Plugging your home theater into unprotected power outlets can expose it to damage due to electrical spikes and power surges that occur when least expected. Keeping your home theater in excellent working condition is essential, but do you need power protection for all home theater devices?
You need power protection for critical home theater devices to protect them from voltage spikes and power surges. Ideally, you want all of your home theater devices protected. Power protection also helps extend your device’s lifespan and gives you peace of mind knowing that nothing will interfere with your home theater functionality.
In this detailed guide, we look at some cases when you need power protection, why you should get power protection, and tips on buying the right power protection. We’ll also cover practical tips that you can apply to prevent long-term damage to your home theater devices.
When You Might Need Power Protection
Power protection is essential when dealing with electrical equipment. However, most people plug in their TV, home theater, and other devices without a surge protector or a power conditioner, something that could expose your equipment to electrical damage.
Here are some cases when you may need power protection for the devices:
While most people think of power surges as lightning-fueled events that automatically damage your electronics, that’s not always the case. Sometimes power surges occur as low-level pulses due to the unsteady flow of electricity within a home. The surges will, over time, degrade the circuitry of your devices and electronics until they are not functional.
Power surges consist of a short-term increase in voltage, ranging from 10-35% above the standard line voltage. These surges can last for some seconds to a few minutes. A power surge can happen when there are high-powered electrical motors like household appliances. Switching off the equipment means the extra voltage dissipates through the power line, thus causing a surge.
Another case where you might need power protection is if your area has frequent lightning strikes. States like Florida are close to the Atlantic Ocean, and with the high humidity and temperature, that leads to frequent storms. These lightning strikes damage property, and this is not something you want to deal with.
Power spikes are also referred to as power impulses. A spike is a sudden increase in voltage, which is the same as the force of a tidal wave. The problem with power spikes is that they can damage electrical components or reduce your equipment’s lifespan.
You may experience frequent spikes if there are malfunctions at the power company or when there’s a nearby lightning strike. Power spikes can also occur when there’s a short circuit or when the electricity comes back suddenly after a blackout.
The problem with power spikes is that they can lead to data loss, reduce your equipment lifespan, or damage your electrical equipment. A UPS or surge protector can protect your devices from this effect.
Electromagnetic Interference or Noise
Sometimes you may experience noise coming from different household appliances. That isn’t necessarily noise, but what is known as electromagnetic interference. The electrical noise interferes with the smooth wave one gets from utility power.
Certain factors like radio transmitters, lightning, generators, fluorescent lights, and other industrial equipment can lead to electrical noise. You may experience chronic or intermittent noise. Unfortunately, the noise could lead to errors in data files and computer applications, leading to system lockups. In this case, you need to get a UPS to protect your sensitive electronics from unstable power.
Power sags or brownouts are short-term decreases in voltage levels. Most people experience this power problem compared to other power disturbances. A power sag may happen when high-powered electrical devices are switched on, with the common ones being HVAC units, factory machinery, or AC units.
Power supply companies use sags to deal with high power demands. What happens is that the company lowers the voltage levels systematically in specific areas for hours at a time. A good example is during the summer heatwave when AC requirements are at the peak of usage.
Although power sags do not directly affect high-powered devices, things like game consoles or computers that are sensitive can experience unexpected crashes and lead to corrupt or lost data. Also, prolonged exposure to sag reduces not only the effectiveness of the equipment but also their lifespan.
Blackouts are a common occurrence caused by excessive demand on the power grid, tripped circuit breakers, ice on power lines, lightning storms, earthquakes, and other natural events.
A blackout can last for a few hours to days. Unfortunately, this total loss of electrical power can lead to the loss of data on your computer. It could also damage electrical equipment. It’s essential to get a quality UPS to provide power to your sensitive electronics for some minutes before you power them down.
What Are the Best Ways to Provide Power Protection to Your Home Theater Equipment?
Home theater devices are fragile, and their components are sensitive. Things like burnt-out circuits, melt tweeters, blow drives, and short receivers pose a threat to your devices, which is why you need to protect your TV and other home theater devices. Here are some of the best ways to provide power protection to your home theater devices.
Get a Surge Protector
Power surges are a common threat to your electrical equipment. When the surge is strong, it can quickly wreck the gear in a rack and go through an interconnect to get to the speakers, displays, and subwoofers. That’s why you need to get a quality surge protector.
A surge protector is a multi-outlet power distribution unit that protects connected electric devices from voltage surges and spikes.
When lightning strikes, the energy from the strike goes through the electrical wires. Unfortunately, the current can lead to voltage spikes that affect sensitive equipment like receivers, televisions, speakers, and more. All the components in a home theater system are interconnected by speaker cables, HDMI cables, power cables, and other things that could also be affected. The voltage spike can affect all this equipment and lead to damages.
A surge protector not only protects your equipment from power surges but also acts as a central location for all power connections. A few surge protectors have labels that indicate which cable leads to what device.
You need to remember with home theater systems that you need to protect other parts besides the power cables that you use to plug into a power source. That includes the lines connected to an outdoor antenna, the cable TV connection, and phone lines connected to the home theater. The best part is that some surge protectors come with these connections, which simplifies your work.
How Does a Surge Protector Work?
A surge protector detects any massive voltage surge and re-routes it into the grounding line through a pressure-sensitive valve, blocking access to the connected equipment. The surge protector stops the surge at the source. When the voltage is correct, the current usually flows, but when there is a surge, it starts and redirects the excess.
It’s crucial to spend money on a quality surge protector. Some units have voltage monitoring that disconnects power automatically when the voltage is too low or too high. There are power centers with high joule ratings that don’t fail despite massive hits. Other features to look out for include ground plug protection, low clamping voltage, fast response time, and noise filtration.
Choose a surge protector with more joules as this indicates that the device can handle multiple small surges or one massive surge before you expose your equipment to danger.
A surge protector with wide spacing between the sockets comes in handy. Remember to check the output amp rating if you use the USB connection. Remember that surge protectors do not last forever. A surge protector’s lifespan reduces due to frequent power surges. You may need to replace it if you’ve had the device for some years or you experienced a severe electrical shock like a lightning strike.
What Should You Look for in a Surge Protector for Your Home Theater?
Having a home theater system is a considerable investment, and the best thing you can do is protect it from damage by purchasing a surge protector. However, with the multiple models in the market, it can be overwhelming trying to settle on one model.
Here are some tips on what to look for when buying a surge protector for your home theater:
Check the Shut Off Ratings
Before buying any surge protector, you need to check its shut-off ratings. Find out its maximum current apart from the under/over voltage shutoff value. While the regular outlet voltage stands at 120V, the under/over voltage shutoff needs to be below and above that value because the voltage fluctuates if the voltage fails or goes beyond the recommended limits, which exposes your home theater system to power damage.
Look at the Number of Ports
You need to consider the equipment you plan to plug into the device, the number of ports required, and the length of the cord when buying a surge protector. There’s nothing as disappointing as getting a 6-port surge protector, only to realize that you needed an 8-port surge protector.
Don’t Forget About the Response Time
A surge protector’s response time tells you the amount of time it takes for the surge suppressor to turn on before it prevents a surge from affecting your home theater. The time is rated in nanoseconds, which means the higher the number, the slower the response and vice versa. A quality surge protector for your home theater should have less than one nanosecond response time. That shows that it’s fast enough to disconnect your home theater system from the power source before any damage happens.
Find a Protector With Inbuilt Filtering for RFI and EMI
There are high-end surge protectors that provide inbuilt filtering for radio frequency and electromagnetic interference. The filtering gives the home theater clean power compared to surge protectors without this feature.
Choose a Protector With Visual Indicators
A quality surge protector for your home theater needs to have visual indicators that give you information. The indicators alert you that the protection is on. Some devices come with audible indicators that make a sound when a surge or spike occurs. You’ll also find some protectors with an LED that tells you if your home’s wiring has been done correctly.
Check the Clamping Voltage
The clamping voltage lets you know at what level of surge voltage the suppressor is turned on. That means the lower the clamping voltage, the more protection you get from the surge protector. Find a surge protector with a clamping voltage of 130-140V.
It’s also essential to check the maximum surge amps as this indicates the maximum current that the suppressor can handle before the surge destroys the suppressor. A quality surge suppressor for your home theater device needs to have a high rating, like 140,000 amps.
Ensure You Get a Warranty
Most surge protectors in the market will claim to protect your home theater equipment from power surges. However, some of them do not provide a warranty to back up their claims. A warranty guarantees that the company will compensate you with the amount indicated on the warranty information if the device fails. Choose a surge protector that comes with a warranty for everything, including the equipment connected to the protector.
Check to see that the warranty is written regarding maximum value and time that they will compensate you for your home theater equipment.
Use a Power Conditioner
Although everything in your home may be running fine, including the sockets and light bulbs, this doesn’t mean that the electrical power is clean. There may be small spikes and dips that could damage your home theater over time. That’s where a power conditioner comes in.
A power conditioner or line conditioner not only corrects voltage and waveform distortions but also removes any external electrical noises or electromagnetic interference. It smoothes out voltage fluctuations that can be transformer-based or electronic.
Unlike a surge protector that only protects against voltage surges, a power conditioner also protects against electromagnetic interference, radio frequency interference, and voltage fluctuations. All this can affect the sound and other devices, leading to a reduction in picture and sound quality.
How Does a Power Conditioner Work?
Power conditioners work as a buffer between your home theater system and outlet, which smoothes out fluctuations and electromagnetic interference that could interfere with the system’s performance.
The power conditioner was initially meant for lab use and industrial research, but it was later approved for home use due to the device’s advantages when used with home electronic units.
Types of Power Conditioner
Some of the power conditioner types include:
A balanced transformer provides noise reduction capabilities that are unique compared to passive inductor-capacitor models. This power conditioner comes with a balanced isolation transformer that balances the AC power feed and provides noise reduction for audio and video components. These conditions are noisy, heavy, and massive. The only downside is that they have limited power delivery as a result of the balancing transformer.
Passive-type filters are affordable and help with the high-frequency noise components through a capacitor to the ground. These power conditioners provide necessary noise-reduction capabilities.
AC regenerative type conditioners are of high quality and handle noise problems in the audio and video spectrum. These conditioners work the same way as a power generator to regulate voltage, lower or eliminate harmonic noise, and correct waveform distortion.
The conditioners use automatic voltage circuitry and a microprocessor variable transformer to deliver new AC voltage to your home theater system despite surges or fluctuations.
When getting a power conditioner, remember to check the coax connectors’ bandwidth to make sure it passes HDTV maximum resolution without any issues.
Get a UPS
A UPS or an uninterruptible power supply unit protects against specific power problems like power surges, spikes, brownouts, blackouts, and noise. UPS devices also protect a home theater system against frequency differences.
A UPS is different from a standby generator. It provides instant protection from input power interruptions via an attached battery and electronic circuitry for low power users or generators for high power users. Note that the battery life differs based on the power you use and the system.
Although UPS devices are not limited to protecting specific types of equipment, the unit was designed to protect telecommunication equipment, data centers, and other electrical equipment.
How Does a UPS Work?
A UPS works as a backup battery for devices that need power from an outlet. The machine takes over and provides power to the connected devices once the power goes out in your house.
While most are bulky due to the batteries inside, the best part is that quality UPS devices also provide power conditioning and surge protection capabilities to everything connected to an outlet. It acts as an all-in-one power distribution center and as a protection device.
Types of UPS Systems
There are various UPS topologies with specific power protection levels. You can choose from three different categories-mainly standby, line-interactive, or an online/double-conversion UPS, depending on your needs. Here’s a breakdown of these types of UPS systems:
A standby UPS is the most common unit that uses battery backup power in case of a power problem like a blackout, voltage surge, or voltage sag, when incoming utility power drops below or goes above safe voltage levels, the UPS shifts to battery power and allows it to run connected devices.
Standby UPS devices are designed for POS systems, entry-level computers, and other necessary electronic equipment.
A Line-interactive UPS uses technology to correct small power fluctuations like voltages and under voltages without switching to battery. The UPS comes with an autotransformer that controls low voltages and overvoltages without changing to the battery.
These UPS devices are commonly used for gaming systems, consumer electronics, network equipment, and home theater electronics.
This type of UPS offers clean and consistent power despite the condition of incoming energy. A double-conversion UPS converts incoming AC power to DC and back to AC. The UPS device works on isolated DC power and has zero transfer tie because they never need to switch to DC power.
These UPSs are specially designed to protect critical equipment like high-end servers, data center installation, and IT equipment from frequency noise, over-voltage, power blackouts, harmonic distortion, and frequency variation.
When choosing a UPS, remember to check the amount of power a system offers. You can find the capacity by calculating the load, which is the combined amount of power each electronic equipment uses.
What Are Some Other Ways to Protect Your Home Theater Equipment?
Sometimes electronics fail for different reasons, and you may have no control over a few of them. Fortunately, you can protect your equipment to ensure they last long. Here are some of the ways you can protect your home theater device.
Do Not Daisy Chain Surge Protectors
Some people mistake plugging power strips, surge protectors, and UPSs into one outlet, but this can be dangerous. Most surge protectors are built to accommodate a specific number of outlets. That means you can’t plug a power strip into a surge protector as the surge protector may not handle more power load than it’s built for.
Furthermore, if the surge protector that’s plugged into a home outlet draws too much power, the cable may end heating too much, which could be dangerous. You need to plug a lower load drawing device into a power strip and high drawing devices onto a large capacity surge protector. Ideally, it’s best to plug each device separately instead of daisy-chaining power strips and surge protectors.
Reduce the Volume Levels
While cranking the volume up may seem cool, it’s also one of the ways to damage your home theater speakers. The speakers are designed to handle a certain amount of power. That means too much power output could end up damaging the internal components.
A speaker with multiple speakers draws a lot of power from one receiver, and cranking the volume a lot can lead to clipping, which happens when an amplifier is overdriven and tries to deliver an output voltage or current above its maximum capability. The receiver ends up putting out more power than it’s meant to handle.
The result is the speaker starts to overheat, or the tweeters get more power, leading to irreversible damage to the speaker. That means you may need to replace the speakers or receivers.
It’s recommended to set the receivers/speakers to the allowed volume level and leave it at that. That protects your home theater and also saves your ears from hearing impairment.
Dust the Equipment Regularly
While it may seem obvious, dust can affect how your home theater functions. Dust builds up in between and on top of the equipment room, entertainment center, or cabinet. Accumulated dust can also affect the cooling system and cause internal temperatures to rise.
Failure to clean up means the dust gets sucked in and stays inside the equipment. The dust builds up, and over time can cause damage to the sensitive components of your home theater device.
Ensure There Is Proper Ventilation
It’s common for most people to put their home theater equipment in place with no space between components or somewhere without ventilation. What happens is that the lack of air causes the equipment to run at high temperatures, something that translates into a reduced lifespan and poor performance.
You need to ensure that there’s enough ventilation on all sides of the equipment. A two-inch space is recommended. If you need to, drill holes to allow airflow. Getting a fan is also an excellent way to ensure air flows to the equipment. A fan like the AC Infinity Blower Fan System works well for home theater cabinets. It comes with a multi-speed controller that sets the fan’s speed to optimal airflow levels.
Get an Electrician to Handle Power Issues
It’s tempting to try and fix everything related to electrical equipment and wiring, but the truth is that some issues need to be left to experienced and licensed electricians. Handling high voltage power can be dangerous, which is why you need to hire an electrician if you don’t know what steps to take. Moreover, the electrician will advise you on what power protection equipment to use based on the power problem you could be experiencing in your locality.
Power protection for your home theater equipment isn’t something you can skip on or ignore. Invest in a quality surge protector and power conditioner as they will help protect your equipment in case of a blackout, power surge, or a power spike.
The right setup and placement are crucial if you’re looking to optimize your listening experience. Don’t forget to use the tips above to ensure the longevity of your equipment.
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Roy is the leading content creator here at Home Theater Heroes. He is as passionate about planning a home theater setup as building it. He blogs about IT, cybersecurity, business, and more at Davis Tech Media.