Add a few components to your TV and the tangle of wires connecting everything will start to look like a snake den. Simply jamming those cables behind the TV isn’t the way to go. Here are some tips to safely and attractively reduce home theater cable clutter.
The ideal way to minimize cable clutter is, of course, to get rid of the cables. This isn’t possible all the time since wireless electrical power still isn’t feasible. But a surprising number of products and systems designed to minimize the need for wires are now on the market, thanks to wireless connectivity.
For example, many Samsung televisions can connect wirelessly to the Internet. You can even add wireless to other Samsung TV models with a product like the Samsung LinkStick—just plug it into a USB port and you can access Netflix and Pandora or connect to your home computer, all without adding another wire.
Wireless audio is also an increasingly solid option for the home theater, letting you add a rich home theater sound to a room without having to run wires to every corner.
For those wires that remain, start by ensuring they aren’t too long. Spools of wires that are too long add substantially to clutter and can be nearly impossible to tame. When shopping for a cable, measure the distance you’ll need it to run, and add a few feet to give you room in case you need to shuffle components, reconnect cables, redecorate or troubleshoot problems.
How do you know which cable goes to where? Tracking a cable from origin to destination isn’t always easy, but you can make things simpler by labeling cables on each end. Pre-printed and write-your-own adhesive labels that wrap around the ends of your cables are widely available. For example, you might label an HDMI cable “Blu-ray to TV” on each end and label power cables with the name of the component they lead to.
With your cables properly labeled, you’re ready to group them together. The basic strategy is to gather up all the wires heading to each component, and tie them together every few feet. Let logic guide which cables should be bound together and for what distance. Speaker wires, for example, are a natural choice for binding together until the left and right channels need to split apart in order to head to their destinations. There are plenty of inexpensive cable ties available—from simple plastic zip ties, to Velcro wraps, to special gadgets that can enclose the entire length of a bundle of cables in a flexible, tube-like wrapper.
One important guideline: Don’t bind power cables together with cables that carry an A/V signal, as electrical wires can create interference within some other cable types, distorting your audio or video signal.
The best way to keep cabling from cluttering up a room is to keep it out of sight. Running cables inside the walls requires some work, but the clean look may well be worth it. You don’t always have to drill holes in the wall to hide cables away, though. By running wires behind baseboards and moldings and inside door jambs you can sneak cables around a room, making them much less visible. Note that running wires under carpet is not recommended for safety reasons, as some types of cables are prone to overheating when over-insulated like this and may create a fire risk.
Don’t want to go behind the drywall (or can’t)? Even cheaper options are available that let you attach cables to the wall in a less visible way. Wire tacks let you pin cables along baseboards so they don’t come loose and encroach into the room, and you can use flat or paintable cables to conceal them even more. For components mounted high on the wall, like an HDTV, a device called a raceway can keep cables out of sight by concealing them behind a rectangular channel that attaches directly to the wall.
How do you keep your cables from getting tangled? Let us know in the comments below.
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