Will A Line Conditioner Improve Your Image?

December 1st, 2006 · 27 Comments · Reference Materials

The HD Guru’s readers have asked for the real story on power line conditioners. Are they really needed with an HDTV? Do they provide a sharper picture as some salesmen claim? How well do they protect the TV in case of a lightening strike or other electrical spike? What about surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS)? The HD Guru responds.
Potential Problems With Your AC Power
In the United States the alternating current (AC) sent from your electric company should be delivered to your home at a steady rate of 120 volts at 60 cycles per second. In some parts of the US, there are variations, resulting in voltages that are either too high or too low. Sometimes interruptions cut the power altogether. Delivery of too much power is called a voltage surge; too little, a voltage droop or sag. Electrical storms can deliver lightening strikes, which can produce catastrophic voltage surges capable of destroying the power supplies of all the electronics plugged into the system, whether they’re powered up or not. Air conditioner and refrigerator motors powering on and off can also cause momentary voltage fluctuations. Another potential power problem is electrical interference caused by industrial grade electrical equipment operating nearby as would be found in a factory. Your home’s wiring may also pick up electrical line interference or radio frequency interference (RFI) caused by, among other things, broadcast transmitters located in your vicinity.
Power Fluctuation Symptoms
Fluctuating voltages can cause lights to brighten and dim. TV, lights and other electrical devices may momentarily shut off due to total voltage dropouts. Radio frequency interference can create hum and/or video noise bars and static.
What Line Conditioners Can’t Do
Power conditioners can’t give your digital HDTV a sharper picture or better color, regardless of display technology, whether plasma, LCD, DLP, SXRD, or DILA rear projection. Period. Resolution is, by definition fixed, and so cannot be increased. If a salesman tells you otherwise, ask why are there no power conditioners connected to the dozens of TVs on display. All HDTVs have internal power supplies designed to filter and transform the incoming AC to voltages necessary for the set’s operational needs. These built-in power supplies do a great job, and are designed to accept a fairly wide range of line voltages. Can a power conditioner clean up heavy interference in your power line? Yes, but most of the time they are simply not necessary and will be of no use because the vast majority of households are free of electrical interference.
What You Need To Protect Your Television

While power conditioners cannot improve your picture, a surge protector can protect your set in the event of a power surge. What’s needed depends on the display and the amount of protection you can afford. For LCDs and plasmas the HD Guru suggests a surge protector at the very minimum. According to experts, the rating should be at least 360 joules. These are very inexpensive, with prices starting at under $20. For lamp driven devices such as microdisplay front and rear projectors, including LCOS (Sony SXRD and JVC DiLA), DLP and LCD, you should purchase an uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). The HD Guru also recommends using the UPS with digital video recorders (DVRs like TiVo). A UPS will prevent the lamp’s cooling fan motor (or hard drive in the DVR) from shutting off during a power failure. You need just enough battery power to cool off the projector to prevent premature lamp failure or a DVR’s power down. 10 minutes worth of battery back up is more than sufficient. Virtually all UPS units also have built-in surge protection.
UPSs’ are either on-line or off-line designs. The on-lines are best because they actively filter and convert AC wall power into DC (Direct Current) to charge the battery, while simultaneously converting the DC back to AC to run your HDTV or DVR. In addition to offering excellent line conditioning, on-line UPS systems provide surge protection. Because it’s “on-line” there is no voltage drop when the AC power fails. The switch to battery backup is seamless.
The Tripp-Lite SU750XL is a good on-line UPS. Rated at 750VA, it will run a 500-watt load for about 10 minutes, which is plenty of time to cool off the lamp in any projector or properly shut down a TiVo. While it retails for $449, a quick internet search found it for $288.93 + shipping.
Depending upon capacity off-line UPS prices start at around $40. Because the AC in/out circuitry is not coupled to the output there’s around a 1-millisecond switch between line current and battery power. Virtually all have built-in surge protection and many of the mid size and larger one also have line conditioners.
Bottom line? Instead of selecting a line conditioner with surge protection, which can cost up to $500 or more, get first-rate protection that includes surge and battery backup plus top quality line conditioning, for under $300 by purchasing an on-line UPS. For under $100 you can be protected from the most common surge and short-term power loss problems with a UPS with surge protection combo.
Copyright 2006 HD GuruSM all rights reserved

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27 Comments so far ↓

  • bwv

    I bought a furman line conditioner four years ago and i feel it sharpened my bluray picture up considerably.

  • Paul

    Lightning – no “e”

  • jared

    HD guru,
    I have a surge protector with a coxial cable input/output. If I take the cable that comes out of my wall and run it through the surge protector and then to my digital box will it hurt my HD signal?

    In other words; does a surge protector do anything to HD signals if used before the box?

  • Marrakesh Red

    HDG,

    I have a vintage stereo setup and I’m getting the radio through the speakers.
    I am sure this is due to very dirty power.

    My amps are 90watt tube units (kt88) and I use a digital media device with a crappy power supply that was included in the box 5.2v 2A

    I’ve been looking at power line conditioners and I’m not sure of the amps needed.
    If I compare some of the audiophile equipment specs then I need about 500-1000watts and 15 amps. These audiophile units are regenerating and correcting power. Do I really need a 15amp unit?! 90+90watt=180/120v=1.6amp???right?/?

    anyway I need some tutoring on this any ideas?
    I was looking at an older Juice Goose 300P or power-Matic Line conditioner 1kVA LC-3150 constant voltage.

  • Maxy

    The Article writer clearly didn’t actually use the recommended unit Tripp-Lite 750XL or they would know this unit is made for server closets and has a fan that is EXTREMELY loud. Be careful!

  • mojo

    Does using a “power line conditioner” extend the life of your television? I have a Samsung LCD 46′ 120 Hz television. The salesman I was dealing with stated that using a “power line conditioner” from Monster would do so. I can’t find any information that supports this. Please advise. Thanks

  • Jeff

    I have a Sony 50” 2020, but having a problem. When i turn on my audio receiver, the TV shuts down and start blinking green lights. I’m assuming this is a power issue, but wondering if it may be something else. I have a surge protector, but wondering if a more expensive UPS is necessary to fix this or some other device. And ideas?

  • robertb1278

    I have a 2 year old sony lcd tv. It only has one hdmi imput. Ihave directv with a hddvr.My question is.What is the best way to hook up other components that have hdmi outs? [dvd,stereo surround system]

    You either need a new surround sound receiver with HDMI switching or an external HDMI switcher. There are a number available today. Do a google search or check with the online retailers.

    The HD Guru 

  • etype2

    CRT televisions seem to benefit more from power conditioners. Richard Grey Power Company is a very good one. Crt have large power supplies compared to flat panels. I have seen a demo where black levels improved on crt,when using a power conditioner. Switching to a heavier gauge power cord to your amplifier may improve the picture.

  • john new lenox

    hey hdg thanks for the help i bought a monster power ht800 equiped with monster clean power. it solved my problem!!!! it will be a merry christmas thanks again

  • john new lenox

    can anyone suggest what my prob is with my tv? is it hum bar as well rolling red and green lines?

    If you disconnect all sources, i.e. cable, cable box, dvd player etc. does it go away? if no the TV is probably broken. If it disappears you have a ground loop. Read my previous comments. Most common source of ground loop is cable/satellite TV connection.

    The HD Guru 

  • Scott Monroe

    What can I do about hum bar? I have 2 different types of LCD televisions and they both have hum bar. I have tried running an extension cord to different electrical outlets in the house to no avail. I also installed a Monster power conditioner, also to no avail. Help! Thanks Scotty

    You too have a ground loop. Please see my previous response and follow the same instructions.

    The HD Guru 

  • Fred Popp

    Do your research. Monster does make power conditioners. Check out Monster Power website and you can review a whole line of power bars, and power cleaners. They call their technology “Clean Power” A rose by any other name is still a rose.

    Thank you for confirming what I have written

    The HD Guru 

  • Smokey Nietz

    Logged in this morning. Like techno geek wannabe’s I’m totally scrambled on the HDTV issue. Plasma vs. LCD. The one question I have is something I’ve heard and want to know the truth. Don’t buy plasma, it will burn images into the screen after a while. True or false?

    And, was searching your site for the Plasma vs. LCD article but could not find it. Please direct me there.

    Great Site, you’re helping remove the anxiety of shopping for a television.

    Thanx,
    Smokey

    Thanks. The article is in the November archives (button on left side of home page) here is the link

    http://hdguru.com/?p=16

    In it I explain how to avoid burn-in on a plasma.

    The HD Guru 

  • David Richardson

    Trying to get an evaluation on the edtv’s.Just wondering what you guys think since that is what I am leaning towards.

  • David Richardson

    This is my third message on this board and still no reply to any of them so was just wondering what I am doing wrong.

  • Mike

    I was wondering about the UPS needed for a HDTV. How critical is it to buy an online unit? Since they are at least 3 times the price of an offline UPS. I just bought a sony 46″ 3LCD TV & sound system that i would like to protect.

    Any surge protector will protect your HDTV. The better ones had lights to tell you they are still working, the cheap ones are designed to take one or two surges and don’t let you know if they are still effective. Next best protection is a surge with indication + off line UPS and the best is the type the HD Guru recommends because it provides all the above plus line conditioning if you have noisy powerlines.

     

    The HD Guru 

  • David

    Where is all f your empirical evidence backing up your idiotic claims? Why is Panamax endorsed by a majority of HDTV manufacturers? Also, Monster DOES produce a line of power conditioners.

  • Marvin Rex

    Is the Monster Box that a salesman tried to sale me the same thing as the power conditioner you are commenting on?

    Without knowing more I can’t say for sure. Monster Cable does make a line of power conditioners.

    The HD Guru

  • william greene

    does HDMI cables carry 5.1 sound?

    —————————————-

    Yes, if it is within the digital stream of the content going over the cable . 

    The HD Guru

     

  • Kevin August

    I just purchased a Sony HDTV 40 inch XBR2 and the HD channels look awesome. But, The other channels are very grainie. HDMI is whatI am using for the DVD and Cable box. Can I still hook up a Antenna to the tv even though I have HDMI hooked up to better quality from the channels that do not offer HD?

    Thanks.

    ——————————————————-

    Yes, by all means connect the antenna to receive local broadcasts. You will probably find additonal sub-channels not carried by you cable provider and may likely get better looking SD and HD images.

    The HD Guru 

     

  • Mike Calnan

    My Question on this is here in Canada Best Buy and Future shop recommend a product called ” Monster Cable” claiming it will give a better picture, is this what you are refering to?

  • Richard A. Springer

    I happen to work for an electronics retailer and the reason we push power conditioners for high quality HDTV’s is because all those EM and RF interference’s are picked up by the tv and displayed as a video picture. If you do not believe me take two of the exact same tv with the same video source. Connect one with a HIGH QUALITY power conditioner and one with a regular surge protector (by high quality I mean the build not price, you can find decent ones for $250 dollars and up.) Compare things such as sharp edges, lettering and the tv’s motion displaying capabilities. The tv with the power conditioner will look significantly better. TV’s are developed in laboritories with pure AC power free from interferences and at a steady 120 volts, so the only way to have a TV perform to the factory specificatoins is to give it the same power. Kind of like a high-performance car with high octane gas, cause if you use lower grade gasoline the car is not going to perform right. And I have never heard someone saying that a PC surge will make the picture sharper, I agree that if someone were to say that I would question their integraty. Please feel free to email me back with any questions or comments. And please do not bash on us salesman, Discovery Channel is my favorite and the picture quility is the best so please keep your own integrity by not misinforming comsumers. Thank you.

    Richard A. Springer

    ————————————————————————————–

    Here is an excerpt from the article

    “Resolution is, by definition fixed, and so cannot be increased. If a salesman tells you otherwise, ask why are there no power conditioners connected to the dozens of TVs on display. All HDTVs have internal power supplies designed to filter and transform the incoming AC to voltages necessary for the set’s operational needs. These built-in power supplies do a great job, and are designed to accept a fairly wide range of line voltages. Can a power conditioner clean up heavy interference in your power line? Yes, but most of the time they are simply not necessary and will be of no use because the vast majority of households are free of electrical interference. ”

     I did not claim a power conditioner does not clean up electrical interference. I wrote, based on my research that most people don’t have dirty AC, but as stated above Yes, it will clear  AC line interference.

    To restate my point, the best solution is a quality on-line UPS, (i.e Tripp-lite mentioned) because it provides pure sine wave A/C  power, surge and uninteruppted power in during a power failure to safely shut down the display. Why pay 2-3 times as much for just a line-conditioner with surge?

    To further clarify, having interference affect the input signal or display is NOT the same as increasing resolution or sharpness of the display which is what I have heard salesman claim.  Bottom line, if you need to condition your power, do it with an on-line UPS.

    The HD Guru 

  • josh kimchee

    So, if I hook up a Monster power raptor mark 6 to my cat, what will happen?

  • Scott Bowler

    I was just wondering. My neighbor just purchased a TV and dish. And was wondering if you can split the HD signal to different tv’s using the same receiver?

    ————————————————————————————————————-

    You need an HD distribution amplifer. The are available in component video and HDMI. Try Key digital and Gefen .

    The HD Guru

     

  • jonesey

    hd wuz wonderin why i cant run my hdi cables through my receiver.i have optium cable aka io cable.sony grand wega 70 inch screen 2 years old.sony 7100es receiver and sony 9100es cd player.i ran the dvi/hdmi cable from the cable box to the receiverand ran the hdmi connection from the receiver to the dvi on the tv but no picture wuz wonderin any short cuts no picture.so i ran the cable from cable box to tv and ran audio to receiver.cablebox has ditgital audio wuz wondering how to get it THE COLOR WIRE IS RED,WHITE,BLACK.i have no colors like that on my receiver.THANKS HD

  • benjamin barlow

    what would be better an hd dvd player of blue ray disc. i would really like to know what to buy to get the best out of my hdtv thank you.

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