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Forgotten Critical Details?

When creating a home theater as a do-it-yourself project, there are some important details that can be forgotten -- and it's no fun to realize just a little too late that something was missed or overlooked. Remembering these details can help avoid wasting time and money.

Power and Plugs

Home theater is unforgivably dependent on electricity. With every piece of equipment added, more electricity is needed to power it. Therefore, the first thing to check before installing a home theater system is whether or not the house can handle the added electrical load.

Secondly, it's important to make sure the individual circuits in the room can handle the power the equipment needs to work. Often a home theater system will require more than one circuit for all the elements.

It's best to avoid using a lot of extension cords and outlet splitters to supply components. Many home theater components also call for grounded outlets so it might be necessary to rewire a room so it's suitable for a home theater system.

When dealing with expensive electronics, always protect your investment with surge protectors. Power surges can cause immediate and/or eventual damage to electrical equipment. Some cabinetry designed for home theaters have built-in surge protectors and multiple plug centers.

Ventilation

If the electronic equipment is enclosed in cabinetry, it can generate a lot of heat. In fact, we've heard of cabinets becoming so hot that the clear finish has melted off the wood's finish. The components that seem to generate the most heat are projectors, line doublers, DSS receivers, and amplifiers.

The easiest way to keep the interior of home theater cabinetry cool is to install fans. Most media fans are not very large, only about 4" in diameter and 1½" thick, but are highly recommended by audio visual experts.

In many of the home theaters we install, we use fans which are recommended specifically because of their quietness. Fan noise is something to consider because highly noticeable fan noise can detract from the enjoyment of home theater.

Fans mounted in the top or bottom of cabinets work well along with additional ventilation space. Many home theater racks and shelves are made with extra room for ventilation in the rear, or other types of vents.

Some ventilation fans are thermostatically controlled to switch on automatically whenever the interior temperature reaches a certain level. This is a convienient feature which can save on energy and increase the life of the fans since they will run only when they are needed.

Dust Control

Dust is another enemy to be concerned about. It can shorten the life of electronic components. Frequent dusting helps, but housing the system inside cabinetry is the best method of basic dust control.

But enclosing a system doesn't completely solve the problem because some dust is still introduced into the cabinet space by vent fans. Periodically wiping off the mirrors and other equipment helps, but can be difficult depending on the set up.

Installing a media filter at the fan intake is a good way to lessen the problem. A media filter works like an elaborate forced air furnace filter. These work well because the filters can be changed when they get dirty.

Future Expansion

If there is even a possibility of adding onto the system in the future, choose equipment that has enough power, and inputs/outputs to handle additional components.

For key items, buy the highest quality you can afford. You can always add on snazzier items later. On a tight budget, concentrate funds on the television, receiver, a movie playing device, (VCR or DVD player) and the front, center & right front speakers.

Warranties are another thing to consider when buying equipment. A lot of equipment comes with 90-day or 1-year warranties. Some companies offer even longer warranties for the same price, or trade in offers on newer equipment.

It is a good idea to plan some extra room for future additions. If you are buying or building cabinetry, include an extra shelf or two because it's easier and usually cheaper to do it when it's first being installed.

Checking Settings

After connecting all of the components in your home theater, there is still one major step before sitting down and enjoying the show -- checking all the settings.

Finding a balance in sound is the first step. Make sure to watch and listen from every part of the viewing area to make sure the sound is as good as it can possibly be for everyone participating. This may also require some adjustment of the speaker positions.

One of the biggest mistakes made when setting up the sound levels is setting the surround speakers too loud. A good rule of thumb is that if sound out of the surround speakers distracts you at all from the picture, they're set too loud.

The surrounds speakers should supply sound so subtlely that you aren't consciously aware they are even there. Surround sound should envelop you, not pull you away from the experience.

Most surround sound capable receiver have multiple settings for sound, like a concert hall, movie theater, or simulated surround. Become familiar with these settings and make sure to choose the best one for the medium you are listening to.