Your AV receiver is at the center of the best things about your audio system. It decodes surround sound formats, drives your speakers, and ensures easy switching between audio and video components. However, like all other electronics, overheating can reduce the receiver’s overall lifespan.
The top reasons why your receiver is overheating include damage to internal components, exposure to external heat sources, inadequate ventilation, clogged vents, and more. For external causes of overheating, dealing with the problem can get the receiver back under its normal running temperature.
The rest of this article will cover the reasons for overheating and how you can keep your receiver running as cool as the manufacturers intended.
What Is a Normal Running Temperature for an AV Receiver?
The normal running temperature for an AV receiver is the expected temperature while it’s working, in line with the manufacturer’s tests. You’ll typically get an estimate in the user guide. If this isn’t available, and you can’t reach out to the manufacturer for an answer, you can work with the recommended running temperature range for electronics, which is below 85°F (29°C).
As the operating temperature increases past the recommended range, the lifespan of your receiver will start to deteriorate. If it becomes a regular occurrence, your receiver can lose more than 40% of its projected lifespan—depending on how long you keep using it at high temperatures.
With microprocessors now included in AV receivers, every sound owner is faced with the same heat sensitivity issues which have plagued computer owners over the years. The microprocessors will burn out if they go beyond the maximum allowed temperatures.
What Generates the Heat?
In most cases, the heat threatening to damage your AV receiver is produced by the components inside it. While you use the system to enjoy some music or catch up on your favorite shows, the components working inside convert the bulk of the power they consume into heat. Higher-powered components often translate to more generated heat.
The speed with which heat builds up in your sound system and how high the temperatures will reach is dependent on a range of factors, which include the amount of airflow in the cabinet, the size and density of electronics (how packed the space is), and the wattage of the electronics.
What Happens When Your AV Receiver Overheats?
When an AV receiver overheats, the first sign is shutting down—especially in newer models. If your music suddenly goes off and the AV receiver isn’t working, check the temperature. In severe cases of overheating, you may hear some mini-explosion and some smoke, followed by a fire if ignored.
The system will rarely work again in such scenarios without extensive repairs, which will involve changing many components. Even when the auto shut-down was initiated, your receiver may not come on again without undergoing repairs.
If the heat that builds up as your AV receiver works can dissipate, the receiver will most likely remain within its normal operating temperature. If the receiver is in an enclosure where the heat can get trapped or can’t escape fast enough, the system will gradually overheat. A steady flow of cool air and easy outflow of warm air should keep the heat generated by the components down.
Smaller Physical Dimensions
Portable AV receivers may overheat faster than medium to larger-sized options. This is because the system’s physical dimensions play a role in how well it can deal with managing and expelling heat generated on the inside while functioning.
As manufacturers try to produce powerful yet compact receivers, they end up packing lots of components into a small space. The additional clutter can lead to interactions that will reduce thermal flow, especially when the receiver works in less than optimal conditions.
Therefore, if you are going for a compact receiver, you should take all the necessary steps to keep the temperature within the recommended boundaries. If the system keeps overheating even with your best attempts, it could be a sign of bigger problems with its overall engineering.
This is another cause of overheating in systems like AV receivers that can be traced to the design. If there’s faulty or contact wiring, there could be sparks inside the system from time to time caused by power dissipation, voltage surges, etc. This leads to excess heat and fires in worst-case scenarios.
If you find some smoking from your receiver while it is overheating, there is a high possibility that the situation is caused by faulty wiring.
A few components in an AV receiver can cause overheating if they are damaged—from capacitors to amplifiers. Knowing which component is at fault for the overheating is difficult unless you understand how these systems work and can open up your receiver and look under the hood. Repairing or changing the affected component will solve the problem in many cases.
Some components in your AV receiver may be affected as your home’s temperature goes from cold to very warm. The expansion and contraction of these materials over time can cause damage that will trigger overheating.
This scenario can also play out if you always transport it across different locations with different temperatures or if you go from using it in a room with an AC in the summer to your garage or basement without one.
So, if you are constantly exposing your AV receiver to wild temperature extremes, you could find it overheating after some time because the components may have been damaged due to rapid cooling and expansion.
Similarly, operating the AV receiver in a hot environment can make internal heat distribution less efficient leading to overheating. Using it in an environment with high moisture content can also trigger overheating because the electronic components can affect the metal components, leading to a short circuit.
Do you leave the AV receiver working round the clock? Do you regularly use the receiver at its highest volumes? These are scenarios that can cause overheating. Many internet-enabled AV receivers will get very warm if you stream content for a long time.
The warmth can easily graduate into overheating when combined with the other factors we have covered here. Using the wrong power cables, crudely modifying the hardware, or overloading it with software can also cause overheating.
Why You Should Keep Your AV Receiver From Overheating
Some modern AV receivers of today will shut down automatically when they overheat. When that happens, it may seem natural to wait for it to cool down then turn it back on again as if nothing happened. However, as PC gamers have learned with their tech, this is not a good idea. You should do your best to prevent overheating on your AV receiver for the following reasons:
Ensure Improved Longevity
As is the case with most electronics, you’d want your AV receiver to keep delivering value for money for as long as possible—especially if you have got a high-end option. For many people, the AV receiver only leaves the cabinet after it has become obsolete in relation to existing technologies. This means using the system for up to a decade.
However, with constant overheating, the AV receiver’s lifespan will be a lot shorter than a decade. When it finally fails, you may not be able to claim your warranty if the manufacturer establishes that the overheating was not related to their engineering.
As we’ve mentioned above, an overheating AV receiver may end up causing a fire. To avoid such accidents, you should act immediately before the receiver starts showing signs of overheating—such as shutting down or being unnaturally hot.
If you have an older system that does not come with the sensors that will shut down the receiver when it is overheating, you have to periodically check the system’s temperature as it works—especially if you expose it to different operating conditions.
Electrical fires, even on a small scale, can cause injuries and some damage to property. Even when the overheating does not cause a fire, it can still cause extensive damage. Repairing the receiver may cost up to 60% of the original price you paid for it. In many cases, you will be forced to get a new one due to the extent of the damage.
Prevent Damage to Other Systems
If you have your receiver in a tight cabinet with another piece of electronics nearby or stacked on it, overheating can cause damage to the internal components of that system.
In such arrangements, a gaming console or a disc player is often the likely victim. Hot air naturally rises, so if your electronics arrangement means you have some important hardware on top of your system, you need to make sure it doesn’t overheat.
This also goes for placing your receiver on top of your subwoofer. Don’t do that either since you expose yourself to vibration damage in addition to heat issues.
What Are the Top Techniques to Keep Your Receiver From Overheating?
There are a few things you can do to keep your AV receiver from overheating. They include the following:
Install the AV Receiver Away From Heat Sources
Your AV receiver will generate some heat while working, so you should avoid making the environment worse for the internal circuitry by ensuring that the system is sitting far from external heat sources. This means you shouldn’t leave it installed anywhere near baseboards, space heaters, radiators, heating ducts, and any appliances that can generate a considerable amount of heat.
Similarly, you should ensure that the AV receiver isn’t positioned in the path of direct sunlight. This arrangement will cause overheating as an AV receiver’s compartment will retain the bulk of the heat from the sun.
If your entertainment center gets a lot of sunlight, you should consider moving the arrangement or getting thicker curtains. Excessive sunlight isn’t just bad for your AV receiver, but everything else, including your TV screen.
Adhere to the Manufacturer’s Instructions on Positioning
Most user guides from manufacturers will contain recommendations on the position to install your AV receiver to protect it from overheating. AV receivers and other similar home entertainment equipment are typically designed for top-side ventilation. This is to take advantage of the fact that hot air rises while cold air sinks.
Therefore, most manufacturers will recommend not setting up your AV receiver sideways. With no ventilation on the sides, the system will overheat fairly regularly as hot air will be trapped inside longer than necessary. So, pay attention to your user guide on what to do. If your AV receiver has side ventilation, the positioning instructions will be different from the norm.
Keep the AV Receiver in a Ventilated Closet
The cabinet where your AV receiver is positioned can have an impact on whether the system overheats or not. The best part of the cabinet to place your AV receiver is where it gets the best ventilation. This is ideally at the top or the bottom of the cabinet, but it can also be at the center, especially if there’s adequate space in front and behind the system, ensuring proper airflow around it. This way, you can keep it cool.
If you’ve squeezed the receiver into a small space in the cabinet with poor airflow, the hot air that comes out of the system while it’s working will remain trapped, leading to overheating and the attendant problems that come with it.
Therefore, you should always make sure the closet or cabinet holding your AV receiver has the ability to let out hot air and let in cold air. In cases where adequate natural ventilation is not possible, you should consider artificial ventilation (as you’ll see below).
Don’t Stack Other Electronics Close to Your AV Receiver
You should always ensure a few inches of space between your AV receiver and other electronics next to it. This way, they’ll have enough breathing room, and cool air can get around all of them. If they are all stacked too close to each other, they’ll be getting more of the same hot air instead of cool, fresh air.
Leave a few inches of space between them for proper ventilation. Some manufacturers will have some recommendations on the amount of space to allow between the receiver and the next piece of electronics. You should use that as a guide for your arrangement.
However, almost all kinds of receivers will benefit from not having another piece of electronics blowing hot air or transferring heat from the top or from below. The more heat transferred, the harder the system has to work to stay cool.
Install Artificial Ventilation Next to the AV Receiver
Fans make great ventilation for electronics like AV receivers; they can move the air around a lot, which helps to keep the equipment cool. More air reduces the amount of pent up heat within the receiver, thus actively cooling the electronics.
The best fan configuration is one that allows air to get into the compartment easily. In many cases, this would mean having a fan that can blow at the receiver from the top.
Keep the Air Vents Clean
After a while, dust and cobwebs may build up around the vents of your AV receiver. You should clean these parts of the system at least every month or as frequently as necessary to keep it free from dirt. If the vents get clogged, it will be harder for air to enter and leave the compartment, causing overheating.
The easiest way to clean the vents on your AV receiver is to use a can of air duster. A few quick sprays will get rid of the dust. Unscrew the outer covering of the receiver, if necessary, to ensure a thorough cleaning. Another benefit of having the vents free from dirt is that the internal fans will also be quieter.
After dusting off the receiver’s interior, use a microfiber cloth to clean the rest of the body to ensure the dust on the surface doesn’t get blown back into the components as soon as you’re done cleaning. Before you choose to open the receiver, check to see how it affects your warranty. There may also be other details on how to clean your system in the manual. Pay attention to the instructions.
Shut Down the System at Intervals
There’s no upside to leaving your AV receiver working round the clock. It only takes a few seconds for modern systems to boot up, so you don’t lose any time by turning off the system when you’re no longer in the room.
This is especially important if your AV receiver model doesn’t come with an automated regulatory mechanism to shut down the device after a few hours of staying idle. Even with such a mechanism in place, don’t wait for it to kick in. Shut down the system when it’s not in use.
Turn Off the Receiver if It Overheats
If you notice that the receiver is getting warmer than usual or smoking, shut it down immediately and disconnect it from the power source. Wait for the casing to cool down to touch before you start using it again.
Turning the system off allows all the parts to cool down and stop producing heat momentarily. When the system feels cool to the touch, you can turn it back on—but after taking steps to prevent it from overheating again after a few minutes.
Turn Off the Wireless Connectivity Functions
Most new models of AV receivers come with wireless connectivity technology, allowing you to hook up to the internet or play music from your mobile devices. The connections may cause overheating, especially in the presence of other possible causes we’ve seen thus far.
Turning off these features and only using them when you need to can keep your AV receiver from overheating.
How Effective Are Fans or Rack Mounts?
As we’ve talked about briefly above, overheating can occur when there’s poor airflow. The hot air generated as your receiver works should be able to dissipate to the outside quickly just as cool air is sucked into the compartment by your receiver’s internal fan mechanism.
Without enough cool air in the environment, the airflow mechanism will not be as effective as it should be. Hot air will continue to build up and stay longer than necessary in the pockets around the cabinet’s heat-producing components. This is when overheating occurs. To prevent overheating, you need to ensure better cool air circulation around the AV receiver.
Fans and rack mounts are very effective at directing a stream of cooler to the AV receiver. Even in warm environments, quick swirls from the fan can provide a cooling effect on the system.
When the cooler air forced by the fan meets a pocket of warmer air in the receiver, the warmer air will rise closer to the vent. This upward stream of warm air will continue as long as the fan is working—a process known as convection.
What to Consider When Choosing a Fan for Your AV Receiver
When it comes to choosing a fan for your AV receiver, you should look for a quality option that can get enough cool air to the system from the position you’d like to keep the fan. There are many options to choose from, so you need to have a plan to pick the best. Here are the things that you need to consider when choosing a fan for your AV receiver:
Most floor fans in the market are usually 115-220VAC powered, but you can also find 48VDC, 24VDC, and 12VDC powered options. Always make sure that you check to confirm that your overall setup can meet the fan’s power needs in order to avoid any overheating.
You don’t want a fan taking up space and looking out of place next to your entertainment system. You should have a clear picture of the space you’ve got for the fan before you start checking out models. If you only want the fan to cool your AV receiver and other electronics, you’d ideally want it to be as small as possible to do the job and stay out of the way.
Going with the biggest or cheapest fan you can find isn’t the best way to make your decision. You need to consider functionality details like the air pressure, airflow, fan speed levels, and the level of noise it gives off while working. These factors should be on top of your mind when you’re looking at fan models.
Type of Bearing
The bearings you’ll find on a fan say a lot about its construction and how long it will last. Most popular fans come with ball bearings as these are simple and effective. Such fans offer more durability at higher temperatures and won’t make a lot of noise even at the highest speeds. They also come with a long lifespan. Such fans can work for more than 50,000 hours.
On the other hand, fans with hydraulic bearings require a lot of work to maintain and won’t last as long as their ball bearing counterparts.
Most fans you can use to cool down electronics like the AV receiver will come with 2-4 speed levels. Some designs come with variable controls that allow you to find the perfect speed instead of being boxed into preset levels.
At the very least, you should check for a high and low-speed setting. Don’t forget to look at how loud the fan can get at the highest speed. Will it interfere with your movie or music session?
Ease of Adjustment
The right fan should be able to get to your AV receiver with ease, but it’s always nice to have a fan you can adjust when necessary to direct airflow where you want. In conjunction with variable speed, this will ensure you are always in control of the air from the fan.
Ease of Maintenance
You don’t want to get a fan that is tough to disassemble when it’s time to clean it. If you allow dust and dirt to accumulate on the blades and grill, you not only reduce the fan’s efficiency but also increase the probability of dirt and dust getting blown towards (and into) your AV receiver.
You may be tempted to go with a bladeless fan to avoid cleaning it from time to time, but even those come with filters that you have to clean or replace after a while.
If your AV receiver only heats up during the peak of the afternoon, there’s probably no need to have the fan running all day. A timer ensures that the fan can start working exactly when the AV receiver starts to heat up and shuts down or gradually wind down as the weather gets cooler.
AV receivers can overheat for many reasons, but, barring a case of poor engineering, the cause is almost always external. Factors like how you’ve positioned the receiver, its position in your console or cabinet, and the level of ventilation in the room are some common causes of overheating. Using the system in a hot environment can also increase the internal temperature.
If your receiver heats up abnormally, and you are certain that these external factors don’t apply, it may be time to activate that warranty option.