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Looking for input with lighting/electrical

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Jeff Jergerian, Jul 5, 2003.

  1. Jeff Jergerian

    Jeff Jergerian Auditioning

    Jun 25, 2003
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    I'm working on the design for a basement theater in a new construction home. The room will be 22d x 14w x 8h, with a 8x4 closet in the back of the room. The closet will house the equipment rack as well as the homerun panel for all of the sat, cable, phone, networking, etc.

    As I work on the details to pass on to the builder, I want to make sure that I'm putting things in the right terms and using the electrician's language. I'm not new to HT (I do have a FP room in my current home that was built out of an unfinished room). However, I am clueless in matters of lighting & electrical. This whole area makes me nervous because of the amount that I DON’T know about it. Any guidance here would be appreciated so that I can buy the right parts and explain what I want to the electrician. I apologize in advance for what might seem like extremely remedial questions.

    First of all, should I ask the electrician to put a subpanel in for this room? Is this a recommended setup? What should I be asking for with respect to the breakers & electrical wiring for the room (e.g., one circuit for the equipment rack, one for lighting, etc)? What are the basic rules of thumb with this type of overall planning?

    I use a Monster HT5000 for my equipment rack. However, is there an advantage to installing a whole-house surge supressor? Are there different kinds that I should know about before I select one? The ones I have looked at seem quite inexpensive, which leads me to wonder why these aren't used more regularly (or just standard in homes).

    In the room, I plan to have 4 zones (do I refer to these as circuits?), which include: A) 6 recessed cans, B) 3 wall sconces, and C) a row of track lighting over my snack counter. The fourth zone will be approx 100 feet of rope light that will run around the room above crown molding, as well as around the lip of a 6x4 raised platform. These 4 zones will be controlled by a Grafik Eye 2404. This is an entry-level model, but it looks like it will adequately control 4 different zones. Do I need any special kind of lighting for these zones in order to make them dimmable? How does it sound so far?

    For the rope lighting: It will take approx 75’ to go around the room, and about 20’ to go around the platform. Is there anything special that I need to explain to the electrician when wiring this zone? Can you safely light (&dim) 100 feet like I’m describing? Is there a special kind of ropelight I should buy for this long a run? I haven’t decided whether to run both pieces off of a lamp dimmer, or if I should plug (or hardwire) the two pieces into a pair of switched outlets. I can make the start/end points for both pieces of rope fairly close to one another (although one piece will obviously be 8’ higher than the other). What if I make it one continuous piece of rope that continues down the wall from the crown through a surface conduit down to the base of the platform? It’s not an elegant solution, but if it gets the job done, is it a reasonable way to set it up? I want the crown rope to be able to dim with the platform rope.

    Are there any other considerations that you can think of in this setup? If I put in a popcorn machine, does it require a different type of outlet (or its own circuit)?

    Finally, I don’t know if I’ll be using any x-10 equipment in my home (or in the theater). Should I have the electrician install anything special during the building phase to accommodate this possibility (I believe it’s some sort of phase bridge or something like that)?

    Thanks in advance for any help. I’ve been reading this forum for years, and I didn’t get too picky when I had my current theater built. This time around, however, I want to be able to speak somewhat intelligently with the contractors (even if I am having my lines fed to me by the forum).

  2. Gary Silverman

    Gary Silverman Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 12, 2000
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    #1. If you have enough room in your existing panel, and it's fairly easy to get the wiring back to it, don't spend your money on a sub-panel. I don't know what you're putting in for equipment, but I would think that 2 cicuits to your rack would be adequate, unless you have some really high power equipment. It's generally felt around this forum that all the circuits should come from the same phase in your panel to avoid noise. And, yes, a seperate circuit for lighting would be a plus.
    #2. Surge suppresion works best as a cascaded system. You should have a whole house suppressor at the service entrance. Another suppressor at the house panel(s) is also a good idea, as well as a suppressor at the point of use.
    #3 Zones is better terminology than cicuits. Circuits might imply to some that you want 4 circuits coming from the breaker panel. You probably only need 1 lighting circuit. You can dim all the lighting, but some low voltage lighting requires a special dimmer.
    #4. Code would require you to hardwire the rope lighting if you want to dim it. It won't allow a receptacle to be operated by a dimmer, but I do see it being done in a soffit where there's no possibility of something else being plugged in. Doubt that an inspector would see it this way, though.
    #5. I'm not that familiar with pocorn machines, but I'll bet they draw a lot of current. I would put it on it's own circuit.
    #6. Worry about the x-10 when you decide if you're going to install it. The bridge might not be needed, anyway.
    #7. Plan, plan, plan. So many times these projects are thought out as they proceed and it entails a lot of wasted labor and materials to go back and redo what could have easily been done initially.
  3. Wayne A. Pflughaupt


    Aug 5, 1999
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    Corpus Christi, TX
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    Expanding a little on Gary’s capable advice:

    It’s best to make sure that dimmer-controlled lighting will not only be on a separate circuit, but the opposite phase from the audio/video equipment. Make sure the electrician does not use 12-3 or similar multi-circuit romex to carry the lighting/audio circuits. While this is code-permissible for two circuits on opposite phases, the close proximity of the lighting circuit can radiate noise directly into the audio circuit when dimmers are used for the lighting. This is not some “overkill” preventative measure; I’ve seen people on this Forum who actually (after much hair-pulling and frustration) traced their “anytime I dim the lights” noise problem to this very situation.

    Furthermore, make sure that there is some physical distance (separation) between the romex feeds carrying the audio circuits and the romex carrying the lighting circuit.

    Regarding the zones, while a single circuit definitely should be more than adequate, be sure and consult the manual for your lighting system to see if it calls for any special wiring. For instance, it might require a home-run for each zone to be sent to a lighting control box.

    Same with the popcorn machine. The manual should let you know if any special service (like a dedicated circuit) is needed.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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