Outdoor entertainment is a hot trend, and gaining popularity even in states like Minnesota and Michigan. People from all regions of the U.S. recognize that it’s a great way to host a crowd—especially those party-throwers who may be a little short on space inside their homes—and thanks to advances in technology there are more options than ever when it comes to choosing A/V equipment for the backyard.
The cornerstone of most outdoor entertainment setups is the TV. Yes, you’ll want something large; yes, you’ll want something bright; and yes, you’ll want something that can withstand all kinds of weather conditions: hot temperatures, cold temperatures, rain, humidity, and wind. Oh, and that TV will need to hold up against dirt, dust, insects, and possibly even an errant splash of water from a garden hose.
There are basically two types of solutions for outdoor TV watching: A screen that’s been specially engineered to handle the weather or a standard TV placed inside a waterproof, weather-hardy enclosure. Each option has its merits, so it’s impossible to suggest one approach over the other. Your decision really boils down to budget and aesthetic preferences. Is your budget tight? Then buy an enclosure and stuff it with that TV that’s been gathering dust in the spare bedroom. Want something stunningly beautiful to mount over the mantel of your outdoor fireplace? Invest (heavily) in a TV designed to live outside from a company like Peerless-AV, Seura, and SunBriteTV.
Here is a list of factors you need to know about both outdoor TVs and outdoor TV enclosures that will help you decide which approach to take. The bulk of this information comes from Seura, Peerless-AV and Protective Enclosures Company (PEC).
• Outdoor TVs are expensive: The 42-inch Storm from Seura, for example, retails for between $2,899 and $4,999, the 55-inch model for between $4,799 and $7,499, the 65-inch Storm sells for $8,399 to $10,99, and the newest, the 84-incher, starts at $14,999 and tops out at $19,499. Comparably sized, technically advanced indoor TVs sell for a third of that cost.
• TV Shield enclosures from PEC start at around $399, and top out at about $900. Depending on the design of the enclosure, however, you may need to add a cooling fan, ventilation, humidity control, etc., according to Todd Mares, director of emerging technologies at Peerless-AV. This can drive up the overall cost dramatically.
• Seura TVs are housed in anodized aluminum and powder-coated steel, which makes the extremely weather hardy, and a built-in thermal control system keeps the TV and the optimal operating temperature.
• The TV Shield enclosures are manufactured with high molecular weight polyethylene—the same materials that outdoor plastic playground equipment is made out of), so they are very durable.
• The screen of the Seura Storm consists of dual-layer antireflective and UV-coated tempered glass to deliver a clear, vivid picture even on the sunniest of days. It also enables the TV to be viewed at wide angles.
• The ultra-clear cover on the TV Shield enclosure is made of shatter-resistant Lexan polycarbonate. Anti-glare options are available, but even then, says Mares, the heat and radiation generated by the sun within the enclosure can have adverse effects on a standard TV. You can always lift the shield, but then you may be dealing with glare.
• Outdoor TVs are heavy, due to the fact that additional ventilation, cooling equipment, etc. needs to be integrated into them. The 42-inch version of the Storm, for example, weighs 70 pounds (a 42-inch indoor Sony TV, by comparison, weighs 20 pounds); the 55-inch version weighs 110 pounds. This means you will need to buy a heavy-duty mount to attach the TV to a wall.
• Enclosures from PEC weigh less than 60 pounds and can hold TVs up to 60 inches. This makes it easy for a do-it-yourselfer to mount, and PEC charges nothing to ship it to your home. Plus, says PEC CEO Justin King, enclosures allow you to affordably update and upgrade your TV. You can buy an enclosure that’s slightly larger than what your current TV warrants so that you’ll have the room you need to put in a bigger TV later on.
• There’s no doubt about it: Outdoor TVs look great. Beveled edges, low-profiles, fancy bezels. They look just like the flat-panel TVs that go inside the house.
• Enclosures are by no means an eyesore, but they don’t have the visual sizzle that an outdoor TV does.