Setting up a home theater system requires a lot of planning and consideration. You may have put a lot of thought into the audio demands of your space. But have you considered that your AV equipment needs a lot of space in which to operate?

The amount of space you need around an AV receiver is 5 inches (12.7 cm) above and 2 inches (5.1 cm) on each side. This amount may differ depending on home theater cabinets and the usage of active cooling components. Also, provide a couple of inches (cm) behind an AV receiver to account for cable management. AV receivers are big, bulky, and produce a lot of heat, making ventilation essential.

Read on to learn how to store and ventilate your AV equipment.

Why Does an AV Receiver Need Space?

They Generate Heat

AV receivers require space because they generate a lot of heat and heat needs somewhere to go. Without proper ventilation, the receiver will overheat, leading to severe damage. An AV receiver’s optimal operating temperature is 85°F (29.4°C). Small temperature increases past this point cause damage to the receiver. With every 10°F  (about 5.6°C) rise comes a 40% reduction in a receiver’s lifespan.

Related HTH article: How Hot is Too Hot for an AV Receiver?

In sum, heat is a major enemy of your AV receiver. Ironically, receivers make a lot of heat. How do AV receivers get so hot, anyway?

AV receivers handle a lot of tasks. These powerhouse devices manage all of the audio devices in your home theater. Plus, they amplify the speakers you use to listen to them. Additionally, AV receivers run a user interface that commands the whole experience. All of this work generates heat in your AV receiver.

What’s more, AV receivers use advanced components to perform these tasks. In short, multiple tasks run on advanced components equals more heat production.

Advancements in home theater systems introduced the microprocessor, a significant heat source. Microprocessors are the brain of a computer system. This tool interprets data to perform tasks instructed by the user.

In other words, your modern-day AV receiver is a computer. Considering how many tasks an AV receiver manages, a microprocessor assists greatly. Microprocessors generate a lot of heat. Still, microprocessors are highly sensitive to heat.

The other significant heat generating component is the amplifier. AV receivers contain an integrated amplification system. In sum, it includes both a preamp and a power amp. The preamplifier receives weak audio signals and strengthens them for the power amplifier. Then, the power amplifier boosts these signals even more to suit the needs of the speaker system.

Unlike the microprocessor, the amplifier’s heat generation properties are proportionate to how much it is amplifying an audio signal. If your volume requirements use more wattage, the receiver will generate more heat.

They Are Big and Bulky

On a practical note, AV receivers also require space because they are big and bulky. These devices need to be since they are managing many inputs and sending signals to at least half a dozen speakers. Let’s also consider that the receiver’s front needs enough space to fit a display for the user interface and buttons to control it. On top of all that, the receiver is also storing an integrated amplifier and computer parts.

A lot of devices meet at your AV receiver. Not only does your receiver need space to breathe and function properly, but it also needs space for all of its connections.

There is a lot to think about when making space for an AV receiver. However, there are just as many solutions to meet an AV receiver’s needs. Moving forward, we will be focusing on some do’s and don’ts of AV receiver storage as well as methods you can use to ventilate your receiver.

Can You Put Things on Top of a Receiver?

Stacking other electronics on top of your AV receiver is a recipe for trouble. After all, most, if not all, AV receivers vent their hot air out the top. Placing another object directly on top of the receiver blocks this vent and traps the receiver’s hot air. The trapped air will overheat your receiver, which will undoubtedly do some damage.

The best place for your receiver is at the top of your cabinet or component rack. Any hot air that leaves the receiver’s top vent can move through the vents at the top of the storage unit.

Furthermore, do not stack electronics underneath the AV receiver either. Your AV receiver requires cool air to come in and push the hot air out. Placing another source of heat directly under the receiver will suffocate it. What’s more, the electronics under the receiver will suffocate from trapped heat as well. As a rule, never stack electronics on top of each other. Space between electronics is your best friend.

How Much Ventilation Does an AV Receiver Need?

It is hard to quantify how much ventilation an AV receiver needs. However, we can tell you that an AV receiver requires passive and active ventilation to operate well. The environment establishes passive ventilation of your receiver. Active ventilation comes from actions you perform directly to improve your receiver’s ventilation. Let’s break down some ways to foster active and passive ventilation.

Passive Ventilation

Passive ventilation is all about the environment in which you house your receiver. A lot of the conditions result from the choices you make regarding installation. It is essential to follow manufacturer instructions and give care and thought to where you install your receiver.

First of all, if you are trying to keep your receiver cool, one common-sense decision is to keep it away from any heat sources. These sources include other electronics, as mentioned before. However, they can also be heating systems, such as radiators, baseboard heaters, and space heaters. Another heat source to consider is direct sunlight. Keep the receiver in a cool and dark space, like a ventilated cabinet away from a window.

While we’re talking about cabinets, it is best to house receivers in a ventilated unit, like a ventilated cabinet or compartment rack. An ordinary cabinet will not cut it. It would help if you searched for cabinets built for circulating air around electronics. Features like built-in vents and chutes will provide clear paths for hot air to rise out of the system. These features will keep everything inside the cabinet cool.

Additionally, as this article suggests, your AV receiver needs space to breathe. Overpacking your electronics cabinet is a big no-no. Try to maintain a few inches (cm) above and to the sides of the receiver. How much space? Denon, for example, recommends 5 inches (12.7 cm) above and 2 inches (5.1 cm) on each side. These specifications will protect your receiver from short-circuiting while playing moderate to high volume levels.

While you are at it, refer to the manufacturer’s manual if you are unsure about placement and positioning. Most AV receivers have their air vents at the top. However, there is always a chance that your receiver is the outlier. The manufacturer knows your receiver best. Therefore, if the manual tells you to place the console sideways instead, do it.

Lastly, regular cleaning and maintenance (once a month is suggested) will keep airways open for your receiver to ventilate. Use air dusting canisters to clean hard to reach places, like interior vents and fans. A microfiber cloth works fine for dusting the exterior of the system. Furthermore, it is possible to do a deep interior cleaning. However, taking apart the receiver to do so may violate your product warranty, so refer to the contract first and proceed with caution.

Active Ventilation

Active ventilation primarily refers to systems you install to improve the ventilation capabilities of the receiver. In this case, that means installing extra fans to the unit to boost airflow. Try installing two fans, one up top and one below the receiver.

When it comes to active ventilation, cooling fans are the primary tool. Since it is your only avenue, in this case, it adds some weight to the decision you make when choosing a cooling fan for your receiver. Each electronic device has slightly different fan requirements. However, the considerations you should make are the same. Here are some factors to check when browsing cooling fans:

Input Power

Just like your receiver, the cooling fan requires electrical input. Electronic cooling fans run on the voltage generated from an electric motor. Make sure that the input power you have is enough to support the motor. Otherwise, it would be best to look for a fan that can run on less voltage.

Airflow Requirements

Fans cannot magically move the air by running. Fans fight against the obstacles of their environment, like backpressure caused by static electricity. When reviewing fans, aim for marginal airflow. For example, if the airflow requirement for zero back pressure is 50 CFM, your fan should be able to reach 75-100 CFM when operating against backpressure.

Fan Type

All fans differ. They differ by the type of input, axial or rotational airflow, and functionality, among other things. Let’s talk a bit about each kind:

AC/DC Axial Fans

Axial fans (centrifugal fans included in the linked article) were the first electronic fan design, introduced in the 1880s. They work similarly to windmills, drawing air parallel to the axis and pushing it out in the same direction. Axial fans produce larger volumes of airflow at low pressure. These fans work well for general applications and are great for closed-in spaces, like computers. Axial fans can also accommodate large areas.

Centrifugal Fans/Blowers

Unlike axial fans, centrifugal fans push air perpendicularly to the axis through a series of ducts and tubes. While the airflow they generate is not as high, they can withstand higher pressure, giving them a steadier flow. Air conditioning and drying units more often use centrifugal fans.

AC/DC Cross-Flow Fans

A cross-flow fan is a tubular fan that provides a broad, narrow airflow that blows across the impeller. This fan’s slim, rectangular design distributes air equally and fits in tight spaces. Cross-flow fans are suited for cooling thin electronics, so an AV receiver’s bulky console may not be a perfect match. However, these fans provide durable and practical options.

Fan Size

Electronic cooling fans come in a variety of sizes. But larger sized fans will not create more airflow. Some common dimensions include 40x40x10, 80x80x25, and 120x120x25. Standard sizes include 40 mm (1.6 in) , 52mm (2 in), 60 mm (2.4 in), 80mm (3.1 in), and 120 mm (4.7 in). We would refer to the instruction manual for the AV receiver’s measurements and plan accordingly.


Bearings are the foundation of the cooling fan and determine its stability and durability. These foundations are a fair indicator of the lifespan of the cooling fan. The three main types of bearings are as follows:

Sleeve Bearings

Sleeve bearings resemble a hollow sleeve. They run quieter than their ball bearing counterparts but deteriorate more quickly. They can even become louder with wear and tear. If you get a fan with a sleeve bearing, you must always install the bearing vertically or risk failure. If the manufacturer does not state the bearing, it is most likely sleeve bearing.

Rifle Variation Bearing

Rifle variation bearing is a type of sleeve bearing that lubricates the sleeve with fluid stored in a reservoir. The fluid marginally extends the bearing’s lifespan. However, this variation allows one to mount the sleeve horizontally, a significant boon.

Ball Bearings

These foundations are of high quality in the electronic fan world. Most designs feature two rows of bearing or dual-bearing. However, smaller fans may only fit one row of bearing. A ball bearing is the most familiar footing for electronic cooling fans. Their high usage makes sense since ball bearings can be mounted in any direction and are quieter at higher speeds than sleeve bearings.

Fluid Dynamic Bearings

These bearings go by many names: hydrodynamic, hydrostatic, vapo, and SSO bearings, to list a few. These bearings disperse fluids around the sleeve to prevent damage. There are several benefits to these bearings—they run the quietest and have a long lifespan. However, they are also the most expensive.

Storing an AV Receiver: What Are Your Options?

As mentioned before, how you store your AV receiver is vital to its health. These choices are the most robust conveyor of passive ventilation. Luckily, there are multiple options at your disposal in this regard. Here are two of the most common choices for storing AV equipment:

Ventilated Cabinet

Ventilated cabinets and stands are a very supportive option. As the name suggests, ventilated cabinets feature vents in the back and on the side. However, their features accommodate electronic equipment from multiple angles other than ventilation.

One vital component is space. Ventilated cabinets offer a lot of space, which stems from the knowledge that AV equipment needs space to function. Like Crutchfield, the best manufacturers include top and side room for ventilation and backspace for storing multiple wires. While we’re speaking of wires, AV cabinets typically provide plenty of cable management avenues, like clear pathways and disguising mechanisms.

When looking for a cabinet for AV equipment, seek the right balance of stability and flexibility. A sturdy structure that provides a steel frame with adjustable shelves will assist presentation and function. Additionally, bottom wheels are a must since they allow you to move the cabinet and the AV equipment it carries with ease. Lastly, invest in slow-closing doors to prevent damage to your equipment from slamming.

Also, consider ease of operation. If you plan to use a remote controller, especially a universal remote controller, make sure your AV cabinet has closings that will not inhibit infrared light.

Most people use a cabinet or stand to showcase their AV equipment along with their TV and the rest of their home theater system. However, if you are dealing with a chunkier setup that you would prefer to keep hidden, a compartment rack is a suitable alternative.

Compartment racks are sleek, sturdy steel racks made for housing AV components. They can handle hundreds of pounds and easily wheel around. Plus, their removable panels provide access to parts and wiring. Ventilation is accounted for as well, with vents typically on the top and bottom of the rack. Lastly, lockable doors are also a standard feature, which means protection and security for your AV equipment.

You may be concerned that hiding your components in a compartment rack will inhibit remote control. However, there are multiple ways around this. An infrared repeater system can expand remote control reach, even if your components are behind opaque doors in a separate room. Many AV receivers have smartphone apps that allow you to control them over Wi-Fi.

Final Thoughts

In short, an AV receiver requires a few inches (cm) of space on the top, each side, and behind. This device handles an exhaustive list of tasks, and their size accounts for this proportionately.

Plus, AV receivers produce a lot of heat while performing these tasks. An adequate amount of space provides ventilation to AV receivers so they can stay cool amid these demands. To vent your receiver, invest in cabinets that provide passive ventilation and a cooling fan system.