Beginner or pro – best tips for creating an outdoor TV & outdoor living experience
Placing a TV outside can entertain, inform and keep people close to the action. It’s a crowd-pleaser for many restaurants, businesses, theme parks, stadiums, and residential homes, making installation knowledge a must for both commercial A/V pros and DIY home-owner electronics enthusiasts. And, yes, they do … they really do make specialized televisions for outdoors! These models are designed & engineered to be safer – with a better viewing experience – than their indoor cousins.
Whether you’re just starting to install outdoor HDTVs and displays or consider yourself a pro, installation of outdoor electronics has a set of specific, but easy-to-follow set of rules. We asked a few audio-visual professionals for pointers, tips and other ideas about what to do and what to avoid when it comes to installing outdoor displays.
1. Indoor TVs and outdoor TVs are not the same. Ask anyone who’s installed a true outdoor television about the biggest mistake novice installers make. The first thing they blurt out is how you shouldn’t even dream of using an indoor TV in an outdoor environment.
They love to talk about it, because it really is the worst possible decision for you, your client, the homeowner and especially the equipment.
Sure, we know plenty of people love to drag the TV out to the backyard on a nice summer evening. And yes, it’s a cheaper solution … but it isn’t a long-term solution. If your client is looking to make a TV a permanent fixture for outdoor living, the TV needs to be rated for outdoor use … meaning the TV displays have extra-bright panels and can fight off glare, resulting in a better picture under natural outdoor lighting conditions.
For commercial applications, true outdoor TVs are rated for longer duty cycles & continuous operation. They also fight off things like wind, water, bugs, summer humidity and winter cold. An outdoor TV can also dissipate heat. It’s fun to gather around a fire outside, as long as that fire isn’t coming from the TV!
2. Remember the warranty! On the off-chance you’re still thinking about using an indoor TV outside (big sigh), remember that most TV manufacturers advise against it. Look in the manual (you still have that, right?).
That fine print in the back typically suggests you keep the TV inside and will actually void the warranty if you do otherwise.
3. Mounts need all-weather love, too. Just like the TV, its outdoor mount needs to be rated for outside use as well. A regular mount – meant for inside use – can deteriorate under extreme hot and/or cold conditions.
An indoor mount starts to look bad, it rusts, and it could even fall apart. It needs to be able to withstand all of the elements, just like the TV. Sturdy outdoor mounts are made to handle the weight of outdoor displays, which are typically heavier than the average flat screen.
It’s worth noting that a drop-mount or ceiling mount may not be the best choice in windy areas. Instead, consider an articulating outdoor-rated mount. This delivers a wider range on the viewing angle and it won’t limit the audience to one viewing area, allowing users to tilt the TV toward the patio, the pool, the fire pit, or anywhere else people will congregate.
4. Cables, too. Just like lawns, patio furniture, and everything else that lives outside, cables can wear down and even crack when exposed to the outdoor elements. Like the TV and the mount, the cables need to be rated for outdoor use with UV protection.
5. Consider a drip loop. Speaking of cables, a drip loop is highly recommended for an outdoor TV installation. It’s basically the TV cable, but formed into a 180-degree loop that lives where the cable enters the display or any outdoor device. Having this gives water and moisture a place to go and helps prevent water intrusion, which can lead to costly repairs and replacements.
6. Size matters! The size of a screen can determine not only where you place it, but also the weight and mounting restrictions that should be considered. Of course, you need to have a spot that can support the size of the screen being installed. However, it not only needs to fit that spot, but should include a little wiggling room for maintenance needs.
If you do have the space, consider going big, which can deliver an awesome view to large crowds.
7. Location, location, location. Both lighting and weather conditions can put a damper on an outdoor viewing experience. If possible, pick a spot that is protected from the elements and doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight. If the placement isn’t flexible, it’s okay.
Many outdoor TVs are rated for harsh weather conditions and are sealed to protect against moisture and other outdoor conditions. If the screen receives direct sunlight exposure, make sure the outdoor display is direct-sunlight-readable with a bright, high-temperature panel.
8. Outdoor TV planning. Most people don’t spend enough time planning any installation, let alone one fraught with unpredictable weather issues. Being involved with a project from the beginning will save a lot of time, money, and energy. For instance, you don’t want to come into a project, only to inform the client that new cables need to be run or swapped out.
9. Have the proper power in place. As mentioned, no one wants to run new wiring after the walls are sealed. Don’t just think about the types of cables, but make sure you have the electrical power needed at your installation spot. If not, you’ll need to factor those costs into the planning stage. Hidden and unexpected costs are not pleasant surprises to bring up during the installation process.
10. Stay in control. If you’re splitting content from a cable box, satellite box, some other indoor source, or all of the above, think about how users will control the outdoor display. And do they need to control more than one TV? Make sure the user has the proper controller to access content, adjust the volume, and even switch sources if needed.
11. You can binge-watch outside. There are a plenty of ways to get content to an outdoor TV. If you plan to split a cable or satellite box, make sure that the proper wiring is already in place. If that’s not an option, media players are compact enough to conceal outdoors and several options can even tap into an existing WiFi network, provided a strong, stable signal is available.
Just make sure that the box is weatherproof. All-weather point-to-point wireless transceiver systems are also available, and can offer simple HDMI-in, HDMI-out wireless streaming.
12. Plan on a few delays. Proper planning takes time. However, there’s one thing you can’t plan out: the weather. Because this is an outdoor installation, it can be unpredictable. The environment, additional equipment, budgets and even “scope creep” can all throw a wrench into your timeline. Plan for potential delays and you’ll be a lot happier – so will your client.
Contributors to this article: Rachel Cericola; Kevin Burnley, President/Owner, Creative Audio Video and Automation; Arnie Rivera, VP of Solution Delivery & Client Services, Reflect Systems; Larry Benson, Engineer, SunBriteTV; Jonathan Johnson, Director Brand Marketing, SunBriteTV.