Power Management for the Corporate AV Environment
Feb 26, 2009 9:17 AM, By Linda Seid Frembes
It is easy to take electricity for granted. It is assumed that when you plug in an AV device, it will have power. But aging infrastructure can cause unseen problems and reduced performance without the proper protection. Whether an AV install is small or large, consultants and integrators are paying more attention to power-management systems included in the system design. Factors such as convenience, asset protection, and green initiatives mean that power-management products are no longer considered an accessory and now occupy their own product category.
“Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that consultants, integrators, and end users understand the benefits and the need for power management,” says Christos Desalernos, domestic sales manager for Furman Sound, a manufacturer of AC power conditioning and distribution products in Petaluma, Calif. “It about protecting the AV equipment and getting rid of AC-line noise.”
Furman Sound has been in the AV industry for more than 35 years, and the popularity of its power-management and power-sequencing products have grown steadily. “We assist consultants and contractors to design power solutions for AV systems, and help with product specifications and navigating our different SKUs,” Desalernos says. “Our larger sequencing products have similar functionalities but can be used for different applications.”
From a product perspective, Furman power-management products protect clients’ investment and ensure proper performance over the life of the AV system. “Proper power management helps you avoid lost data, prevent digital lockups, and protects from catastrophic events like damage from lightening strikes or bad wiring,” he says.
Sequencing products have become a popular trend in the corporate AV market due, in part, to green initiatives. Used in conjunction with a control system, power sequencing guarantees that all components in a room’s AV system can be turned on or off in the proper order with one button push. An added benefit is that an untrained non-technical staff member can activate the system in the proper order without causing any problems.
Desalernos says that another trend is that “customers are requesting fewer lights on the boxes. Lights on the front panel draws attention to the box and someone will turn it off thinking they are being green. That can trigger a service call that the system isn’t working when really someone has just turned off the power.” As a result, Furman Sound has scaled back on the lights so that their products have a more stealth appearance in the rack.
In another response to the market, Furman Sound introduced a compact power conditioner called the AC-215 several years ago. The unit, weighing 3lbs. and measuring 1.75”x5”x8.5”, is designed for installation on the back of a flatscreen display. Applications for this kind of remote power protection include enterprise-wide digital-signage systems found in corporate environments. And while the prices for flatpanels have come down in the past few years, the cost of replacing every flatpanel in a digital-signage system can be costly. “On average, there are more than 150 power surges a day,” Desalernos says. “Surges are more common in office buildings because they are located near industrial areas. Installing an AC-215 will enhance the longevity and performance of a flatpanel display.”
Desalernos also says that AV-line voltage in the United States is listed as 120V, but the true range is anywhere from 105V to 135V. “AV equipment likes 115V to 125V, so there is a lot of stress happening on a daily basis,” he says. “Expose your equipment to enough surges and the equipment will fail. Also, when power comes back on after a shutdown it swings wildly within that range; most people think it comes back to 120V.”
Furman’s product line comes in all shapes and sizes to accommodate the varying needs of an install. While a corporate boardroom may have three to five devices, a larger install such as an auditorium may have more devices and have several different areas that need protection. However, Desalernos says that Furman’s biggest competitor is the plastic power strip. Yes, the $5 beige plastic power strip that can be found in nearly every retail outlet in the country.
And while the price may be nice, Desalernos cautions that those power strips are made of plastic that can catch on fire. “Their clamping voltage is 330V, way beyond the safe zone for electronics,” he says, whereas Furman’s professional grade products clamp voltage at 133V before damage can be done.
To date, Furman Sound has shipped 250,000 Series Multi-Stage Protection (SMP) circuits units without a failure. The company sees the corporate market as the one with the most potential for growth. “In this economy, they still have to build offices,” Desalernos says. “And the AV technology in those offices need protection.”
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