Is it a problem for an AV receiver to be on it's side, instead of resting horizontally on it's feet?
November 21, 2008 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Is it a problem for an AV receiver to be on it's side, instead of resting horizontally on it's feet?

I had a Denon AVR-series receiver die on me recently - it's settings started changing randomly, getting more and more frequent until it started turning itself off and on, changing the volume, etc. I bought a replacement recently.

We have a flatscreen TV that rests of sort of a cabinet, the cabinet is not wide enough on the interior to put a receiver (interior widths are less than 17"). So, I've been keeping the receiver behind the cabinet, on it's side, for a couple of years. Is this likely to have contributed to it's demise?
posted by RustyBrooks to Technology (16 answers total)
Crap, I meant to add this to more inside:
The only theories I could have might be that it doesn't cool efficiently enough on it's side (no vents or anything are blocked though) or that there are relays inside that expect a horizontal surface.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:49 AM on November 21, 2008

Since heat rises, so if there aren't any vents on the side that was top, it might not have been cooling as well as it should have.
posted by hwyengr at 10:01 AM on November 21, 2008

That would usually be OK, but some fanless cooling designs do rely on chimney convection paths, where the hot air is assumed to move up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:02 AM on November 21, 2008

Surround receivers generate tons of heat, and their cooling systems make use of convection whether this is augmented by a fan or not. Overheating is the most common case of death.
posted by contraption at 10:19 AM on November 21, 2008

My receiver depends on convection for cooling. Its whole top is vented and it still gets very hot. I wouldn't want to think about what would happen if I ran it on its side.

Yeah, it probably contributed to its demise.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:23 AM on November 21, 2008

It's never been exceptionally hot to the touch, not sure if that matters.

Not sure where I can put it, and not have it on it's side. Possibly I might just put it on the other side of the wall the TV is on and run the cables through there.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2008

Its impossible to tell. How old was the original receiver? Lots of things can cause what you describe.

I say just put the new one there and see what happens. If you get any weirdness, it should happen sooner than later. Then you'll know its probably a heat issue. If it gets permanent damage then you always have the warranty. You might even want to contact their support and ask if its orientation really matters. Even if it is a heat issue it might be easier to buy a tiny fan and have it blow air across the unit.

Ive seen a lot of receivers in tight spaces and they manage okay. Just turning it on its side in an open space doesnt seem so bad.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:40 AM on November 21, 2008

I would guess yes. Recievers generate a ton of heat, meant to rise up out of the vents. I installed mine into a new cabinet once, then a week later went to adjust them. It wouldn't budge. It had heated up enough that it had melted shielded RCA cables between two units.

Now I give them plenty of breathing room.
posted by sanka at 11:00 AM on November 21, 2008

Is this likely to have contributed to it's demise?

yes. Putting it on its side is like blocking the top vents WRT heat dissipation.
posted by troy at 11:43 AM on November 21, 2008

It was about 5 years old, I guess. It got progressively worse, first it would just change settings like once a week, then once a day, then once an hour, then once every few minutes. The progression from once a week to once a day was probably several months. It was on it's side for the entire time.

Have the new one on it's side, will be checking it for temp, see how it goes. If I have to I'll find some other place for it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2008

5 years and no problems until the end? Probably not heat. Even my cheap bargain basement Sony is nice enough to shut itself off if it gets too hot. I would think a nice Denon would have the same feature.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:19 PM on November 21, 2008

Did you try changing the batteries in the remote control? I've seen flat batteries cause odd things to happen in similar machines before. (e.g. pressing any button would cause the box to mute, then eventually turn off).
Sorry it's offtopic, but I'd hate for you to be throwing out something still working!
posted by kg at 12:37 PM on November 21, 2008

I actually initially expected that it was my wife's laptop sending weird IR stuff, but disabling that didn't seem to help much.

All my IR goes through a IR extending thing... basically a little IR "camera" on one end which goes into a repeater box, and each device gets a wire from the repeater to a little IR led to trigger the device. This way you can have stuff inside the cabinet (or behind the cabinet in my receiver's case) and still work. So my next thought was that THIS thing was messing up and sending spurious signals. But I disabled all that and still no luck. There may be an IR source somewhere downstairs that I'm not aware of that's doing it... I have it upstairs now and I set all the settings to a particular mode and we'll see if it changes.

It was time for a new one anyway, the old one doesn't switch video and it's a pain to do that manually, the new one does!
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:58 PM on November 21, 2008

When you install the new one, I would find a way to keep the thing upright. Modern receivers do have overheat/overload protection, but those sensors are positioned and calibrated to detect potentially damaging heat levels when the unit is operated in a normal upright position. Either replace the cabinet with one that is appropriate to the receiver, or go with your through-the-wall idea. Especially since you've already got the IR repeater system, it should be a fairly simple DIY task to get a rock saw and install a single-gang cut-in plastic low voltage box on either side of the wall, route your cabling through the resulting gap, and cover it up with blank plates if you ever decide to rearrange things. Running a receiver on its side is asking for trouble and probably voids the warranty (though they might have a hard time proving that as the reason for failure.)
posted by contraption at 2:24 PM on November 21, 2008

Another aspect of the heat problem is that the general temperature of the chassis can be normal, but the air right around the components themselves is what's too hot, particularly near tall things like capacitors. Or the hot air still vents but now flows over something that's already running near it's heat tolerance. A touch-test isn't necessarily reliable.

Also, chances are there's a good-sized transformer inside the receiver. Those can get pretty heavy, enough to put some strain on the chassis over time.
posted by toxotes at 3:35 PM on November 21, 2008

Relays are no problem.

As many have observed, some electronics are built assuming they will have the benefits of convection, and those devices would have problems if you didn't sit them the direction they were intended. However, most modern devices have thermal protection on the components that are likely to overheat, so..

It was about 5 years old, I guess. It got progressively worse, first it would just change settings like once a week, then once a day, then once an hour, then once every few minutes. The progression from once a week to once a day was probably several months. It was on it's side for the entire time.

A progressive failure like this is pretty odd. It almost screams bad capacitor. That battery idea that kg mentions is an interesting observation too.

Heat will cause capacitors to deteriorate more quickly, of couse.

This reminds me of a story.. I used to work for a company that made plate amps for subwoofers. Traditionally, these amps would have an LED that was on when the amplifier was in On mode, and off when the amplifier was in Sleep mode. The company also offered bi-colour LEDs as an option -- red for Sleep and green for On -- but that option was almost never chosen. Well, when it finally was chosen, it caused all kinds of trouble.

The new bi-colour units began to fail in the field, and nobody knew why. See, an amplifier that was On always had this giant fan cooling the electronics -- a fan called the speaker driver. For most of the amplifiers built, the LED was only on when this active cooling was going. Without active cooling, the LED current was just a tiny bit too much for the low voltage regulators to handle. D'oh!

You can't know what caused the failure without a detailed diagnosis of the unit, but.. ya, it could have been heat. Like, you created a little oven over some bit of circuit that the engineers never anticipated would get hot, or something.

Run the new one on its side anyway, if you want, but it isn't ideal. Also, sticking a fan in the chasis someplace strategic will help.
posted by Chuckles at 6:23 PM on November 21, 2008

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