The Multiroom Control Room

If you're building a multiroom system for your house the control room(node 0) or shall we say control cupboard is the easiest way to manage all your tech devices and keep clutter out of sight. If your wife or girlfriend won't let you have the space remind them of how they'll be saving space and unsightly wires.  I must admit, it did take time to convince the gf that sacrificing some storage space was worth it.  She now thinks it was a great idea because it keeps all my tech in one place and the house tidy.  It's a point scorer! Win Win!

 

Location

Choose a spot which is easy to access if you can.  You might think that tucking it away in the loft or a deep dark corner is a good way to hide it.  Don't, you will need access, especially while you're setting up the system.  Don't get me wrong, once set up it will happily tick along and do everything you need with any intervention..  BUT, it makes life so much easier to be able to get to it easily.  Mine is located under the stairs which is in the main living room.  I just open a cupboard door and there stands my rack.  I've left enough space to move around the rack for cabling and it makes it easy when you add something new.  And you will add something new!  If you've made a tidy job you'll also want to show people too.

A central point for cabling is a good idea.  Plan your cable runs.  Luckily my under stair cupboard was located fairly centrally and was easy to cable to.  Every house is different so spend time thinking about what you need now and in the future.

rack_location

Above is the location of my rack just before i started to cable.

 

Size

Depends up on your house size and the setup you desire now and in the future.  It's easy to think you'll be happy with your first install for ever, but you won't be.  Technology changes fast and it won't be long before you trying to squeeze a new tech gadget into a rack or space which won't take it.

The bigger the better in my opinion.  Bigger means more space to work in, more expandable and far less back injuries!  People(techies) laugh when i say i have a 42u rack in my house, but i really wouldn't bother with anything less if you like your tech.  I'm running 4 bedrooms, 2 lounges, kitchen, garage, office and partyhouse and a 42u is enough.  If i could double the space surrouding it i would.

The image to the right shows my rack just after I set it up and still in testing.  I installed a light in the cupboard so i could see what I was doing, but it's still a squeeze in some parts.

If you just want to install and forget, you can.  But normally, the type of person who builds this kind of thing themselves will always tinker!

 

rack

Ventilation

I speak from experience.  I have fried several PC servers by keeping them in cupboard with no air.  Admittley that was in my early days but it is a warning to you all.  Some tech devices emit alot of heat.  It all depends on your set up and what you think you can get away with.  It also depends on how hot your house is.  A cool house or cool spot in your house will help, but if you can, install a ventilation pipe.

rack_vent

I used a 4" air duct running from the top of my cabinet to the outside of the house.  I have an extractor fan connected to the end of the air duct in the cabinet which turns on when the temperature gets too hot.  It takes all the hot air from the top of the rack and pumps it outside.  The pressure has to stabilise so air is pulled from under the cupboard door which inturn flows up the rack cooling all the devices as it goes.

Most of the time the extractor fan isn't required as the air flow from the duct is enough to keep everything cool enough.  My rack sits between 21-24C most of the time.  Placing tech devices that emit alot of heat at the top of the rack is meant to help as the hot air doesn't rise and warm devices above.

 

Racking

You can spend a fortune on a nice cabinet/rack if you want, but i built my own using racking parts from CPC.  As long as you can get a good floor and ceiling fixing the rack will be sturdy.  Make sure you get the dimensions right so everything fits in.  I bolted blanking plates in whilst fixing to make sure they were the right width apart from top to bottom.

The depth of your rack is your choice.  Check your longest/deepest component/device and make it a bit bigger than that if you can.  Don't go too big either and make sure you have plenty of space for access because you are going to need it.

Having a rack not only means valuable tech is fixed in place, but also provides a good structure to cable onto.

Building your own rack means you can build to your specification.  Adding extra pieces to fix cables or devices which are not rackable is also cheap and easy using 19" rack shelves.  If you can build macarno you can build a rack.   Admittedly, it will never be as good as a nice HP rack or something you find in a data centre, but this is for your home, not commercial use.

The picture to the right shows how I've used cable ties to attach the cable to the rack.

 

cables_on_rack

 

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rack_hole_coax

One of two holes drilled into the back wall of my control cupboard.

 

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