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Home Theater Installation

Get the skinny on how to carry out a home theater installation yourself.

A home theater system can offer hours of enjoyment in the comfort of your own home. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
A home theater system can offer hours of enjoyment in the comfort of your own home.

A do-it-yourself home theater installation may seem daunting, but with the proper equipment and instruction it's possible to accomplish this task within a day.

Before beginning an installation or even purchasing a home theater system, consumers should take the time to carefully evaluate the layout possibilities of their space. This step helps prevent purchasing equipment ill-suited for the space. Consumers who want to install a home theater system before a house's framing is complete should confer with the builder about their audiovisual (A/V) needs. Whenever possible, homeowners should have a building contractor run audio cable through unframed walls to ease speaker set-up, as well as place a cable outlet on the same wall where the television will be.

Home Theater System Room Layout

The shape and furnishings of a room will affect the sound quality of a home theater system. Too many hard surfaces will result in harsh acoustics, but carpeting and window treatments can help soften the sound. If there is a choice of rooms that may be used for a home theater system, a rectangular room is the best option, while square-shaped rooms should be avoided if possible.

To get the maximum benefit from a home theater system, the room where the installation will take place should be prepared even before purchasing equipment. A home theater's seating arrangement depends on the placement of the television, with the speakers placed around the seating. The size of any one piece -- be it the television, the furniture or the speakers -- should not overpower the room. Professionals from Crutchfield recommend that seating be placed at a specific distance from the television based on the television's screen size. For example, a screen size of 26 inches suggests a seating distance of 3.25 to 5.5 feet, while a screen size of 70 inches suggests a seating distance of 8.75 to 14.75 feet. Speaker placement and angling depend on the type of speakers purchased.

Home Theater System Audio Equipment

Typical home theater sound systems are sold in sets of five to seven speakers and a subwoofer. Speakers will project the best sound if they are placed evenly to the front, back, left, right and center of the seating area. The closer a speaker is to a room surface such as the walls, the ceiling or the floor, the stronger the bass output will be. Moving speakers just a few inches in either direction can make a big difference.

Each speaker must be connected with A/V cables to the A/V receiver. The wiring for freestanding or tower speakers and bookcase speakers can be run along wall or floor molding as well as between carpet pad and carpet in low-traffic areas. Recessed speakers must be mounted in either the wall or ceiling. There must be a sturdy enough surface and enough depth to support the speakers as well as allow A/V wire access.

A/V wires can be susceptible to interference from external sources, such as electrical lines. This is why the National Electrical Code (NEC) determines the minimum safe clearances for wires, as well as wire ratings that dictate what kind of wires can be run in different areas of a house. The installer should be aware of choosing wire that is the proper material and has a thick enough gauge for the location and distance it will be run.

Home Theater System Visual Equipment

Whether a television will rest on a piece of furniture or be wall-mounted, Digital Trends instructs home theater installers to leave a minimum space of 18 to 20 inches wide by 22 to 24 inches deep to house the accompanying A/V receiver. The receiver connects to the television, amplifier, subwoofer and any accessories, such as a DVD player, VHS, cable box, satellite equipment or gaming system. All standard and accessory equipment will need to be connected with A/V cable wire. The same NEC code that applies to audio equipment connections also applies to the connections of visual equipment.

Mounting a flat-screen television on a wall requires skill in locating the wall studs and then affixing the recommended brackets into the studs using the bracket hardware, a drill and a level. Once the television is secured on the wall, the television wires should be run along molding or wall channeling to reach the A/V receiver.

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