Top 7 Tips for Energy-Efficient Home Lighting

Tips for Energy-Efficient Home LightingThere are countless ways to reduce energy costs, but few are as easy as changing your home’s lighting. In fact, lighting consumes about 10 percent of the average home’s electricity use, and using energy-efficient lighting strategies can reduce the average home’s lighting costs by up to 75 percent. To help you get started, here are seven tips for saving money by making your home lighting more energy efficient.

1. Use more direct “task” lighting

Task lighting is direct, overhead lighting for desks, kitchen cooking areas, tool benches, craft tables and other areas. In cases like this, you don’t need to light the whole room to accomplish your task. You can just light the area you need illuminated, thereby preventing waste and cutting lighting costs.

2. Install energy-efficient light bulbs

Energy-efficient light bulbs are designed to provide the same amount of light while using less electricity:

 --Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) will provide the same quantity of light as incandescent light bulbs while using about 75 percent less electricity. They also last from about 8 to 10 times longer. And don’t forget to check out the special CFLs that are compatible with dimmer switches.

 --High-efficiency halogen lighting is a good option if you don’t like the look of CFLs. You can replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 72-watt or 70-watt halogen bulb or replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 42-watt or 40-watt halogen bulb and still get the same amount of light.

 --Light emitting diode (LEDs) bulbs are the most energy-efficient and long-lasting types of light bulbs. You can replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 12-watt LED that will last more than 20,000 hours, or about 10 years.

3. Shop for lumens, not watts

Remember to shop for light bulbs using lumens, not watts. Lumens describes the amount of light a bulb produces, while watts determines the amount of electricity the bulb uses. Energy-efficient light bulbs will produce the same lumens but use fewer watts (which is how a 12-watt LED, for example, can produce as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb).

3. Consider changing the surface color of your room

The way interior surfaces reflect light can be a major player in lighting efficiency. Since lighter colors reflect more light than darker surfaces, you should consider repainting your walls and ceilings with lighter colors and choose lighter colors for your floors and furniture. Conversely, darker colors will absorb more light and require you to use higher wattage bulbs to create the same level of illumination.

4. Use fewer, higher-wattage bulbs

If your home has lamps and light fixtures with multiple sockets for two or more incandescent bulbs, you should consider using fewer, higher-wattage bulbs instead of filling all the sockets with lower-wattage bulbs. Doing so will actually allow you to produce more light. A 100-watt bulb, for instance, produces 50 percent more light than four 25-watt bulbs but uses the same amount of energy. And that’s just for incandescent bulbs. If you use CFLs or LEDs in a similar fashion, your electricity use will be dramatically lower.

5. Locate lamps in corners of rooms

When possible, you should place or install floor, table and hanging lamps in the corners of rooms rather than against a flat wall. Doing so will allow the light from the lamp to reflect off of two wall surfaces instead of one, providing you with greater illumination from the same bulb(s).

6. Clean your lighting fixtures regularly

Make sure to dust and otherwise clean your lighting fixtures regularly. Any dirt or grime that gets on bulbs or reflectors will decrease lighting efficiency.

7. Use multiple circuits for large areas

In the case of large areas that use high levels of lighting some of the time but not all of the time, such as family or living rooms, consider installing fixtures on two or three circuits. That way, you can control the lighting of separate areas of the room (similar to the way that task lighting works, but on a larger scale) without having to light the entire area.

How have you managed to cut you home lighting costs? Let us know what you’ve done and how it’s worked for you.

Sources

Edison Electric Institute, “More Than 100 Ways to Improve Your Electric Bill.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Lighting.”

ComEd Warns Customers that Party Balloons Are Causing Power Outages

Thursday May 24, 2012
Posted at 09:20

How Balloons Can Cause Power OutagesYou know those helium-filled Mylar party balloons that you get at the grocery store for birthday parties? They might light up your kids’ faces, but they could also end up turning out the lights.

According to Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), Illinois’ largest public utility, Mylar balloons that are released from outdoor birthday parties, graduations and weddings have a tendency to wander gently into the sky — and right into power lines.

In a news release warning customers of the dangers of Mylar balloons released outside, ComEd said that so far this year, the festive floaters have caused power outages affecting roughly 11,000 customers, which is significantly higher than the 6,700 customers that were affected by balloon-related outages during the same period last year.

The utility said the number will rise even more this summer, as the temperature increases and more parties are held outside, unless families take precautions and secure balloons that are used outdoors.

ComEd said that when the metallic skin of a Mylar balloon contacts a power line or a part of substation equipment, it can create an electric surge that may lead to a short-circuit, power outage or even a fire.

To help cut down on power outages from Mylar balloons, ComEd recommends that you take a few precautions:

1. Make sure balloons are tethered or secured and attached to weights or sturdy structures at all times

2. When you’re done with balloons, puncture them to let the helium escape and dispose of them properly

3. You should always assume that power lines are live; make sure that you, your belongings and anything you are carrying are least 10 feet away from power lines at all times

Under no circumstances should you try to recover a balloon or other toy that’s become entangled in an overhead power line; instead request assistance by calling ComEd at 800.334.7661

Sources

ComEd Warns: Balloons Can Cause Power Outages,” Buffalo Grove Patch, May 5, 2012.

4 Ways to Make Your AC Run More Efficiently This Summer

How to Increase AC Efficiency in the SummerIt’s May, which means summer is right around the corner. And that means folks across the country are going to start using their air conditioners a lot more.

If you’re like us, then you’re not looking forward to the prospect of your AC cranking away during brutal summer afternoons when you can actually see the heat rise off the pavement. After all, it’s expensive. And when your AC is working overtime, small unseen problems have a tendency to become big-time headaches.

Here are four things you can do before the heat arrives to ensure that your AC is in good shape and running efficiently this summer.

1. Change Your Air Filter

Probably the easiest way to improve the efficiency of your AC this summer is to replace your AC filter with a clean, new one. Keeping a relaxed airflow through your AC system — as opposed to a restricted airflow from dirty, clogged filters — will help keep your AC equipment from working harder than it needs to in order to cool your home. That means not only a more efficient AC, but also lower electricity bills.

Clean filters will also help keep dirt and other particles from collecting on critical parts of your AC, which will help prevent performance–related inefficiency and damage to your cooling system.

For the best results, you should replace your AC filter now and then every month heading into the summer. During the warmest months, when your AC works the hardest and pulls the most air, you may want to replace your AC filter more often than each month, depending on how often your AC system kicks on and what type of filters you use.

2. Have an HVAC Technician Inspect Your Equipment

You should have an HVAC technician inspect your AC equipment at least once a year. In parts of the country that depend heavily on air conditioning, the best time to get your AC inspected is now, before summer hits and repair wait times grow. The technician will make sure your equipment is in tip-top shape and running as efficiently as it can. If your equipment has issues, you’ll get a heads-up about what the problems are. And, if you get your system inspected now, you’ll have time to fix them before summer heat has a chance to turn small issues into bigger problems.

3. Check Your Air Ducts for Leaks

The ducts that carry air into and around your home are an important feature when determining the efficiency of your AC. Just think of your AC as your home’s heart and the air ducts like its arteries and veins and you’ll understand how critical they are.

If your ducts have holes on the way to your AC system, dirty air can find its way to your equipment, hurting its efficiency or even damaging it. If your ducts have leaks on the way to vents in your home’s living spaces, cool air can seep out before it gets to you. In either case, your AC system’s efficiency will suffer. Pro tip: Don’t close the vents in unused rooms to try and save a buck. Not only does this not work, but the increased pressure it places on your ducts can cause leaks.

You can have an HVAC technician check for leaks or you can do it yourself. To check yourself, inspect the ducts for tears or holes and then take a close look at each exposed duct joint. If you see dust or lint near a suspected problem spot or feel cool airflow while your AC is running, you know you have an air leak. You can seal these kinds of leaks easily with mastic sealant or metal tape. Avoid duct tape, as it doesn’t last very long. For bigger leaks, or larger duct problems, you might have to hire a professional.

4. Keep Your AC Equipment Clean

Dirt, grime and obstructions make your AC equipment work harder than it needs to, which can cause your electricity bill to climb alongside rising summer temperatures. To increase your AC unit’s efficiency, and avoid equipment damage from dirt-buildup on individual components, follow these cleaning tips:

-Once a year, sometime before summer, hire a duct cleaning service to thoroughly clean your ducts.

-Routinely check your outside AC unit to make sure that it’s clear of obstructions. Trim back shrubs, plants and other greenery that get too close.

-Once a month, use a shop vacuum to suck the dirt out of your ducts and clear dirt from around AC equipment.

Sources

National Geographic, “How to Increase Efficiency of a Central Air Conditioner.”

ComEd Offers Tips to Help Customers Avoid ComEd Impersonators

ComEd Scam WarningIllinois electricity utility Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) is offering a few tips about how to avoid a rare, but important problem reported by a few of its customers– people impersonating ComEd employees for personal gain.

There have been less than 30 reported incidents in which individuals have shown up at customers' homes or businesses claiming to be from ComEd but, in reality, are unaffiliated with the utility. The small number of impersonators have reportedly tried to assert their fake ComEd identities to get access to customers’ personal information, but ComEd says there are a few things to watch for, and a few things customers can double-check, that make it easy to avoid problems with ComEd impersonators:

  • Customers should always ask to see a company photo ID before allowing any ComEd utility worker into their home or business
  • ComEd employees never ask for cash payments or personal banking information, such as credit card numbers, so you should never pay on-site for services
  • ComEd employees don’t engage in telemarketing activities or door-to-door sales activities
  • If anyone comes to your home or business wearing clothing with old or defaced company logos, make sure to double-check their authenticity by asking to see a company photo ID — and if you have any doubt, don’t let the individuals into your home
  • Customers can verify if a ComEd worker is in the neighborhood by calling toll-free 800-EDISON-1 (800-334-7661)

ComEd said that customers who believe they’ve had a run-in with an impersonator should call the police and report the incident.

Sources

ComEd Warns Customers of Impersonation Scams,” Morton Grove Champion, March 26, 2012.

The Future of Powering and Charging Electronic Devices Will Be Wireless

Tuesday May 1, 2012
Posted at 08:38

If one company’s vision of the future comes to pass, all of the electronic devices we use in our lives — from cell phones to computers to televisions to electric cars — will be powered or charged without having to use a single wire, power cord or plug.

What’s cooler than that, you ask? Well, you know those wireless cell phone chargers that simply have you rest your phone on top of them to transfer electricity? How about the ability to power and charge electronic devices without having to make any physical contact at all?

That’s the goal shared by the folks at WiTricity, a Massachusetts–based startup that has developed a pretty cutting edge way of transmitting electricity from a power source to an electronic device over short distances. The technology uses magnetic fields to transfer electricity between two points in a process called resonance. While you can’t use WiTricity’s technology to transfer electricity over long distances, electricity can be transferred from far enough away to do away with wires, cords and plugs.

The technology is so promising that WiTricity has already reached agreements with two significant companies, MediaTek and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, to jointly develop power and charging technologies for wireless communications, digital multimedia and electric vehicles.

We really like the idea of being able to park electric vehicles in normal-looking parking spaces and recharge them from a device hidden under the ground; not having to worry about big, anaconda-like vehicle recharging cords is definitely a plus. According to Mitsubishi, WiTricity’s magnetic resonance wireless charging system can already deliver up to 3.3 kilowatts of charging power over 20 centimeters, or about eight inches, with an efficiency of more than 90 percent. While that’s actually a pretty impressive first step, we can only imagine where this technology might be after a few years of development in collaboration with major tech players.

We also really like the idea of being able to hang our widescreen LCD TV in the middle of our wall without having to drill a lot of holes or run power cords down the wall like some sort of robotic vine forest. What’s the next step? Being able to dump all our audio and video cables and cords when somebody develops streaming capabilities for all of our audio, video and data. Now that would be wireless.

Sources

MediaTek Inc. Signs Technology Transfer and License Agreement with WiTricity Corp. for Wireless Charging,” MediaTek press release, July 11, 2011.

WiTricity Corporation, IHI Corporation, and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation Combine to Develop Easily Deployable Wireless Charging Systems for Electric Vehicles,” Mitsubishi Motors Corporation press release, Sept. 27, 2011.

WiTricity, “WiTricity Technology: The Basics.”

Design Concept Encourages Energy Efficiency with a Cool, Futuristic Monitor

Erica Pozzey, a graduate student from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, has developed a new, super sleek and stylish way to monitor your home’s energy consumption. The system, called Triad Energy, combines an award-winning design with captivating real-time infographics to keep you engaged and motivated enough to monitor your home’s energy use on an ongoing basis. It even allows you to see the energy usage of other Triad Energy users near you. That way, you can know how efficient you have to be to become the most energy-efficient household in the neighborhood.

The system’s wall mounted display, called Triad Wall, looks like a piece of triangular technology from the future. The three truncated points each represent a separate energy consumption measurement: how much energy you are using, how close your energy use is to the target you set for yourself and how your energy use compares with homes in your area that also have Triad Energy monitors. The display uses a smooth, organic triangle graphic to visually communicate your energy use, with each point indicating one of the three categories. It even comes with pleasing ambient backlighting that changes color, presumably to signify the amount of energy you’re using.

If you’re not a visual person, however, there’s no need to worry. The system comes with a sophisticated web-based interface that gives you plenty of detailed data to look through to better understand your energy habits. The web interface also allows communication to and from Triad Wall, tracks and provides detailed reports of your energy use and can be set up to send alerts to your mobile device to make sure you’re always in the loop.

On the one hand, the system encourages self-monitoring with its futuristic Triad Wall and well-featured web platform. On the other, it works as a kind of social media device, allowing you to share energy information with other users so you know who your neighborhood queen or king of energy efficiency is. With everyone competing for the top spot by using less energy, we all win.

Whether or not you decide to vie for the crown of “most energy efficient” in your neighborhood, (we suspect you’ll be able to shut off the social feature if you prefer) we love the idea of a simple, at-a-glance way to check our energy consumption. If Pozzey is right, it may be just the thing that motivates us to use less energy. And that’s something that's good for everyone.

Sources

Futuristic Wall Display Shows Real-Time Energy Usage,” Physorg, Feb. 27, 2012.

1895: The Year the Power Tool Was Born

Tuesday April 24, 2012
Posted at 09:07

Humankind has used tools for quite some time, but throughout most of our history our ability to perform tasks was limited by our strength and endurance. However, a single invention just 117 years ago helped break the shackles of human limitation and unleashed an era of productivity that continues to this day.

In 1895, 16 years after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric lamp, the German engineering company C&E Fein combined the power of an electric motor with a manual drill to develop the world’s very first power tool.

The heavy drill, which weighed 16.5 pounds, was powered by a large but relatively weak DC electric motor that didn’t turn very fast. To use the drill, the operator had to use both hands, grab it by two handles opposite the motor and lean against a chest plate at the back of the drill to help press it into the work surface. The world’s first power tool may seem unwieldy and unproductive by modern standards, but it was another 20 years before someone improved upon the design.

In 1910, a tool and die worker by the name of Duncan Black sold his car for $600 and used the money to start a small machine shop in Baltimore, Maryland with his friend Alonzo Decker. In 1914, the two arrived at the same idea to improve the C&E Fein power drill by adapting the design of the Colt .45 automatic pistol. By 1916, Black & Decker had begun making their famous pistol-grip, trigger-switch electric drill, from which all modern handheld electric drills are descended.

The Black & Decker drill was not only lighter, but it used a more powerful motor and could be easily operated by one person, two critical features missing from C&E Fein’s original electric drill. After that, the power tool industry was off and running and Black & Decker was soon followed by new companies with new kinds of power tools. A new era of human productivity was born.

Sources

History, “The World’s First Power Tools.”

Illinois Reminds Electricity Customers to Call 811 Before They Dig

Monday April 23, 2012
Posted at 10:29

National Safe Digging MonthIt might not seem like it, but digging in the yard around your home can be pretty dangerous. Digging can cause power outages and can even be hazardous to your health if you hit an underground power line that’s carrying electricity to your home. That’s why the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the public utility regulator in Illinois, has passed a resolution declaring April 2012 National Safe Digging Month.

The ICC said it wants to use National Safe Digging Month to remind Illinois excavators and residents to call 811 before they dig. Doing so will connect them with their local One Call Center to request that utility lines be marked anywhere that digging needs to be done. Like the ICC says, “safe digging is no accident.”

Speaking of safe digging, check out our post about electricity safety when working outdoors around the home.

And if you’re planting trees on your property, we’ve got a post about some things you should consider when planting trees near power lines, including how close — or how far away — you should plant them.

Good luck, and don’t forget to call 811 before you dig.

Sources

Illinois Commerce Commission, “Resolution 12-0268: Supports 811 — the Call Before You Dig to Locate Utility Lines.”

Top 10 Most Iconic Electric Guitars of All Time, Part 1

Tuesday April 10, 2012
Posted at 08:45

Most famous guitars in history

Electric guitars have been a staple of the music world for over 60 years. To many people, including a group of dedicated music fans at Spark Energy, the electric guitar is the defining instrument in contemporary music ensembles. So we decided to sit down and rate what we think are the 10 most iconic electric guitars of all time. The discussion was opinionated, to say the least, and the final list of 10 guitars was easier to agree upon than their individual rankings.

So, without further ado, here’s part one of our list of the 10 most iconic electric guitars of all time. Make sure to check out part two for the rest of the best, to vote on how you would have ranked these 10 guitars and to set us straight about any electric guitars you would have put on the list instead.

1. Fender Stratocaster

Outside of the Gibson Les Paul Standard, no electric guitar says rock-and-roll like the dual-horned Fender Stratocaster. It could be the most easily-recognized and widely-played electric guitar in the world, by pros and amateurs alike. Exactly how iconic is this axe? Well, Jimi Hendrix set fire to it, Eric Clapton bought six at once, Stevie Ray Vaughn singlehandedly resurrected blues with it, and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour owns serial number #0001.

Year introduced: 1954

Key players: Randy Bachman, Jeff Beck, Adrian Belew, Eric Clapton, The Edge, John Frusciante, David Gilmour, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Eric Johnson, Mark Knopfler, John Lennon, Alex Lifeson, John Mayer, Pete Townshend, Robin Trower, Ritchie Valens, Stevie Ray Vaughan

2. Gibson Les Paul Standard

One of two of the most recognized electric guitars in the world along with Fender’s Stratocaster, the Gibson Les Paul Standard has been THE electric guitar for generations of rock-and-rollers. There’s nothing quite like the universal appeal of the Standard’s beautiful, simple design and smooth lines. After all, it’s not called the Standard for nothing.

Year introduced: 1958

Key players: Duane Allman, Billie Joe Armstrong, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Ace Frehley, Billy Gibbons, Steve Jones, Mark Knopfler, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Randy Rhoads, Slash, Zakk Wylde

3. Gibson SG Standard

The best-selling Gibson guitar of all time, the SG (officially renamed the SG Standard in 1963) was originally intended as a redesign of the Les Paul Standard. When the SG hit in 1961, it sold more than three times the number of Les Paul Standards sold in the guitar’s entire three-year run from 1958–60. Maybe that’s because the SG looks as hard as it rocks.

Year introduced: 1961

Key players: Eric Clapton, Elliot Easton, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Robby Krieger, Pete Townshend, Thom Yorke, Angus Young, Frank Zappa

4. Fender Telecaster

Originally introduced as the Broadcaster, the Telecaster, or Tele, hasn’t evolved much over the years, and with good reason. After all, when you’re the revolutionary model that finally put solid-body electric guitars on the map and started the rock-and-roll lead guitar phenomenon, what exactly do you need to improve on? The original’s simple design and fluid lines have been retained throughout the Tele’s production, which has gone uninterrupted since its debut over 60 years ago.

Year introduced: 1950

Key Players: Syd Barrett, Jeff Beck, Frank Black, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, David Gilmour, Jonny Greenwood, Merle Haggard, Chrissie Hynde, George Harrison, PJ Harvey, Waylon Jennings, Alex Lifeson, Mike Oldfield, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend, Muddy Waters

5. Rickenbacker 300 Series

The Rickenbacker 300 Series is instantly recognizable by its single, straight-cut modern f-hole and oversized headstock. The “Ricky” was wildly popular during the 1960s and served as the backbone of pop music during the decade, most notably as the main axes of The Beatles. It was also among the first electric guitar models to get a 12-string edition, called the 360/12.

Year introduced: 1958

Key players: Peter Banks, Peter Buck, The Edge, Noel Gallagher, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Hilton Valentine, Thom Yorke

Sources

25 Most Iconic Guitars Ever,” Stuff, Sept. 16, 2010.

Gibson, “15 Iconic Les Paul Players.”

Gibson, “15 Iconic SG Players.”

Gibson, “The Best-Selling Gibson of All Time: The SG Standard.”

Wikipedia, “Fender Telecaster.”

Wikipedia, “List of Gibson Players.”

Wikipedia, “List of Rickenbacker Players.”

Wikipedia, “List of Stratocaster Players.”

Wikipedia, “List of Telecaster Players.”

Wikipedia, “Rickenbacker 330.”

A Dream Come True: The Absolute Ultimate Home Theater Setup

Monday April 9, 2012
Posted at 11:00

Ultimate home theater system

We love movies. But we hate going to movie theaters, with all the talking and texting and sticky floors. Like many other movie lovers, our 21st century sanctuary is the modern home theater, with its moderately-priced flat-panel TVs, surround-sound receivers and satellite speakers. For many film snobs, our budgets play a huge role in what we’re able to piece together. And for the most part, we’re able to live with the results.

But what if money wasn’t an issue? What if you could build the home theater of your dreams? This, then, just might be the result: the most mind-blowing high-end home theater system that money can buy.

Out of the (Gilded) Gate: This is Stupid Expensive!

Yes, the ultimate high-end home theater system is undeniably and ridiculously expensive, almost embarrassingly so. You’ll need to make room for several zeros after the number you scribble in your checkbook, but it’s a necessary expense for the equipment, consultants, furniture and remodeling that you’re going to need to pay for to achieve this kind of awe-inspiring system.

The TV

Front projector or flat-screen HDTV? Well, that depends on how much space you have. If you have the room and don’t need to tear down a wall in your spacious, beautifully-designed home, you can get the Runco VideoExtreme VX-33 three-DLP-chip front-projection system ($49,995). The VX-33 can give you a whole lot more 1080p visual real estate than even the largest flat-panel HDTVs. The list of features is hard to wrap your mind around. All you need is a screen to project it on.

If, however, you don’t have the space for your own personal theater, a big-screen flat-panel HDTV is still the way to go. Runco’s PlasmaWall XP-103DHD (about $45,000) is a 103-inch monster of a 1080p HDTV that is, according to the company, the world’s largest plasma display. You want a plasma technology for your flat-screen, not LCD. That way you can get a truer black and avoid annoying artifacts that pop up in action scenes caused by the refresh rate of pixels in LCD panels.

The Blu-Ray Player

Blu-ray is dead, you say? Not so fast — especially if you want the very best movie experience possible. If you’ve ever seen the Blu-ray version of Planet Earth then you know what we mean. Image and audio quality actually vary quite a bit among high-end Blu-ray players and you may not need to spend $16,900 for Goldmund’s Eidos 20 BD Blu-ray player, even if does come with something called “AC-Curator” for Swiss-watch precision audio and visual stability. But you will. Because this is your dream system.

The Preamp/Amplifier Combo

While most of us in the real world get decent audio with a simple amplifier, which is also called a receiver, in the dream world, you’re going to want some extra muscle. That’s where the preamp comes in. Also called the processor, the preamp receives and processes audio signals before sending them to the amplifier (and video signals before sending them to a projector or HDTV). The two-stage process is normally handled by an amplifier. But you’re going to want to separate these processes because amplifiers work best when they’re cool and not overheated by doing double-duty to create the type of earth-shattering symphonic sound you’re going to be producing.

Audiophiles swear by Anthem’s AVM 50v preamp ($5,000) and its MCA 50 amplifier ($2,000), which combined provide eight HDMI inputs and 225 continuous watts per channel for all 7.1 channels.

The Speakers

Like the tires on a half-million dollar Lamborghini, your speakers are the only part of your dream home theater audio system that metaphorically touch the road. So you need them to be great. We’re talking $30,000 great from companies such as Escalante Design or Wilson Audio. But worry not, because what you’ll get are a set of seven satellite speakers — one center, two sides and four surround speakers — and a powered subwoofer that provide such high dynamic range that they’ll sound just as good on “1” as they will on “10,” just not as loud. The effect, according to Alex Brinkman of Music Lover, is “visceral.”

A Word on Room Acoustics

No dream home theater system would be complete without hiring a professional consultant to analyze and improve the acoustic performance of the actual room where you plan to set up all this top-of-the-line equipment. Acoustic tiles, sound diffusers and even rugs can be used to shape the sound of a room. A good consultant will even take into account the aesthetic qualities of the room, much like an interior designer, to make sure it helps produce the best sound possible. What’s an extra four to ten grand at this point?

So there you have it. The greatest, most mind-blowing collection of audio and video components ever gathered into one room. The total bill for the home theater system of your dreams? About $160,000. Sound a little over the top? That’s why they call it a dream system.

Sources

The Ultimate Home Theater,” PCWorld, May 27, 2010.

World’s Most Expensive Blu-ray Player 2011,” Exploredia, May 6, 2011.

Anthem, “AVM 50v.”

Anthem, “MCA 50.”

Runco, “PlasmaWall XP-103DHD.”

Runco, “VideoXtreme VX-33 Projector.”