Check out my article on safely running cables for a home theater. These tips will also help protect you and your system from potential harm.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the heads up to get only licensed high-voltage electricians to test if your home circuits could run a really powerful state-of-the-art home theater system. I’m sure my dad wouldn’t want his mini moviehouse to trip his breakers or blow his fuse, especially since he’s looking at a fully automated, smart home theater system. He’d definitely keep in mind to get professional electrical services to make sure his installations adhere to state and industry standards before he opens up his home theater for the clan reunion on Easter.

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