In our experience of designing, building, testing, troubleshooting, running, and monitoring AV systems of all shapes and sizes, we know Grandma's advice still rings true in our technology centered world - prevention is better than a cure!

Spiro Bahos, Spinitar's Lead Field Service Technician, provided 10 simple tips to keep your basic AV Systems running at optimal performance. Do not worry - This article is good for tech geeks and tech users alike!

10 Tips for taking care of your AV Systems

1. Audio System Set-Up
When setting up an audio system, the last item to be turned on is the amplifier.

Start with all your audio sources (microphones, DVD players, Computer inputs, etc.) and make sure the level of each audio source is at 0db (db is the abbreviation for decibels which is a measurement of sound). Play your audio while maintaining the 0db level as the signal goes through your system. Once you have verified the signal is going through your system, then you can power on your amplifier and set the “loudness” to the desired level.

2. Most systems have sources they don’t use.
Most systems we encounter are not using all sources, on wall plates and/or floor boxes for example, on a regular basis. Periodically check those sources for connectivity. Do this by connecting a source to the available port. This will let you know in advance if there is an issue so that you are not fumbling to resolve audio or video issues right before a big meeting.

3. Check the filter on your projector(s).
Most commercial projectors have filters that are replaceable. When changing the projector lamp, check and clean the filters as well. This will keep the projector temperature down and prolong the life of your projector. Also, never be caught with a failing lamp or clogged filter before a key meeting or important class - Keep a spare lamp and filter on hand. Since replacement of both items is based on usage, and usage is sometimes hard to track, having a spare lamp and filter could save the day.

4. Clean the back of all displays and monitors.
Displays (lcd televisions, touch screen displays, monitors, etc.) are becoming more common and displays of all kinds do radiate heat. If the rear vents are congested with dust, air flow can be blocked and will cause the display to run at a higher temperature. Wipe away that dust with a microfiber cloth on the front, back, and sides of your displays regularly.

5. Clean your touch/control panels.
Over time of constant use, a film will develop on the surface of your touch/control panel. This can cause the panel to respond in an inconsistent manner. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the touch panel until it is free from dirt and grime.

6. Power cycle your AV system.
With all the equipment having their own processors and internal memory, it helps if you power cycle your equipment rack once every 2-3 months. We find that this will clear any cache memory and the system usually continues to perform at an optimal level.

7. Keep cabinets or credenzas clean from miscellaneous items and dust.
If there is AV equipment in a cabinet/credenza, keep it clean and clear from unnecessary and miscellaneous items like user guides, extra office supplies, dust, and trash. Allowing a clear path for air follow will aid in keeping the temperature down. Vacuum the area periodically and this will help with keeping the intake vent clear on the equipment.

Keeping the temperature down on running AV hardware can prolong the life of the equipment, help avoid failing connections and power sources, and also aid in the troubleshooting process when an issue arises.

8. Be aware of power outages and scheduled blackouts.
If your building/space, experiences a power surge or outage, check your AV equipment as soon as you can so that you can proactively address issues before they become problems.

Some commercial buildings have scheduled blackouts so be aware of the schedule so you can plan and prevent any unexpected issues. Here is some recommendations you can follow in preparation of a blackout:

  • Test the system prior to the blackout
  • Once the system has been tested, shut the system down via your control system
  • Power OFF All equipment with power switches
  • Unplug the main power cable from the equipment racks to the wall outlet
  • Once the blackout is over, follow the procedure in reverse.

The last two tips are not hardware specific but we find that these are also factors that help avoid service calls, downtime, and general user issues.

9. Tips for Great Audio for Conference Calls

  • Start your meeting with a greeting.  Ask the people on the far side of the call if they can hear you. If applicable, have your meeting attendees introduce themselves so you can be sure that you can hear them also.
  • Mute the microphone before moving it during a meeting.
  • Place the microphone on the table/podium in front of the people speaking.
  • Speak in your normal voice, without shouting.
  • Since the audio has a very slight delay, you may want to pause briefly for others to answer you or when making comments.
  • Eliminate ambient noise while making a conference call: Eliminate, as much as possible, the need to shuffle papers/materials when you are speaking. As with any meeting, try to limit side conversations. Some speakerphone mics are very sensitive and will pick up  a lot of ambient noise.

10. Train new staff.
Throughout the year there may by personnel changes within your organization. It would be a very good preventative measure to offer system training to new and current employees. We have found that the more comfortable a person is with a system, the more likely they are to use it and care for it. Make the training interactive, having all attendees use the system during the training. In addition, this can reduce dependence on support staff, service calls, and "mysteriously broken" equipment.

"Well maintained AV systems", states Spiro of 25 years of audiovisual experience, "simply last longer, have less issues, and are easily troubleshot when an issue does arise. I believe doing these basic steps REGULARLY helps avoid downtime and insures a strong return on the client's initial technology investment."