Powering the Home Theater Network - dummies

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

When it’s time to power up your home theater network, first make sure that your power connections will ensure the safety of all the devices and equipment in your home theater. Of course, this is something you need to consider before you plug everything into the wall.

You should confront two big issues before you power up your home theater:

  • The number of connections

  • The quality of the connections

In other words, you need to know where to plug your home theater gear in and how to keep that gear from getting fried.

Power management

You will likely end up with many more power cables than you think. The great thing about power management is that you can add connections as you need more with few issues. So if you need more outlets, no problem — just add some more outlets in the form of power strips.

Some home theater components — high-powered receivers or power amplifiers and large displays — draw a lot of current. It’s always best to plug these items directly into your surge protector. Other items, such as DVD players or CD players, can safely be plugged into either the surge protector or into one of the auxiliary outlets on the back of another piece of equipment (many receivers have such outlets).

Two kinds of auxiliary outlets are used on the back of A/V receivers:

  • Switched: Switched outlets turn on and off with the receiver.

  • Unswitched: Unswitched outlets are always on.

Remember this distinction between switched and unswitched outlets if you have something plugged into your receiver’s power outlets that you want to use even when the receiver is turned off.

Surge protection

A bigger issue when managing power with a home theater is surge protection. Electrical currents are like water currents; they flow up and down, and if they get too high (a surge), it’s a problem. One good lightning strike can toast your home theater.

Here are some tips for keeping power surges under control:

  • Consider professional-class surge protection. Leviton, for example, has a Home Theater Surge Protector that has nine outlets plus a neat expandable modular outlet that can handle surge protection for telephones, modems, faxes, DSL modems, cable modems, computer LANs, and satellite and cable TV systems.

  • Install electrical lines for your home theater. If you are building from scratch or have the luxury of adding some outlets, put in electrical lines that are dedicated to your home theater and that go straight to your electrical panel so that no intermediate devices can cause in-home surges on your lines.

  • Think about investing in whole-home surge protection: Whole-home power protectors can help groom the power coming from the street. That’s where some of the big surges can come from, and these surges can hit not only your home theater but everything else in your home. They sit between all the electrical lines coming in and your electrical panel, stopping any problems before they get to your house. You can find models that also protect your satellite and cable connections at the home level, too. You can get these from Leviton and other electrical suppliers.