Installing LCD TVs Everywhere 
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Written by Bryan Dailey   
Friday, 01 April 2005

AV Education on RHT

Installing LCD TVs Everywhere

Written by Bryan Dailey

Why is it that the best ideas always come in the bathroom? From the first moment I laid my eyes on a small wall-mounted LCD TV on the wall above the urinals at a high-end golf course in Las Vegas several years ago, I knew that someday my dream home was destined to have TVs like this in the bathrooms, too. When I first dreamed up this idea, even the smallest of LCD TVs were well over $1,000 and the picture quality was marginal at best. As prices have fallen and the quality of the picture of most LCD panel TVs has gone up, the idea of having several rooms with wall-mounted TVs began to creep into my mind as well.

Having moved into a new town home a few months back, I decided I would have things pre-wired for my harebrained scheme should I decide to actually go through with putting a TV in every bathroom and one in the kitchen. As the prewire was happening, it became quickly apparent that I would not only need the AV wires – including coax – as well as any other connections such as S-video and RCA connectors wired back to a location where I had source components, such as a DVD player and satellite receiver, but I also needed power. I had extra outlets installed at all of the points on the wall in my home where I would be putting LCDs.

For the first few months after the construction was completed, I simply took pieces of artwork and covered the outlet boxes that framed the holes that had been cut for the wire. I then took plastic safety caps that are used for keeping little children’s fingers out of electrical sockets and covered up the unused outlets and then put artwork over the unsightly covers on the wall. It would be most unwise to cover an exposed outlet with artwork that has any kind of flammable backing, so use utmost care and consult a professional electrician for any matters involving electrical outlets. For this installation, I had the help of the local audio/video sales and installation company Audio Concepts based in Long Beach, California.

Since my project was new construction, I was sort of at the mercy of the subcontractors who were building the home. The location of items, such as the towel bar in my guest bathroom and the medicine cabinet in the master bathroom, was already predetermined. In the master bathroom, the space between the closet door and the medicine cabinet was just wide enough for a 15-inch LCD display to be mounted. In the guest bathroom, the wall space allowed for as much as a 17 or 20-inch LCD, but the size of the bathroom is such that a 13 or 15-inch display would be a better fit and not dominate the room. While it seemed like a simple process to throw up the wire and outlet during the prewire, much to my chagrin, when I toured the home during the walkthrough at the end, the towel bar had been mounted in such a way that the LCD would have to be mounted about a foot too far to the left. In my mind, I had wanted to have the TV in perfect alignment with the towel bar but the way that the studs in the wall lined up, this was simply not meant to be.

There are two simple solutions to this problem, with one being easier then the other. The easiest, but not the most attractive solution, would be to remove the towel bar and patch and paint the holes that were left behind, then remount the towel bar to the wall in a perfect alignment with where the TV was mounted. This will work aesthetically, but the chances of the towel bar being attached where the studs in the wall are placed are essentially zero, so you would need to use very strong drywall anchors. Otherwise, a strong tug on the towel bar will pull it right out of the wall.

The other and more attractive solution to the problem would be to remove a large section of drywall, move the outlet and connection wires over to a stud that is closer to the center of the towel bar, then put a large two-foot by six-foot block running between the studs, so the TV mount can be drilled and mounted anywhere on it, rather than be forced to have to mount it on a stud that won’t necessarily be in the center of the towel bar. All this being said, I currently have one TV that is slightly out of alignment with the towel bar and I have to decide for myself which option I want to go with for correcting the situation.

When it came time to choose wall mounts for the TVs in my home, I looked at Vantage Point’s vast line of LCD mounts. I decided on brackets with a swiveling and tilting arm for the bathrooms, so you could watch TV in either the tub or the shower. For the kitchen, I chose a flat mount that would allow the TV to be tilted up, down, left and right, while remaining in a fixed position. The kitchen-mounted TV is in a small walkway between my kitchen island and my living room wall, so I did not want there to be a chance that someone could walk by and have the TV swing out and hit him on the head. The fact that the TV could tilt down allowed me to mount it just high enough and then angle it down so that it would not get any glare from the recessed lights in my kitchen and would not be affected by glare.

To keep things simple, I decided that I would make the TVs an extension of what is playing on the TV in the adjoining room. In other words, whatever is playing on the TV in the master bedroom is also playing on the TV in the master bath. This was easily achieved using splitters and the multiple outputs of my Dish Network receivers. Having separate sources for the TVs may sound like a good idea. However, when the volume is turned up on two TVs that are so close together, the effect is simply annoying and sometimes unnerving. The way I wired it, I can get ready for the day starting in the bedroom and transition to the bathroom while keeping the same show going.

In the kitchen, the fact that I could not see the HDTV in my living room while cooking or washing dishes was the reason that I decided to put a wall-mounted LCD at a 90-degree angle just around the corner from my 61-inch JVD HD-ILA TV. At first, I had a nice 20-inch standard definition LCD for the wall, but I quickly learned a little something about the output of my HD PVR from Dish Network. When watching a standard definition broadcast, the signal would be passed out of the secondary component output and would show up on the LCD, so whatever was on the big TV was also on the smaller one. Of course, since the 20-inch LCD was not an HD-capable set, when a football game on ESPN HD came on, the screen in the kitchen could not accept the incoming signal, so the screen would turn solid blue. I checked with Dish Network to see if a scaled-down 480 signal could be passed to the small TV, while the big one got the full bandwidth signal via DVI output, but unfortunately it was either/or. This problem was quickly solved by returning the 20-inch LCD and purchasing a 17-inch HD-ready widescreen LCD. Now, when the big game is on, simply pop the LCD on while I'm in the kitchen so I can follow the action. I have the option of dialing in a little volume from the LCD or I can crank up the main TV a little and simply use the small TV as a monitor. Overall, the upgrade to an HD LCD panel cost me about $100 more than the non-HD LCD.

For all of the cabling, I used a special type of wall-mount plate that looks like a standard electrical outlet box but is sunk in about an inch. A company called Levitan makes a whole host of connectors that I used to terminate all my in-wall connections. Then I simply ran the shortest cable runs possible to each TV. For my smaller 15-inch standard definition TVs, the AC adapters were wrapped up and velcroed to the back of the display. For the 17-inch HD unit, the power cord was a simply power cable like you’d find on the back of a computer monitor, so I found the longest one I could and ran it through the wall and plugged it into the outlets that are hidden behind my bigscreen TV.

In the end, I'm about 80 percent pleased with the results of my project and I have learned some things in the process that I would have done differently if I’d known them earlier. I should be able to get things to my complete satisfaction with just a little more effort. I had envisioned the TVs sitting completely flush with the wall and having absolutely no wired exposed. To do this, a small notch will need to be cut into each wall and then the mounting hardware and the wires will need to be moved back several inches. I would have a professional electrician hardwire the TVs rather than using a standard outlet plug with utmost care taken to avoid creating a fire hazard inside my walls. Also, I know that over a certain amount of time, having an LCD TV in a humid area like a bathroom is going to take its toll on the internal parts of the set, so when these TVs finally go out, I’m going to look into what options there are for the kind of all-weather TVs that you might find on a watercraft installation. The current prices of these types of units were cost-prohibitive at the time of this project. However, I felt the same way several years ago about standard LCD sets. You also may want to consider creative locations for video monitors in your home.

For the guys who are worried that your wives might cringe at the idea of you installing TVs in every corner of the house, the solution is simple: draw a nice warm bubble bath, light a few aroma therapy candles, order in a few dozen roses and cue up some “Desperate Housewives” or spin an episode of “Sex in the City” and your problem is solved. Warning: this method doesn’t work nearly as well when trying to lug six-foot-tall speakers into your living room.

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