Are Home theater power conditioners necessary?

Power conditioners in home theaters are used to protect your audio and video equipment from power surges and spikes. A power conditioner will also clean dirty AC in your AV system by suppressing electrical noise for safe operations.

Simply put, a power conditioner will improve the overall quality of the power in your home theater before it is delivered to your equipment for better sound and video quality.

This can have several benefits including;

  • Reduce hum in your devices such as speakers and amplifiers.
  • Longer lifespan for your home theater devices.
  • Divert voltage that is over the clamping voltage to the ground.

What is clamping voltage? Clamping voltage is the maximum voltage that can pass through your power conditioner’s surge protector before it is diverted. This protects your equipment from damage that may be caused by electrical spikes.

Why are power conditioners for your home theater necessary?

1.      Protect your home theater equipment

One of the most important benefits of a power conditioner is the protection of your expensive Audio and Video gear.

This is because it prevents high-voltage from your power supply from being transmitted to the devices. So, in case of a power spike, the excess voltage does not damage your expensive equipment.

By doing this, your devices are more likely to last longer.

You can protect your equipment from power surges using a power surge protector but a power surge protector will only serve that one purpose, protect equipment from power spikes.

It is also worth mentioning that not all power conditioners will have properly built-in surge protectors. Surge protectors are mainly found in more expensive power conditioners, typically, over the $250 price range.

2.      Electrical noise reduction

The primary function of a power conditioner is to reduce electrical noise which can affect the quality of your video and audio.

Electrical noise can be manifested on your display device as static and hum/distortion on your sound equipment.

This noise can be created when other equipment in the same electrical circuit such as blenders, refrigerators, and other devices are in use in your home. The electrical noise generated by these devices can produce electromagnetic interference (EMI) which affects the quality of your video but will mostly affect audio quality.

A power conditioner will stabilize and clean up the dirty AC canceling out the noise for better performance and overall quality.

Your house wiring can also affect how clean your Alternating Current is and this is something worth considering before installing a power conditioner in your home theater. Problems mostly arise in older houses that have one electrical line running through several rooms.

How does a Power Conditioner work?

Several types of power conditioners come in different sizes and have different functionalities. Some offer protection against power quality problems such as noise and interference in your AC line while others solve voltage regulation problems such as power surges.

The power conditioner can be installed between your AV devices and the power outlet to act as a buffer. This device will have an electro-magnetic filter that smooths out the AC cycles. The harmonics that create a distorted sine wave are filtered out cleaning to output a cleaner AC.

If the power conditioner has a surge protector, in case of an electrical spike that will mostly occur during an electrical malfunction or a storm, the surge protector will cut off the current flow from reaching your home theater devices. This will disconnect the devices from the power outlet, therefore, protecting them.

A power conditioner can also protect your equipment from brownouts that can shorten their lifespan over time. Brownouts occur when there is a high electricity demand and so instead of completely shutting down the power, the flow of electricity is reduced and can slowly damage your devices.

How to choose the right power conditioner

Before you decide to get a power conditioner, you should first decide if it is a worthy investment.

In most cases, all that you will need for your home theater is a high-quality surge protector to protect your equipment.

However, if your audio quality is poor and you suspect that you may be having AC noises, you should first speak to an electrician to determine if that is the case. Your electrician will test the oscillations to determine if you have dirty power and offer you a viable solution. Sometimes all you may need for better audio is running a single separate power line directly to your home theater room.

Don’t just spend money on a conditioner for your AV system to clean “suspected” dirty AC noise. This may clean the audio but may take away the life from your music, especially for a High-Fidelity stereo system which will be noticeable as you listen to music more and more.

In a nutshell: First, learn what is distorting your AC line before deciding on a solution with a professional.

Once you have determined that a power conditioner is worth it for your AV system, here are some of the things to consider before buying;

Budget

Depending on the size and type of power conditioner that you want, the cost can be as low as $100 for entry-level conditioners to upwards of $3500 for high-end products.

A power conditioner that may come with a power surge combination while others will come as a dedicated noise filter that will need to be connected to your surge protector.

Home theater power needs

Different AV systems will have different power needs depending on the number and type of equipment.

The power output from the power conditioner will need to match your consumption needs. Therefore, you will need to calculate the power capabilities of your components to match with that of the power conditioner outlets.

To put this into context, if the total power needs are about 3000 watts, a power conditioner with 6 outlets should be able to put out 500 watts per outlet and so on. I got the 500 watts per outlet by taking the total power needs to be divided by the number of outlets to find how many watts each outlet should output, at least.

Type of power conditioner

There are different types of power conditioners with some being large enough for industrial use and others are small enough to be fitted in a circuit board.

But here are the main types of power conditioners that you can use for your entertainment system;

  • Passive power conditioners– This is the cheapest type of power conditioner and it offers basic noise reduction. Passive filter power conditioners use capacitors to divert high-frequency electrical noises to ground away from the AV devices.
  • Balanced Transformer power conditioners– Are larger, more expensive, and offer better noise reduction than passive power conditioners. These use an isolation balanced transformer to stabilize the AC power and reduce electrical noises. However, this type of power conditioner has more mechanical noise.
  • AC regenerators– These are also power conditioners that are also heavier and more expensive than balanced transformer conditioners. They do a better job of noise reduction without altering the impedance that may affect the life and fidelity of your music system. The drawback to AC regenerators is that they emit a lot of heat while they are in use.

Are power conditioners worth it?

I suppose there is no direct answer to this question because it depends. I know this is a vague response but sometimes you are better off connecting your devices to a surge protector because that is the most important.

It is important to determine if a power conditioner will be helpful to you before spending money, especially for high-end power conditioners. This is why I told you earlier, that it may be great to seek help from a professional electrician if you suspect that your home theater is getting garbage AC.

Power conditioners are more effective to someone with a Hi-Fi system but with a dirty AC line. However, as I mentioned earlier it may kill some of the life from your high-end sound, especially from musical instruments.

You will notice a great improvement at first but as you listen keenly, you may notice that some of the musical life dies off with the electrical noise. However, it worth noting that this problem is mostly non-existent in AC regenerating power conditioners. And this will not be a disadvantage if you are not much of an audio nut.

With that said, if you are a typical home theater user like me, a power conditioner may come in handy if you want to reduce electrical noise while still protecting your expensive equipment from power surges and brownouts.

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