More Equipment Rack Cooling Secrets from Audio Visual Professionals
published onSeptember 18, 2012

You’ve invested a lot in your professional installed audio visual systems. You want them to last at least until the next time you re-decorate your venue, or the equipment itself becomes obsolete, replaced by the next bigger, better, slimmer or “smarter” thing.

The last thing you want is blown components or unscheduled maintenance, which can be costly. Additionally, the downtime can virtually bring your establishment to its knees. With your high standards, you don’t need DVD players burning out or audio processors dying in the middle of the Saturday night dinner crowd.

One important aspect of taking care of your audio video equipment is keeping it cool.

Did you know that the maximum recommended temperature for most audio visual equipment in a rack is 85 degrees? Every 10 degrees over that amount decreases equipment life by 40 percent, according to a white paper by our friends at Middle Atlantic. Although 85 degrees is the maximum recommended temperature, there are maximum recommended operating temperatures listed in owners’ manuals as high as high 105 degrees… the warning still stands. It’s still best to keep sensitive AV gear below 85 degrees when possible.

Here are five tips we’ve learned over the years that can help keep your equipment cool while reducing HVAC costs and power requirements.

1 – It’s always better to expel heat than to try to cool a room. – In other words, when it comes to maintaining proper rack room temperatures, ventilation is king. Equipment rooms should have the proper ventilation, as well as enough space around the racks so that audio video equipment can expel the heat they generate. Additionally, heat will not leave equipment if the temperature in the room is warmer than the temperature in the racks. The temperature in the room should be lower than the temperature in the equipment rack, in order to to force heat upward and away from the equipment. Fans can also be used to direct air outwardly, away from the AV equipment.

2 – The right rack makes a difference – In a room or an equipment closet where space is at a premium, a top fan will vent hot air upward in a cabinet with a narrow design. In applications that can accommodate a wide rack, we can use the chimney effect to move air from the front of the equipment to the sides of the rack and then out of the room. It’s always a balancing act that experienced audio visual professionals apply based on calculations and years of experience.

3 – There’s a balance between the right cooling equipment (fans and HVAC) and ambient noise in many applications – The right rack, with the right ventilation, makes a huge difference in applications where one goal is to keep ambient noise to a minimum. With the right circulation and the right room temperature, passive cooling (no fans or HVAC) can be effective.

4 – Where you place equipment in a rack makes a difference in how much cooling you’ll need – Power amplifiers use more energy than a lot of other AV gear, so they expel more heat. You might be able to reduce cooling requirements for other system components by placing amps in a separate rack. An audiovisual professional can custom design and build your racks to improve air flow and make the most of your cooling systems.

5 – Digital thermostats can warn you when your equipment racks are running too hot – If you notice a problem, one call to your audio visual professional might be all it takes to troubleshoot and fix the problem before it’s too late, extending the life of your AV gear.