How To Prevent A/V Equipment From Overheating

Protect Your Home Entertainment System with Proper Ventilation

McIntosh makes the best surround sound system ever

How does McIntosh keep the world’s best surround sound system so cool? Using these ventilation best practices.

I want to tell you how to use proper ventilation in order to protect your audio and video equipment from overheating.

Using these techniques will help you:

  • increase ventilation
  • decrease heat pockets
  • extend the life of your audio/video equipment

These techniques also help you by making installations easier.

Home audio and video technology benefits everyone by making life more enjoyable. Don’t let overheating issues cost you time and money because of bad ventilation.

The hottest offenders are cable boxes, amplifiers, A/V receivers, and video game consoles because they typically produce the most heat in any home theater or stereo system. Your cable box uses almost as much electricity as your refrigerator, so it generates a lot of heat which has to go somewhere.

Without enough air flow, your electronics can overheat to the point of permanent damage or fire. Overheating also stifles the efficiency of  electronics.

Follow these steps to insure your systems perform in top shape.

7 Techniques to Prevent Overheating

1. Install your audio/video equipment as far away from heat sources as possible.

Potential sources of heat include heating ducts, radiators, baseboard heaters, space heaters, and kitchen appliances. For example, I lived in an old apartment building which used radiator heat that was so hot, I couldn’t keep my electronics on the same side of the room. Keeping my electronics away from the radiator protected them from receiving direct heat.

2. Install your audio/video equipment top-side up as the manufacturer recommends.

I know, it seems like this is common sense and everyone would set up their equipment this way. However, some people will incorrectly install their systems by placing the electronics sideways instead of with the top-side up. Home theater and stereo electronics ventilate heat through the top to take advantage of the fact that hot air rises and cold air sinks. Usually, there is little to no ventilation on the sides. When these electronics stand vertically on their sides instead of sit horizontally, the heat gets trapped inside and has more difficulty leaving.

3. Install your audio/video equipment in a ventilated cabinet or closet.

Many home theaters and surround sound systems are designed to hide the electronics in a closet or cabinet. Make sure whatever enclosure houses your electronics has ventilation, preferably at the top and bottom. This lets the air flow around your equipment which keeps it cool. When your equipment gets little to no airflow in a confined space, the hot air has nowhere to go and the temperature rises. When the air gets too hot, your electronics perform less efficiently. Make sure wherever you install your home entertainment or stereo system, the hot air has somewhere to go like extra head room or with a fan system like technique #6.

4. Install your audio/video equipment with a few inches of empty space on each side and above.

This gives your system’s components room to breathe so that cool air can flow all around. Installing your equipment in a tight space is like trying to run a marathon with a heavy wool blanket over your face. You’ll just be breathing the same hot, recycled air instead of the cool, fresh air all around you.

5. Keep your equipment separated and never stack your components directly on top of each other.

Stacking an electronic component directly on top of another is not a recommended configuration. This leaves very little space for air to flow out of the top of your equipment. Again, you need a few inches of space between each piece of equipment and leaving them stacked could give each piece ½ inch or less of breathing room. Stacking equipment results in the bottom piece ventilating its hot air into the bottom of the next piece of equipment when it expects cool air to ventilate itself.

6. Install a ventilation fan with your audio/video equipment.

Installing a fan is a great way to provide ventilation for your A/V equipment. Using a fan moves lots of air and when it comes to keeping your equipment cool, more air equals better ventilation. A good strategy when using fans to ventilate electronics is to have 2 fans: 1 fan at the bottom to pull cool air into the enclosure, and 1 fan at the top to push the hot air out. This takes the cycle of hot air rising and speeds up the process. This actively cools your electronics, whereas the other techniques I discussed passively cool your electronics.

7. Keep your audio/video equipment clear of dust.

Over time, dust builds up around your home theater or stereo systems. Try to dust and clean your system components fairly often, about once per week or month. Dust really well around the top and bottom vents of each piece because this will prevent clogs. Also, keep fans and vents clean with a can of air duster. A few quick bursts of air should blast away most of the dust which blocks fans and vents. This works even better if you can open the outer case and directly access the inside where dust can accumulate in places you can’t easily get to otherwise. This produces another benefit for you by reducing fan noise since the fan won’t have to work as hard to spin the blades.

In Conclusion: Preventing Your Electronics From Overheating

You can prevent your audio/video system from overheating by installing equipment with the right ventilation to encourage air flow. This insures you get the most power, efficiency, and life-span from your electronics.

If you have any questions about properly ventilating your electronic equipment, feel free to ask in the comments section below.


7 Responses to How To Prevent A/V Equipment From Overheating

  1. Joshua Eirman September 23, 2018 at 1:31 PM #

    Hi Nick. My small boombox is no longer working. I play it all day long, so I guess it overheated. I now have two make-shift cd players: a VCR/CD to a TV audio, and a portable cd player hooked up to the boombox by an Audio In. I was wondering what the smartest amount of time you would recommend for each device before swapping to the other. I am trying to avoid overheating. I play the music all day long. The portable CD player runs off rechargeable batteries.

    Thank you,


    Please Respond!

    • Janet Hatcher October 9, 2018 at 7:30 AM #

      Our suggestion would be to swap them out every other day.

  2. Sam Li February 7, 2019 at 4:16 PM #

    I was unaware that you need a few inches of space between pieces of sound equipment. I think it’s best to hire a reputable audiovisual team in order to ensure your sound system is properly installed. I want to install a sound system in my basement, so I’ll be sure to work with a reliable audiovisual company.

  3. Lexusbola February 20, 2019 at 1:57 PM #

    It’s an awesome paragraph in favor of all the
    web users; they will obtain benefit from it I am sure.

  4. greg k April 14, 2019 at 9:10 PM #

    Sometimes i just think in the new stuff they just try to cram to many electronics in to small of a space. Im a hard rock metal fan so i play music very loud that is made to play loud (on a WELL ventilated reciever(s)) and after little more than half hour it trip into overheat mode and shuts down,…..that the last 2 recievers ive had, this never used to happen on the old “audio only” recievers made to play music exclusively, but now it does on all these feature crammed home A/v receivers.

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