Most people think of a Media Rack as a metal black shelf or cage that houses IT and Smart Home equipment.  So it’s not surprising people are usually surprised when they see the price of a Media Rack.

Like so many things, there’s much that goes into a  Media Rack, and a well designed Media Rack makes all the difference in your System performance, reliability, and serviceability.

So real quick I want to take you through a few of the common elements that help make up a well Designed Media Rack.

Here’s a quick list of what we’re about to cover:

Rack Frame

Rack Accessories

Parts For Specialty Applications

Slide-Out Racks

Wall Mounted Racks

Cooling

Cable Management

Power Management

Network

Labor

Raised Flooring

Sample Rack

Rack Frame

The first step in designing a Media Rack is determining the size, and whether or not you need multiple racks.

Media Racks and electronics are measured in ‘Us;’ so 1U, 2U, 3U and so on.  We count up the Us of electronics and that helps us determine the size of the rack we need.

We also want space for ventilation and airflow. The natural instinct is to cram as much gear into a rack as you can, but it’s easier to manage the temperature and cables if you plan for more space in the Media Rack, which is why you often see installs with multiple racks.

Depending on the Manufacturer, a smaller 18U Frame is going to run $500-800.  A larger 42U Frame is going to run $700-1,200

And keep in mind here, this is the bare bones skeleton.  This doesn’t include side panels, fans, shelves, faceplates.  It’s just the frame.

Rack frame

Accessories

So now that you have the frame picked out, you have to decide on your accessories.  Here’s a few of the items you might add to your rack:

Casters – $100+

Skirt to hide the casters – $40+

Shelves to house equipment – $51+

Drawer for remotes, or easy to lose items – $151+

Blank Panels to cover spaces between electronics – $11+

Vented Panels – $16+

Lacing Bars – $7+

Horizontal Wiring Bars – $51+

Vertical Wiring Bars – $165+

DRings for cable management – $14+

Ladder Racks – $100-$250

Side Panels – $250-450+

Doors – $285-700+

That list can look pretty overwhelming fast right?!  No need to worry though.  Your installer will know what to include, and will likely include it as part of a package price, but it’s good to understand what all goes into the Media Rack.

Parts For Specialty Applications

Some applications, like recessing a rack in a cabinet, or wall mounting a rack, require custom additions to the frame.

Slide-Out Racks

If you want to recess your Rack into a cabinet or the wall, you need a specialized Rack that has a sled on the bottom so it can slide.

For this application we normally use a Middle Atlantic Rack. The frame and sled for a simple slide out rack will start around $1,195

If you want the ability to rotate the rack for service or to add housing and a shell to it, you’ll start around $1,495.

Slide-out rack

Wall Mounted Racks

In tight quarters you can wall mount a rack.  They come with a special mount that allows the rack to swing open for service.  Wall Mounted Racks like this start around $1,149.

Wall mounted rack

Cooling The Rack

Ideally, the room where your Media Rack is located will be temperature controlled and have some kind of exhaust to pull heat out of the room.

We still want to control the temperature in the rack.  Nicer fan systems will trigger the fans anytime the temperature gets too hot.

We use the AC Infinity Fans for most our installs, and the fans range from $120-200 per fan.

Racks need two fans, one to pull air in, and one to exhaust it out. Some racks come with a fan built into the top, others have no fans.  If there’s a fan built in, you can usually get away with just one fan.  If not, you’ll need two fans.

Courtesy: AC Inifinty

Cable Management

Cable management is more of an art than a science, but well managed cable dramatically improves serviceability of the rack.

And lets be honest it just looks cool!

If you want a rack with well dressed and managed cables, you should plan on spending a little more.  There just isn’t time to manage the wire beyond the minimum with a budget rack.

We budget $500 for jumper cables.  These are custom length HDMI, Cat6 jumpers, RCA cables, and power cables to help us make all the connections inside the Media Rack.

If you want nicer jumpers like HDMI from Metra Home Theater, or Audio Quest for your Audio equipment, then you’ll need to plan more for your budget on jumper cables.

Cable management

Power

We definitely want power supplies with surge protection.  Most of the industry solutions offer a warranty in the event your equipment is damaged by a surge.

But the thing we really want is a power source with remote service enabled, and it’s not just for us, it’s also for you.  Like any tech, once in a while you need to power cycle your gear.

We use Power Supplies that allow us to remotely power cycle the equipment.  We’ll even receive text email notifications letting us know if something has lost power so we can reboot it right away for you.

Items like an Apple TV that have a tendency to lock up, can even be set to power cycle regularly in off hours.

Some of these power supplies even have an App for you, so you can power cycle your own gear without having to worry about touching the Media Rack.

Horizontal power supplies take up 1-2u’s in the rack and support somewhere between 8-12 outlets.  These start out around $395.

Companies like Luxul also make a Vertical Power Strip with half of the outlets controlled.  These start out around $599.

You don’t have to put everything in your rack on a controlled outlet, but honestly… it’s one of those times you’ll be so happy you did.

To give you a feel, I recently finished a 44U Media Rack, and we used 2 horizontal outlets strips, and 1 vertical outlet strip, but we have control of power for every item in the rack.

DC power supply

AC Inifinty rack fan

Remotely monitored

Network

Your home is going to have network gear that most likely sits in the rack, but it won’t be specific to the rack.

In addition to the home network gear, we’ll need some network gear for all the equipment in the rack, and to give power to things like your wifi Access Points.

Some people will use a simple Gigabit Network switch, that’s $200-300, and that is certainly understandable for budget.

We prefer to use a Managed POE Switch to run everything in the rack. If you’re not familiar with POE, it means we’re sending Power over the Ethernet.

Your wifi Access Points will need POE, and your Cameras might need POE as well.  If you don’t have a POE switch, you have to use POE injectors which are like gigantic transformers, and they’re a pain to manage cleanly in the rack.

Items in your rack like your Surround Receiver, your Music System, your Smart Home Platform be it Control4 or Savant, all need to be hardwired into the network.

So with a managed POE switch, we can power the access points and cameras, and provide network to items in the rack that need it.

There are less expensive ways to do this, but this keeps the rack clean, and super easy to service.

Labor

Lastly, you have to consider the labor.  We recently timed the trim and install of a very full 44U rack to verify how long it takes.

It took me one day in the shop to load the rack, add in all the jumpers, and custom length cables.

After we delivered it to the job site, it took me two full days to manage all the wires into the rack.

So we factor 24 hours of labor into the cost of each Media Rack for setup and install.

Raised Flooring

Before I wrap things up, I want to mention raised flooring. It’s more common in commercial applications, but you do see it residentially.

Raised flooring looks kind of like ceiling tiles only for the floor. You raise the floor 6-12″ and then hide all your cables underneath.

Especially in larger applications with multiple racks, there is so much wire to manage and hide, it’s cleaner to use raised flooring, and hide all the wire underneath.  The finished space looks clean and amazing.

Your raised floors usually run $10-20 per square foot plus install.

Rack Manufacturers

Like anything, Media Rack prices vary a great deal by Manufacturer, and the quality of racks vary greatly as well.

For most of our projects we use Forge Racks from TruAudio, and for specialty applications we use Middle Atlantic Racks.

What I will tell you is that the fit and finish from the manufacturer has a major effect on the final look and feel of the media rack.

A well manufactured rack can make or break your cable management, impact the long-term health of your electronics, and greatly improve serviceability of your system for you and your dealer.

I’m not suggesting you need to use the most expensive solutions unless the application calls for it, but you’ll certainly benefit from designing the Media Rack right.

So What Does A Finished Media Rack Cost

I know I’ve covered a lot and you’re probably wondering what on earth a Media Rack actually cost.

In my experience most installers give you a package price, but I think it’s helpful to see what all goes into a rack.

Here’s what a recent rack we created looks like on paper.

 

44U Forge Rack with side panels – $870

2 Luxul PDU8’s or Horizontal power supplies – $395ea

Vertical Luxul Power Supply – $599

AC Infinity Fan – $120

Luxul 26 Port POE Managed Switch – $1099.95

Custom Length RCA Cables for Audio Equipment – $200 est.

Custom Length HDMI – $75 est.

Custom Length Cat6 Jumpers – $125 est.

Custom Length Power Cables – $100 est.

Velcro & Zipties – $50 est.

Total Retail for Media Rack without labor – $4,029

 

Now every rack is going to be a little different, but hopefully you have a better idea of what a Media Rack cost.  If you need help designing a rack for your own system reach out to us, and we would be happy to help.

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Matt Montgomery, TYM, Salt Lake City, Ut

Named one of Technology Integrator’s Top Talent Under 40, Matt has designed systems for 10 national award-winning projects, including  "Home Theater of the Year", and "Custom Smart Home of the Year" from CTA™ (Consumer Technology Association). His ebook “How To Wire Your Smart Home” is a best seller among professionals and DIYers alike.  You can watch Matt share the secrets of his craft on YouTube!

Matt is a Golden State fan.

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