Determine the best size widescreen (16:9) television before you hit the stores. Measure the distance in inches between the location of the screen and the closest seat. Divide the distance by 1.5. For example, if the closest seat is 63 inches, consider a 42-inch screen; at 75 inches, a 50-inch screen is good. Any bigger and you could notice a loss in picture quality.
Hang 'em low.
Don't hang your widescreen television too high. Place the center of it just slightly above eye level when you are seated. Eyeball it by sitting in your favorite movie-watching chair and outstretching your arm at shoulder height. Raise your arm to eye level and go just slightly higher. Have a family member place a piece of tape on the wall at the desired height.
Label your cables.
Look for preprinted, heat-shrink labels for audio-visual equipment to label the wires running between components (e.g., "TV audio left," "TV audio right") as well as between the equipment and the electrical outlet (e.g., "DVD player," "TV," "DVR," etc.). If a component needs to be repaired, moved or replaced, it will take seconds to locate the matching cables.
Hide the wires.
If you want to conceal cables or wires inside a wall, be sure that they are UL-rated, so that they do not become a fire hazard. Also, do not run speaker wire close to high-voltage wire as it can interfere with the audio signal. For a simple fix, use wire guards that stick to any surface and can be painted to match the wall color.
White reflects light and bright, primary colors affect how your eye sees other colors. So, when choosing a wall color for your media room or home theater, choose a subdued neutral, such as gray or taupe in a flat finish.
Keep it simple.
Consider buying components that combine electronic capabilities; for example, a VCR/DVD player or a digital video recorder/DVD player with DiVX (for downloading movies with an Internet connection). Reduce clutter by tucking them inside cabinetry or into a closet devoted to all of your audio-visual equipment.
Surround Sound Setup
To position five speakers for surround sound, place an analog wristwatch on the floor with 12 o'clock facing the television. The center speaker should go here, either above or below the television. The rest are as follows — right front speaker: 1 o'clock; left front: 11 o'clock; back right: 4 o'clock; left back: 8 o'clock; subwoofer: 3 or 9 o'clock. Speakers should be at ear level when you are sitting.
Unused electricity leaks out of electronic devices that linger in sleep mode, i.e., between off and on. The cost to consumers is more than $3.5 billion annually. To save money, plug your electronic devices into a power strip with an on/off switch. When you're not using the electronics, turn off the power strip.
Recycle old electronics.
Don't throw out old electronics. Many components contain toxic ingredients such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. The EPA recommends trying to extend the life of your electronics or donating them. For extensive information about how to do it, check www.epa.gov/e-cycling.
Subscribe to an online backup service to archive your music, image, movie and computer files. The fees are reasonable — from free to a few dollars per month, depending on how much space you need. You can set up your computer to do it automatically and you won't have to worry about disks getting damaged or lost.