AV receivers are the centerpiece of most home theater systems. Therefore, it makes sense to know how much electricity it consumes—especially if you’re trying to lower your energy bill or make your home more eco-friendly.
An AV receiver’s electric consumption will vary between 50-80% of the max, depending on whether the receiver is in use or idle. It is displayed in the user guide’s technical specifications section or behind the device. However, the figure displayed is a max consumption value.
The rest of the article will discuss how to get an accurate reading for your AV receiver’s consumption. There’s also a section on whether you should leave the receiver on even with low electricity consumption.
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How to Get Exact Readings for Your AV Receiver’s Electricity Consumption
As mentioned above, most AV receivers only come with a max power consumption value. Therefore, it will be difficult to know just how much electricity the system is consuming when working or left on standby. You should expect the consumption to always be below the max value provided (hence the 50-80% range above), depending on the AV receiver’s component and the product’s overall engineering.
To get exact readings, you have to test the power consumption using a meter like the Kill a Watt EZ. This meter is inexpensive and is available online and in local electronics shops. It’s one of the intelligent power meters made by P3 International that can provide a wide range of readings, including:
- The wattage flowing through the socket
- The current being used (amps)
- The AC line voltage and frequency
- Apparent power (Volts multiplied by Amps)
- Power factor (Watts or Volts multiplied by Amps)
The readings—all showing RMS values as you’d get with some industrial meters—appear on the small digital screen, and you can choose the reading you’d like to see with a flick of the menu buttons.
With the meter knowing the values of the parameters we’ve mentioned above, it can calculate the amount of electricity consumed by your AV receiver in kilowatt-hours (kWh)—the same unit of consumption power companies use in creating their utility bills.
To get your AV receiver’s energy consumption in dollar terms, enter your local billing rate per kWh into the device. This should be in the range of $0.000 to $9.000. The device will then calculate the actual cost of the power consumed through the AV receiver’s socket since the last reset.
For example, you can check how much electricity the AV receiver consumed in the last hour or the last two days. You can also get a projected operating cost for the device for specific periods—weekly, monthly, and yearly.
How Much Electricity Will a Typical AV Receiver Use When Working?
Most AV receivers will use the same amount of power as a light bulb when working, with 120 watts being a common range. So, your system will rarely use more power than a regular light bulb. However, testing the power consumption with the meter discussed above will give you a clearer figure you can work with.
Also, since most AV receivers have a standby circuit, it’s unlikely that yours will consume a lot of electricity when it stops working for half an hour or more. It’s most likely designed to enter standby or eco mode in that scenario.
Should You Leave the AV Receiver on Standby?
When you’ve seen how much electricity your AV receiver consumes and feel it’s negligible, you may be wondering if it makes sense to leave it on at all times instead of turning it on only when you need to use the home theater.
You’re not alone in that thought. Many people think that leaving the AV receiver on means it will consume less energy because turning it on exactly when you need it will consume more power and put more strain on the components. This idea comes from the early history of music studios and the vacuum-tube computers of the past. It made sense to leave equipment running then instead of turning it off.
The tube buffers in those computers will need to stay on for hours before the circuits become stable enough for use. This means that turning off the computers will lead to lost hours as you wait for the machine to get back to working form when turned back on. However, technology has come a long way.
Your AV receiver comes with solid-state circuitry that can settle down within a few minutes and also start working immediately you turn it back on. With old tube systems, a surge of power goes to the cold heater components when the device is powered on. Each episode of such a surge shortens the lifespan of the equipment. Such effects are negligible in modern systems.
So, should you always leave your AV receiver on? No, unless you have legitimate reasons to use the AV receiver every minute of the day. Even when the electricity consumption of your AV receiver is negligible, it can all add up when you start leaving the system on standby frequently.
You don’t have to worry about damage if you insist on leaving the AV receiver on for other reasons, including power fluctuations. The system might generate some heat, but that’s all. Modern technology means that these systems are now designed to use minimal power when working, and you can safely stay in standby mode for prolonged periods. However, turning the system off when it’s not in use is a good idea.
Is the Power Consumption the Most Important Feature When Choosing an AV Receiver?
We’ve established that most modern AV receivers won’t consume a lot of electricity, assuming conventional usage. Therefore, electricity consumption should not rank too highly on the list of features to watch for when choosing an AV receiver. There are other more important features you should give priority to. They include the following:
Watts per Channel
Also known as power output, this is the amount of power your AV receiver can deliver to the speakers across the output channels—assuming one speaker per channel. You should expect between 20 watts to 200 watts per channel.
A higher rating often means a louder AV receiver. However, don’t take the numbers at face value. This is because the physics of sounds means that a 200-watt amplifier won’t be twice as loud as a 100-watt one. The difference in real terms will be around 3dB of sound. You need up to a 10dB difference to get an AV receiver that delivers sounds that are twice as loud.
This measures the power output of the AV receiver over the full audio spectrum. The figures will range between 20Hz and 20kHz. Again, these numbers don’t communicate what you’ll get from the receiver under real-world conditions. Also, you should only compare two receivers with frequency measured in the same way.
The power output of an AV receiver has to be measured against an impedance value. A speaker delivers the impedance load.
When comparing two different receivers, you need to ensure the readings are for the same impedance load. This is important because the impedance can impact the amount of power an AV receiver can deliver. This means that two receivers with an impedance load of 6-ohms and 8-ohms aren’t comparable.
Average Power Output
Some AV receivers will come with peak power ratings, often known as Peak Music Output (PMP) or Peak Music Power Output (PMPO). You should ignore these ratings and focus on the average power output.
This rating will communicate what you should expect with day-to-day usage better than the peak output rating. Budget AV receivers tend to highlight the PMPO numbers to make the products sound more powerful than they are.
Level of Distortion
When measuring the power specs on your desired receiver, you should make sure it’s delivering clear signals devoid of clippings or distortion. If the power spec figures come with a high distortion reading, the results you’d get in the real world will be less than ideal. You won’t want the receiver to hit the power levels quoted if the sound created will be highly distorted.
The distortion specification you’ll find on an AV receiver is 0.08% THD, with the THD referring to Total Harmonic Distortion. You should choose AV receivers where the quoted distortion is less than 1%.
Overall Sound Quality
The power of an AV receiver doesn’t always determine the sound quality you’ll get. You should pay more attention to the sound quality than to the power ratings. There’s no unified rating for sound quality, so it’s all subjective.
You’ll have to rely on your ears because what qualifies as good sound quality for someone else could be just average for you. Computer power users know this to be true (computer speakers have historically been only passable). Make out the time to visit a retailer with a listening room if the sound quality is absolutely important to you. Otherwise, you can stick with the opinions of popular and knowledgeable reviewers.
You should also keep in mind that the sound delivered by the AV receiver will also come down to the speakers connected to it and the size of the room you’ll set up in.
How much are you willing to spend on the new AV receiver? You can find some products for less than $200, but many high-end options cost more than $1000. Let your budget guide you. You also know that more costly AV receivers will have higher quality components than lower quality options and will, therefore, deliver far better sounds under the same conditions.
Should You Buy a New AV Receiver for More Power or for the Volume?
Looking for more volume isn’t always the best reason to get a new and more powerful receiver. As we’ve seen above, going for a large increase in watts doesn’t always translate to a larger increase in volume.
On the other hand, going for more power has its advantages:
- You’ll be able to enjoy sounds with a large dynamic range a lot more. This means your receiver will be able to deliver short bursts of loud, powerful sounds.
- You’ll get better performance from your speakers, and they’re almost certain to sound better. Of course, this point only works if you have high-quality speakers already. For mid-range or budget speakers, a more powerful AV receiver offers little to no value.
- You’ll get better performance from inefficient speakers. More efficient speakers won’t need additional power.
How to Reduce the Electricity Consumption of Your AV Receiver
There are things you can do to reduce the electricity consumption of your AV receiver:
- Turn it off from the source. If your AV receiver comes with an auto-standby mode, you may always find yourself leaving the system to enter into standby (and perhaps power down) on its own. The electricity consumed in those 30-60 minutes required for this automated process to complete will add up over a month or a year. Therefore, it’s a good idea to turn off the system from the power source as soon as it’s no longer in use.
- Use the recommended speaker specifications for your setup. If you use speakers that are too powerful for the receiver, you risk damaging it. When the speakers are not powerful enough to cause damage, they can make the device consume more power.
- Get repairs from qualified personnel. Unqualified personnel might use inefficient components distorting the power consumption of the AV receiver. Your first port of call with repairs should be approved dealerships near you. If you bought the receiver in a store nearby, check to see if they have a qualified in-house technician. When the cost of repairs is too close to the cost of replacement, you should choose to get a new receiver.
Other Ways to Take Care of Your AV Receiver
Your AV receiver may start consuming more power if you don’t take care of it. Assuming it doesn’t, there’s nothing wrong with taking steps to keep it safe and help it serve you for as long as possible. Here are a few things you can do:
Keep It Protected in Its Position
You should have a permanent position for your AV receiver, from where it will connect the rest of your home theater setup. Make sure it’s stable in that position. Don’t leave it where it can get knocked over or install it in a way that you’ll always have to move it around frequently.
Replace Damaged Parts Quickly
The wires, plugins, amp, fuse, and other components on your AV receiver may need replacements after a year or three (depending on the quality of the components). When it’s time for a replacement, don’t hesitate or try to patch things up with components that are a poor match with the rest of the system.
You may cause serious electrical damage or cause other components to burn out faster. Change any parts that are worn out as soon as you notice to keep the system working perfectly.
Put Away the Wires
You should arrange the connections to and from your receiver such that the wires are neatly tucked away. If they are in the way, there’s an increased chance of someone tripping over them and dragging down the receiver. If it’s held tightly in place, the forced ejection of the wire heads can cause internal damage that will require costly repairs.
Keep It From Overheating
There’s no way to know how overheating will affect your AV receiver. It could force a change in your circuitry—which can alter its electricity consumption—or lead to a complete shutdown of the components. To prevent this, you should ensure the system isn’t directly overhead a heat source such as heating ducts, radiators, heaters, and more. Direct exposure to sunlight may also be an issue.
Additionally, you should ensure enough ventilation to compensate for the heat generated by the AV receiver components. Poor ventilation and an installation over a heat source are a recipe for structural damage.
Use the AV Receiver at Recommended Sound Levels
It could be tempting to turn your sound all the way up, but the AV receiver is not wired to work at max load for extended periods. The distortion discussed above often kicks in when you’re playing sound at a very high level.
So, you may end up ruining the overall quality of the listening experience. There’s also the risk of damaging your speakers. Check the AV receiver’s recommended noise levels and try to stay as close to the range as possible.
A perfectly functional AV receiver will consume electricity moderately while working, without exceeding the manufacturer’s max power ratings. This will equate to as much electricity consumed by your average light bulb when calculated. However, if you leave the system on standby for long, you may see an increase in energy consumption.
If you need exact values on the cost of using your AV receiver, you should get a meter like the Kill a Watt EZ or other similar models. Follow the instructions, and you should get a kWh value for your receiver’s energy consumption.