Tips On Building An Media Closet
Add a degree of sophistication to your home theater by building a equipment rack.
A media closet, or equipment rack, is an enclosed space where you can store all of your home theater gear. Many media closets are just that -- closets. They have extra shelving to hold an A/V receiver, amplifiers, power conditioners, DVD player, and anything else you may be using in your theater. You can build your own pretty much anywhere you want in your theater. But to build one that's friendly to you and your gear, you should keep in mind a few things.Is it hot in here or...
The more gear you have in your rack, the more heat they'll produce. Its simple physics. Satellite receivers, PVR's, home theater PC's, and next generation game consoles (i.e., XBox 360) can produce a lot of heat. Most gear is designed to run hot, but packing in five or six other hot components will make for a bad situation.
If the back of your closet is to stay open, say to a utility room for example, then ventilation may not be a big problem. If you plan on closing the closet completely, then you should really think about installing a fan. At the very least, you should have a plan in case you need to add some ventilation later.
One of the most common approaches is to install a fairly quite bathroom fan in the back wall or in the closet's ceiling. You can run the exhaust to the cold air return of your home's ventilation system. Quiet bathroom fans can be hard to find. The good news is the people at Inventive Gadgets market a fan called the PQfan. You can plug it into your A/V receiver's supplemental outlet so it starts when your gear is in use and it runs at under 29 dBa which is pretty nice.
If you choose to use a bathroom fan, consider installing a line-voltage cooling thermostat inside your closet. This will let you to control the maximum temperature you want the fan to start.
You don't want an media closet to be airtight. You need the air to come into the closet, travel over the components, and then out through the fan. You can get away with air leaking into the closet from around the door but you should make sure enough air can get through. A larger gap at the bottom of the door or an intake vent at the bottom of the closet or to the side is a good solution to this problem.Go with the flow
The flow rate of the fan you get is very important. Just because you have a fan doesn't mean it'll get rid of all that heat fast enough so a little math is in order. The air a fan can move is expressed in "cubic feet per minute" or CFM. If a fan is rated at 50 CFM, it means the fan can replace the air in a room with a volume of 50 cubic feet within 1 minute. To replace the air in a room measuring 100 cubic feet, it would take that fan 2 minutes, and so on.
So for example, an equipment closet that measures 2 feet wide by 4 feet deep with an 8' ceiling has an interior volume of 64 cubic feet (2x4x8). A fan rated for at least 64 CFM would be needed to completely replace the air in that closet once every minute. The air displacement of a fan is cumulative, so putting two fans rated at 50 CFM each would together move about 100 CFM of air and will likely be quieter than a single 100 CFM fan.
So how do you know how big a fan you need? You can approximate the amount of airflow required at 9 CFM per 100 watts of gear you have in your media closet. Now a 500 watt amplifier is not drawing 500 watts of power unless you have it cranked to maximum. This makes its very easy for the novice to over estimate how much air flow they'll need to cool a media closet. With that said, you want as much air flow as you can get to keep your gear cool.Access Granted!
Easy access to your gear's wiring can be a real life-saver when you need to do some quick rewiring. Here are a couple of ideas you can use when building your media closet.
- Shelving on rails: Get some drawer rails from your local hardware store that can be easily mounted to a shelf. You would put one piece of gear per shelf so you can slide out each component as you need to. Think ahead to when you'll be trimming out the media closet's opening -- you need to leave enough room for your shelving to slide out.
- An Access door: If your media closet backs onto another room in your house, you can install a slender closet door. From the other room, it'll look like just a regular closet, but it'll will help you better manage your cable hookups.
You can leave the closet open to your theater for easy access to your gear. But depending on what you have in there, you may be faced with a noise situation. If a lot of your equipment contain fans, then you'll have to listen to them during your movie and TV viewing. That gets old pretty fast.
Installing a glass door will keep your gear quiet while still allowing you to use your remotes. Measure the inside edge of your closet opening and take off about 1/8 to 1/4 inch from each side, and the top. Measure a gap of about 1/2 inch at the bottom to help with ventilation. Get in touch with a local glass or mirror supplier and they'll cut a piece of tinted glass for you. You can pick up a set of special glass door hinges at your local hardware store or order them online.Behind door number 1
Speaking of doors, I have to say that installing one is pretty much a matter of personal preference. If you have little ones running around, protecting your cherished electronic gear should be a priority and putting it behind a glass door is worth the expense. But if you want quick access to your stuff, leaving your equipment closet open to the room is fine too.
Here's an example. Here are a few shots of Bobby Mierzejwski's home theater. He built a small alcove and mounted an access door on the back. The interior is painted a deep black and he installed shelving for his equipment and drawers to store his media. The final result looks really good and is a great example for you to model your media closet on.
Here's another good example from Steve Owens at Oasis AVI.
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