In the world of high end audio video the equipment rack has become a point of pride. Large installations require large racks of equipment with hundreds of wires interconnecting all of the components. Managing these wires, heat flow, all while maintaining serviceable installation are crucial in today’s systems.
Equipment Rack Manufacturers
The days of installing equipment on shelves and in furniture are long gone when it comes to larger installations. Manufacturers such as Middle Atlantic have created products that allow integrators to custom build a rack based on the equipment going into a specific installation.
They offer a software program called Rack Tools that allows you to specify all of the equipment to determine the size of the rack you need, the shelves that will be required to house all the equipment, and the custom cut face-plates to ensure a clean look from the front of the rack.
While the faceplates certainly offer a wow factor to any installation, they actually serve a very important purpose. Since they are cut specifically to the size of the equipment they minimize airflow from the front of the rack. This helps to create proper airflow so that heat is quickly moved away from the equipment and out of the room.
Integrators simply specify within the software what type of equipment is going on each shelf and they custom cut the face-plate accordingly. Middle Atlantic uses highly accurate plasma cutting systems to cut the aluminum sheets that form the face-plates.
From there the integrator simply attaches each face-plate to the required shelf.
One of the most important factors in the longevity of electronic equipment is the management of heat. In an equipment rack this can be handled in a couple different ways. The first and most common method is to use the natural rise of hot air to create a chimney effect.
Each piece of equipment is placed in the rack in a specific location. Then vents are placed strategically to create an influx of cool air at the bottom of the rack. As the air warms it rises. Another vent is placed towards the top of the rack to allow the hot air to escape. This can be a highly effective way of managing heat and can work in a variety of spaces.
The second method is through the use of fans. Fans are often placed close to the equipment that creates the most amount of heat. It can be blown through vents out the front of the rack or it can be blown towards the back of the rack to be combined with other airflow that is moving upwards. Then a fan is added to the top of the rack to draw all of this heat up and out.
Keeping Things Organized
Since most audio video equipment requires several cables to properly connect components together keeping things organized is a must. Cable chase-ways are used between equipment racks to accomplish this. Many integrators use custom wire and compression fittings to make cables that are exactly the correct length. This cuts down on clutter and ensures that the rack looks it’s best.
This is also very important in terms of serviceability. Being able to quickly diagnose a problem and trace wires to the correct component are crucial to minimizing service time. Zip ties and wire rungs are used to bring the wires directly behind the equipment.
A properly installed equipment rack should be a focal point of an installation. Most homeowners don’t want to see the technology distributed throughout their house, but will show off a meticulously wired rack.