Accessories You Need When Wall Mounting an HDTV
We don’t really miss the old picture tube or rear projection TV (RPTV) in our living room anymore. Those giant, 100+ pound beasts that dominated the room, with their own custom giant bookcases and other furniture meant to hold them. We tried to hide them away, but when you bought yourself that 70” RPTV that was the only thing people saw when you walked into a room.
Now we just go out with our ultra-slim flat panels and place them anywhere we want, or go ahead and mount them up on the wall to get them out of the way, and let them be in a room without taking it over. Getting that TV up and off its stand and on the wall, hanging free like a nice picture or mirror is easy enough that I can do it, and I am certainly not a handyman. However, before you go ahead and put it up on the wall, you’re going to need to do more than pick up a mount for $40 the next time you drop by Costco, so let’s look at everything you need to make that TV disappear onto the wall.
The first thing you need is a mount, and there are two main types: An ultra-thin flat model, or one with arms so you may pull out and angle the TV called an articulating TV mount. The ultra-thin mount does what it implies, and gets the TV as close to the wall as possible, which is especially important if you bought that new LED LCD just because of how thin it is. An articulating model lets you swing the TV out from the wall and into the room, great if you want to have it hidden away most of the time, but be able to watch it more easily with a group of people by swinging it out. Now you can get articulating mounts that are as thin as 1.34” deep, so you can get the best of both worlds.
The two brands we recommend at HD Guru are Peerless and Chief. Cheaper mounts from other companies are available. However, cheap flat mounts don’t hug the wall. The Chief LSTU Thinstall Fixed Mount gets the TV just .39-inches from the wall and sells for $112 from AV Center via Amazon
Cheaper articulating mounts? We’ve run into one major problem: the display isn’t held perfectly vertical. Your display might meet the manufacturers recommended size and weight, but it will still tilt forward. Gary ran into this problem with a Sanus articulating mount. Cheap articulating mounts may also experience unwanted forward movement as they wear-in from normal use. We say stay away.
Peerless offers their SUA751PU Ultra Slim Full-Motion Plus Wall Mount and holds TV flat panel just 1.34-inches from the wall. It’s a little more expensive ($189.99 supports TVs up to 55-inches) than the crappy Sanus and others, but it works well is very well built, and you can get the TV almost against the wall. Chief offers the Thinstall line, and the larger TS525TU Chief Thinstall Wall Mount ($343.94 Av Center via Amazon) works for up to 58” displays while being only 1.5” away from the wall. Both of these swing out over 2’ away from the wall and include cable management, to keep your TV looking really nice when against the wall or pulled away from it. This provides you the most flexible option, and if you’re wall mounting a really thin LED LCD, you really want the articulating arm due to the inherent viewing angle issues that LCDs suffer from.
Another thing to note here is that your wall mount bracket should only install into studs. Not into wall anchors that are rated for 80 lbs. or something similar, but studs. Using anchors is a certain way to come home and wonder why the nice TV fell off the wall one day. They also are hazard if you have children in the house, as they may end up with the flat panel falling on them. If you’d rather keep your TV in one piece, find the studs.
Now that you have a mount, you’re done and ready to go, right? No. Here’s what else you need?
The Video Signal
What good is a TV on the wall with no signal for it? Since wireless HDMI still isn’t a totally unified standard, or as clear and reliable as hard wired HDMI, you’ll want to run a cable up to your display. Now you have to run this in the wall, look for is a cable that is CL2 certified. Is an HDMI cable likely to burn down your house? No, not really. But there usually is no price difference, and then you aren’t breaking fire code, putting your insurance coverage at risk.
The second thing to consider is the size and weight of the HDMI cable. Yes, we know that all HDMI cables are the same as far as audio and video quality, but the same isn’t true of construction. Most long HDMI cables that are long are also heavy and thick to make sure that signal gets there fine. Because they’re heavy and long, they don’t make sharp bends well, and most thin flat panels only have a few precious inches from the connectors to the edge of the screen, and if you extend beyond that your wall mounting job looks bad. So how do you deal with this problem?
One option, flat HDMI cables, such as the Cable Matters 35ft CL3 Rated Hi Speed HDMI Cable. Most are flexible enough to move away from the TV edge to be tucked out of sight. However, its flat profile makes them harder to use with cable management systems since they’re often too wide to fit correctly. The better option is a cable using RedMere technology. RedMere uses an integrated chip to enable the cable to operate over long distances, while being ultra-thin and limp, like cooked spaghetti. Note: these active HDMI cables only work in a single direction. They also have come way down in price, adding 40’ RedMere cable from Amazon will run you under $60.
The one item we can’t warn you about enough is to test the cables before you install them, and before you finish up all the final install work. If a cable works at the start, the only reason it is going to stop working is because the hardware physically breaks, or if you install a RedMere cable the wrong direction. If you find out its bad after you’ve run it 35’ in a wall, it’s going to hurt a lot more than if you find it out after you open the box from Amazon.
So now we have a wall mount, and we have a cable, what next? If you are using the TV as a HDMI switch you will need an equal number of HDMI cables from your sources. (Alternatives are an external HDMI switch or a switching AV receiver). Typically sources are a cable box or DVR and a Blu-ray player for a Smart TV. If your new TV does not have Internet streaming, you can get it from a number of Blu-ray players or perhaps you will also want a media player such as a Roku 3
Installing a back-up HDMI cable in case a connector breaks or fails (it happens usually due to a mishap) is cheap insurance.
Many flat panel TVs still don’t have integrated WiFi. They might sell an optional adapter, but some of those stick out too far, ruining the look, or may interfere with the mount. WiFi is less reliable than an Ethernet cable. We recommend a “hardwired” connection whenever possible. Unfortunately Ethernet-over-HDMI hasn’t caught on, so we still need to run that Ethernet cable from your router/switch to the TV if you want Smart TV functions, like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and apps as well as firmware updates. Ethernet cables are dirt cheap, so you can pick up a 50’ one for less than $10 and run it when you run the HDMI cable. If your TV has WiFi and works perfectly, then you might feel fine skipping this, though for $10 to run it at the same time as the HDMI cable, I’d be likely to do it myself.
Part of the joy of having your TV on the wall is that now you can put that stack of components away where no one can see them, and make the room feel like a regular room again. Now your TV is halfway across the room from your cable box and Blu-ray player, but still gets a great signal, but how do you control them? Add an infra-red repeater. They consist of several parts, the infra-red receiver that reads your remote control, a transmitter box and infra-red emitters that are placed by the remote eye on your cable box, Blu-ray player etc. A Smarthome IR Repeater System from Amazon sells for $50.98
With an IR repeater, you simply install the IR receiver near or under the TV (Velcro may work) or wherever you want to point your remotes, and then that connects to a control box that then repeats the IR signal to your other components. The products use the same cabling as your earbuds so it is very thin and easy to hide, and because they’re just repeating the signal they are given there is nothing to program. Now you can keep the other components away behind doors, or even in a closet, and away from the room.
Finally, somehow you need to get power up to your TV, right? This is also the hardest issue, since it involves running cable that actually could be a fire risk if done incorrectly, and if you’re like me you don’t like working with high voltage wires. One option is to get another outlet installed behind the TV, but that probably requires a licensed electrician, and costs a lot more than the other option. Or if you already have a power outlet behind where you’re putting the TV, then simply add this Panamax In-Wall Surge Protector and you’ll have your display protected.
For me, the easy solution is purchasing an item like this from Amazon to install behind your mount, and below it. It has a cable channel for the HDMI and Ethernet cables you already need to run, and it has no power until you connect it. It also can use your existing surge protector, so you don’t need to buy another one for it. If the included cable is too short for you, it is very easy to go to Home Depot or Lowes and pick up a longer in-wall power cable for it while still maintaining the simplicity of it. Look, if I can install this, which I have, then anyone can, and your TV will look great.
Your source components (Blu-ray, cable box etc. ) will need its own surge protector. If you have a DVR we recommend a small uninterrupted power supply (UPS) like the Tripp Lite 550U UPS. It’s $59.06 and will protect your DVR’s hard drive during short or momentary black outs.
Wall mounting your TV is a lot more than simply buying a mount and throwing it up there one afternoon. It’s not hard to do, but you want to make sure to plan ahead and buy everything you need before you start so you aren’t coming back in a week because you can’t use Netflix, or you have a power cable running down the wall. It’ll look like a professional did it, and you’ll have reclaimed that room from the TV for good.
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