Most home entertainment gear is fairly rugged, but Nathan Taylor?s tips will help ensure your system lives a long and happy life.

You?ve probably gone to a great deal of effort to acquire your home theatre system. You scoured the classifieds for components, you travelled miles to get a good deal on high-quality cables and you completely rewired your home so you could position the speakers just so. Sadly, a lot of people see their home theatre system, once set up, as a done deal. They don?t maintain the equipment properly and as a consequence its performance diminishes over time. The screen seems to get dimmer, the audio goes wonky and the equipment seems to need random reboots just to keep it going. If you want to stop this from happening, however, there are a few simple things you can do.

Cleaning

While we don?t recommend cracking open the devices to clean their insides (which is a very good way to void your warranty), keeping the equipment clean on the outside should go a long way to keeping the system running as well as it did when new.

Step 1

Dust your home theatre equipment regularly. Dust (and pet hair) can affect the balance and engines of moving parts such as DVD drives. It can also act as an insulator, causing heat build up in equipment. Just use a regular duster or cloth once a week to get rid of accumulated surface dust. Do your best not to force dust and fibres into the equipment, so be careful around the ventilation grilles at the rear of the devices. Speakers with fabric grilles will respond best to a warm, damp cloth. For safety reasons, if you plan to wipe your equipment down with a damp cloth, it?s a good idea to unplug it from the wall first.

Step 2

Once or more every month, use a clean and soft lint-free cloth (preferably microfibre or cotton ? never paper or wood-based products) to wipe the surfaces of your television screen or the lens of your projector. As a rule, don?t use off-the-shelf solvents or ammonia-based liquid cleaners such as Windex on the surface of these appliances. These cleaners can damage the anti-reflective coating on the surface of the screen. If a dry cloth doesn?t do the trick, try dampening the cloth with warm water, and if that doesn?t work either, you can try a specially designed liquid screen cleaner such as Klear Screen or Philips Screen Cleaner. If you have an LCD or plasma screen, also be careful not to put too much pressure on the surface of the screen when wiping it, since excessive pressure can damage the electronics in the set.

Step 3

Get yourself a DVD lens cleaning disc. These are DVDs with a small brush attached to clean the laser lens on the player. Once every month or two, run it for one minute in the player.