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Apr 12

5 simple ways to make your home theater room more efficient

Photo by gsloan used under Creative Commons

How can your home theater room be more efficient? Photo by gsloan used under Creative Commons

What do the biggest musicians, car chases, and alien invasions have in common? They’re all happening your home theater room. It’s the place in your house where you can go, sit back, and relax to be transported to. . . well, nearly anywhere.

And, it could be much, much more efficient. While your flat screen TV and home audio system are fun, they’re also a drain on the power bill. While we’re not talking a lot each month, every little bit you can save counts, right?

Don’t worry, we’re not advocating you switch out your top rated flat screen TV and take up shadow puppetry, or drop your home theater receiver and speakers and gather around a piano for your entertainment. Instead, here are 5 simple ways you can improve the efficiency of your home theater system.

Samsung PN64E8000

Sunny on the flat screen TV: Okay. Sunny in the TV room: Not so much.

Staying in the dark

Your flat screen TV, whether it’s a plasma, LCD, or LED, works by showing off colored lights in patterns that (more or less) resemble whatever it is you’re watching. While this might seem like TV 101, it also leads into why keeping your top rated flat screen TV in the dark helps make sure it’s not using more power than it needs. Light, as a general rule, does not play well with other light in the way we perceive it. Go find a flashlight and turn it on outside on a sunny day, then go turn it on in a dark closet. See the difference?

It’s the same way with your TV. In order to provide you with a vibrant, easy-to-enjoy picture, your flat screen has to make itself brighter when it’s competing with other light sources. When your TV is brighter, it’s also consuming much more power.

The simplest solution is to make sure your room is dark. Even if nstalling blackout shades on your windows might be the best solution, simply turning off the lights in the room and drawing the blinds to get the room darker can significantly help. Then, just make sure that you either have a flat screen TV that adjusts itself to ambient room lighting, or do some calibration to bring down the backlight brightness.

Harmony H900

One remote to rule them all . . .

Universal utility

If you’ve ever taken stock of your remote situation for the home theater room, you may be a bit shocked at what you find.

Three remotes for the A/V equipment under the rack
Seven for your audio system (why do you have one for the phone?)
Nine for TVs, the one you have now, and the ones from years back
One for the garage (how’d that get from car to home)

While it might not be that extreme, not only are multiple remotes a problem from the battery cost and complexity side of things, it also makes how your equipment operates more of a hassle. The best way to go is to find one remote to rule them all. A universal remote if you will.

Universal remotes, as a whole, have gotten a bad rap from their cheaper, older cousins — the kind that aren’t really universal, and that are about as easy to program as a buttonless coffee maker. The best universal remotes let you program via pre-programmed codes, and for those without codes, they can learn from the remote you’re trying to replace by replicating IR codes.

So where’s the efficiency? It’s in macros. Macros are sets of commands that execute together when you press a single button. For example, a “Watch TV” button might turn on your top rated flat screen TV, home audio system, and DVR, while also flipping the receiver to the proper input; “Watch Movie” turns on your Blu-ray player; “Listen to Music” skips your TV, but flips your receiver on and switches to stream via AirPlay. By setting these sorts of macros up ahead of time, it makes sure that you’re not wasting time and power turning on unneeded components.

Nightmare-ish cables

Cables look like this in the home theater room? Time to simplify.

It’s all about connections

They say life is all about the connections you make. That’s also true for the efficiency of your home theater equipment. We talk a lot about getting the right cables for your system for things like picture and sound quality, but what we don’t talk about is that they can also help with power efficiency.

All the signals that are running through your cables (with the exception of your optical cables) are electrical in natures. So whether it’s creating a picture or (more directly) charging your iPad, better shielding can make sure that less power gets lost along the way. Of course, it’s not just about cable quality. Cable length also plays a role in efficiency.

It takes more power to get a signal further. If you have a 25-foot HDMI cable running from your Blu-ray player to your top rated flat screen TV, and they’re only 3-feet from each other, your signal isn’t running 3-feet; it’s running 25-feet. When it starts losing signal, your picture appears. . . off, and you start adjusting the backlight and colors on the TV to make up for it.

It’s a vicious cycle. In the long run (oh, the puns!) it’s better to just make sure you’ve got a cable that goes as far as you need, and not much more than that.

Yogi Bear

Whoops. Wrong type of home theater Yogi. Picture by AForestFrolic used under Creative Commons.

Breathing exercises

Any good Yogi is going to tell you that breathing is good for you, and focusing on the ins-and-outs of airflow leads to a happier, healthier life. If that Yogi was also a home electronics genius, he’d probably be giving you the same advice about your home theater equipment.

Your home theater equipment puts off a lot of heat, and to get rid of that heat, most have built-in fans to regulate it. Some high end pieces might have multiple fans or cooling measures that only kick in when temperatures start getting high, although most have a safety shut-off that turns off A/V equipment when it gets close to melt-down. Basically: the hotter it runs, the less efficiently it’s running. The best way to make sure you never get to either of those points is to give your equipment plenty of room to breathe.

While top-space is preferable (some receivers call for up to 16″ above), back-space is also good to have. Even if spreading out your components makes fitting things a bit of a hassle, it’s less of one than replacing your equipment because of overheating. If you can’t quite afford the space, then it’s best to give the most space to your most energy hungry equipment, like your home theater receiver or amp to make sure they’re running at their most efficient.

Grab the stakes. Time to eliminate vampire power.

Grab the stakes. Time to eliminate vampire power.

Switching your outlets up (or: eliminating vampires)

Getting the best surge protector helps make sure that your home theater equipment is getting what it needs efficiently. But there’s a whole ‘nother level to this when you start adding in switched outlets.

In a nutshell, a switched outlet is a series of outlets on a surge protector that are linked to a master outlet. When that master outlet is off, no power is sent to the other outlets in the series. This is a useful way to group sets of similar electronics, like your top rated flat screen TV, Blu-ray player, DVR, or gaming consoles, and prevent them from drawing standby (or “vampire”) power when they don’t need to be in use.

While you may not be saving bags of cash every month, these tips can help you reduce the amount of power you use, and ultimately make your home theater room look, sound, and perform better.

Do you have any tips for saving power in the home theater room? Let us know in the comments!

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