Need advice about building AVR niche for dedicated home theater - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 12:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello all! I'm new here but have been researching home theaters night and day for a couple of months now. I'll be posting more questions about my upcoming build, but for now, I'm wondering about building a niche for my AVR and related equipment.

My first observation is that it seems like nearly everyone goes with a rackmount system instead of a niche. I assume that's because the higher-end equipment is rackmountable and it looks more "professional" than a niche. Nothing I'm buying is rackmountable, though.

Here is what I'm planning on building, so please feel free to offer advice before I start cutting into the wall. The niche will be built on the back wall of the theater and measure somewhere around 4' tall by 2' wide by 2' deep extending into open attic space. It may not come out exactly like that, but those are nice round numbers to work with. Needs to be wide and deep enough to fit any AVR or future piece of equipment I may want, and I think I have that covered. Construction will be 2x4 framing and textured drywall to match the rest of the room. The sides will have plywood outside of the drywall for extra strength for supporting shelves. Niche will be framed with decorative casing and crown molding on the top.

Shelves will be custom glass, probably four or five to hold AVR (probably top shelf), PS3, PS4, Dish Joey, WAP, maybe some blu-rays. I'd like to install one under-cabinet recessed light into the top and mounted towards the front to shine down through to glass shelves. I'm planning on installing a light switch with dimmer next to the niche for control.

The bottom of the niche will be a false floor extending an addition foot down, so the actual niche cavity will be 5' tall. Under the false floor is where I plan to hide all the wiring. This will include a 7.1 three-gang wall plate, electrical outlet, and two-gang wall plate for ethernet. A surge protector will hide down in here, too.

I'd like to keep the wiring as clean as possible, and so far the best I've come up with is installing a grommet in the drywall at the back of each shelf. The only downside is that I'd have to go into the attic any time I needed to make a modification to poke the cable back in, but I'm hoping that won't be often.

The niche protruding into the attic will be wrapped in batting insulation. I'm hoping I can get away with not having any forced cooling for the equipment with this plan so long as I don't put a door on the front (I don't plan to) and I wanted some thoughts on that.

So that's what I have so far. Please feel free to offer advice, suggest changes, or anything that will help with a clean look. Or if I'm totally off on one of my ideas, please let me know. Thanks for any help!
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post #2 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 05:09 AM
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My $.02. Don't underestimate the need to access the back of the gear during set-up and upgrades. Since you have passed on the notion of either a slide out rack or a rack on casters, you should consider designing an air tight hinged door for the rear panel of your niche. You also need to consider where the hot air is going to go
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post #3 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the response, Big. I'll have to consider how to access the back of the equipment. As for how much cooling is required, that's something I don't have the experience to judge yet. Could you point me in the right direction for what cooling options I have if I needed to go that route? I was hoping that with adequate airflow from air conditioning and ceiling fans, the air in the niche would ventilate into the room. I guess I could see something like a louvered exhaust fan mounted in the top of the niche. It would be blowing into the attic space (in Texas, that gets really hot) and would need some way to prevent hot attic air from entering the room.
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post #4 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 12:37 PM
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Using grommets can be a good idea, but first up, you'll be amazed at how many wires even a modest 7.1 system can generate; secondly, the grommet makes a very neat seal around a cable, but you need to be able to pass plugs and terminators through both the grommet itself and the aperture - this sometimes moves you away from having the ideal fit.

As Big mentioned, hot air removal needs to be considered - I would suspect that unless you can 'stir up' the warmed air in the niche, you'll get a pooling of increasingly hot air in the cavity. I'd be tempted to first try a small PC-style cooling fan in the top of the niche to blow the heated air out, and see if you can get sufficient air-flow through the stack to keep everything cool. Remember to place the units with the highest heat output (amps, PS3, etc.) at the top of the cabinet. I think you'll have multiple cooling options, and it's frequently just a case of trying things out - with cooling, there is frequently a fairly obvious "upgrade path" to follow - ...if this doesn't work, add this, then add this...and so on.

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post #5 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 01:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Maybe forcing some air out the front would be good. I was thinking that even if I add an exhaust fan to the top, it's really only cooling the top shelf, as the shelves will block all of the air flow. Also, unless the fan is literally running all the time, cutting a hole into an attic with substantially hotter air on the other side might not be a good idea.

I probably will have to just try it out and see what works while keeping an eye on temperatures. Drywall can always be cut and modified later if needed.

For grommets, I was thinking something like this. It's 2.375" in diameter and should be able to pass cables and connectors. Maybe the AVR shelf would need more than one.

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post #6 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 01:07 PM
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I'm currently making an A/V Cabinet or "niche" in my theater build. I am planning on using 2 or 3 120mm fans with thermal control to vent my cabinet. The only significant heat-generating item I have to deal with is my AVR. The other components are relatively low power/ low heat. My sub amp will be hidden on the other side of the cabinet walls.
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post #7 of 11 Old 08-10-2013, 01:18 PM
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Sorry, forgot that you'll have full width solid shelves - in order to cool the whole stack, you'll either good bottom to top airflow, or individual fans. If the room is sufficiently cool, I would initially be tempted to try to utilize that as your source of cold air, rather than breaking into the attic.
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post #8 of 11 Old 08-13-2013, 06:01 PM
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Check out this document. http://www.middleatlantic.com/pdf/ThermalManagement.pdf

It has a ton of good information about the amount of airflow you will need.
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-13-2013, 09:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LeBon View Post

Check out this document. http://www.middleatlantic.com/pdf/ThermalManagement.pdf

It has a ton of good information about the amount of airflow you will need.

Wow, lots of information to read through in that document. Thanks!

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 4
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-14-2013, 07:16 AM
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It would be a good idea to leave a few inches of space between the glass and the back of the rack. The MA thermal paper linked to is a great resource. I would think that a small quiet fan placed near the top shelf at the back would facilitate air movement nicely. If the room itself is cool then it could be that all you really need is a a way for the air to escape (the gap) and a little air movement provided by the fan.

You probably don't need 2 feet for any single piece of gear. Standard racks are closer to 19" but the extra width should help for cooling. Having access to the back of the rack as Big said would be a huge plus.
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post #11 of 11 Old 08-14-2013, 10:16 AM
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Depending upon your AVR of choice, your required airflow and spacing may vary significantly. I believe on some Onkyo right now recommends 4" on each side and near a foot on top. True rackmount gear is design to not need that much space on the sides/bottom/top due to the air flow management systems they have within.

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