Home Theater Electrical Considerations

Thinking about your home theater electrical needs may seem pretty boring compared to picking out the right screen size or choosing what will be your ultimate speaker system. While we agree that selecting the gear can be a lot of fun, we highly recommend you put a little thought into your home theater electrical specifications, especially if the room will be getting new wiring. Now, you’re probably wondering why this even matters when all the gear will just plug into an outlet, and it will all work, right? Well, not exactly. Let’s take a look at some important factors you should consider when designing or upgrading your home theater or media room.

There are three big reasons to get things right from a home theater electrical standpoint:

  1. Not having enough power to supply your audio-video gear
  2. Audio and/or video hum
  3. Noise from other electrical components

Have Enough Power?

Let’s first talk about a lack of power. If you have ever tripped a breaker while you were running a vacuum cleaner, you’ve experienced one after-effect of an overloaded electrical circuit. You certainly don’t want your home theater electrical system shutting down in the middle of a great movie.

For simple systems with a minimal number of components, power draw is not typically a big deal. When you get into systems with larger amplifiers or separate components, it’s a good idea to do a little math. And it’s possible your simple system may be on the same circuit as some other electrical components that draw a lot of power.

You want to make sure the draw from your components and/or other things on the circuit do not exceed the power rating of the breaker they are on. Most electrical breakers in a typical home are rated at 15 amps. There are two ways to determine how much power your gear or other items are drawing. One is to look at the back of your components and note the wattage they state on the rear panel. The other way is to simply look them up online, especially if they are recent models. Most electronic manufacturers will have the power consumption listed for their components on their website. You simply add up all the numbers and divide by 120 (in the USA), and that will give you the amps. If you are unsure about any additional components that might be on the same circuit, flip the breaker off and observe any other electrical items that turn off with your system.

For example, most TVs are around 300 watts, AV receivers are around 400, and things like Roku’s and Apple TVs are minimal. With this component list, even with several light bulbs on the same circuit, you are well served by a single 15-amp breaker.

Another thing to remember when considering home theater electrical requirements is you’ll probably have more than one outlet on the same circuit breaker. This means you typically will not be able to split things up using two outlets on the same wall. If you do need more power than one 15 amp breaker can supply, you’ll need to have an electrician add a circuit for you. And that is where we get to the next important thing.

The Right Breaker Plan

The electrical panel box inside your home that supplies power to the 120-volt outlets gets its power from two different legs of the incoming 240-volt service coming into your home. It is really important to make sure all of the components in your system get their power from the same leg (sometimes called phase) in the breaker box. Usually, breakers right across from each other are on the same phase, but it's a good idea to have your electrician check.

Why is this part of your electrical plan important? At Audio Advice, we call it “Demon Hum”. We have seen situations where we could not keep a subwoofer that was on a different wall from the main system hum like crazy. It always turns out that the subwoofer and the other gear were on two different circuits that were not on the same leg. We’ve seen terrible video hum bars on a television or projector caused by the exact same issue. Take it from us: having different parts of your home theater electrical system on different breakers can cause all kinds of issues if those breakers are not on the same leg. You’ll have zero problems if you keep everything on the same leg. So, if you need to add another electrical circuit to your system, ensure your electrician knows to put that circuit on the same leg as the other one serving your system.

The Argument for Dedicated Circuits

You have all kinds of electrical devices in your home that can introduce noise into your system. From the motors in refrigerators to microwave ovens to hairdryers and lighting dimmers, all of these can add noise to your system. You’ll sometimes even hear it as a slight buzzing in the background or the noise on the electrical line keeps your gear from performing at 100%. It is always a great idea to isolate your system from the noisy electrical gear in your home. A dedicated circuit is one that is not shared with anything else in your home. Your electrician will pull a line to a single outlet from a dedicated breaker. We like to see dedicated circuits done for any serious home theater or home audio system we install. Now, if you get two or more of these, what will you tell the electrician to do? That’s right, make sure they are all on the same leg!

If you have the ability to design your home theater electrical layout, it’s a good idea to consider putting all of your lighting circuits on a different leg than your home theater gear. This will keep your gear even more isolated from potential noise from dimmers or fixtures. And speaking of lighting, remember to think of things like having lights near your screen on separate dimmers so you can keep the lights on in the theater and turn off or dim the ones near the screen.

Adding It All Up

It’s really pretty simple: have enough power, make sure your electrical circuits are all on the same leg, and if you can, use dedicated circuits and isolate your system. 

Building, designing, or upgrading your home theater or media room may seem like there are only a few pieces to the puzzle. In reality, if you want to get the best performance out of your gear and have an enjoyable experience, the puzzle starts to get big and can seem overwhelming. Check out our tons of buyer guides, installation videos, product reviews, design guides, and even an inspiration gallery. It’s truly your one-stop shop for learning or purchasing everything home theater. 

If you’re planning your home theater or media room, you have to check out our Home Theater Design page, where we have everything Home Theater related, including our FREE Home Theater Design Tool

We’re here to help!

If you have further questions about electrical considerations or anything audio or video-related, contact our team of experts via chat, phone, or email. Or simply visit one of our world-class showrooms to experience speakers, projectors, TVs, and everything in between for yourself before you make a purchase! 

Audio Advice has been in the industry since 1978, and throughout the years, we’ve developed a team of professionals who live and breathe all things audio and video. We spend countless hours testing and reviewing every product we sell to be sure it stands up to our extremely high-quality standards. With our state-of-the-art home theater audio lab, we can become product experts and provide our customers with in-depth, honest feedback. 

When you buy from Audio Advice, you’re buying from a trusted seller since 1978. We offer Free Shipping, Free Returns, Lifetime Expert Support, and our Price Guarantee. We look forward to serving you!

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