Outdoor TV Options Compared

When planning for an Outdoor TV or Digital Signage display you have 3 choices to compare, standard TV, Weatherproof TV, Outdoor TV Enclosure. I will attempt to give you a brief overview of the options. The best advice is to do your research to be sure you understand the options and to make the proper choice for your application.

As Americans continue their migration to warm weather states industries associated with outdoor living have seen a significant growth in business as well. Companies that supply outdoor kitchens, outdoor furniture, outdoor entertainment and landscaping have experience a steadily growing market during the past decade. We relocate to more tempered climates to enjoy the outdoors for longer stretches of time. Even in the colder northern states we see growth in outdoor living. Since my expertise is in Audio Video Integration I will focus this writing on a growing segment of the market, outdoor TV.

Over my 20 year career in Home and Commercial entertainment products outdoor TV screens went from a small majority of wealthy clients to basically a standard feature in every home. The desire to extend living space outdoors, watch the game while barbecuing some burgers or maybe watch a night time movie while relaxing on your patio has been a driving force in the expansion of outdoor living products.

Going back to my early experience with outdoor TV the only choice we had was to select an inexpensive TV, do our best to protect it from the elements and hope for the best as far as durability and longevity. A few TV mounting manufacturers introduced protective outdoor enclosures but the pricing was very high and again only for the wealthy. When you combined the high price of Plasma or LCD TV’s at the time with the high price of the TV enclosure the cost became prohibitive for all but a few clients.

When placing a standard TV the expected lifespan of the TV was greatly reduced due to moisture and particle infiltration in to the electronics and possible damage to the TV from airborne debris. Some clients had great luck and their TV’s lasted for a few years. Many were not so lucky. That is one reason the market was restrained to the more wealthy clients who could afford to replace their outdoor TV when necessary. Of course TV manufacturers would void any warranty on an indoor TV used in outdoor conditions. This is still the case today.

You have three options for outdoor TV and Commercial Digital Signage applications.

1) As discussed above, purchase an inexpensive indoor TV and hope for the best.

2) Purchase a value added third party weatherized outdoor TV.

3) Purchase an outdoor TV enclosure.

There are pros and cons with each solution. I would suggest that you do your research to select the best solution for your application.

Option #1, Standard TV placed outdoors;

The main change from what we have already discussed with option #1 is the huge reduction in the price of flat panel TV’s. Anyone who purchased one 10 years ago and has gone shopping for a new TV has experienced this first hand. Beyond that the same potential issues still exist. If you choose this option be prepared for the possibility that your TV may just go “poof” one day never to shine again. Ironically this of course will occur in the middle of the game or during the climactic scene of the movie neither of which is a fun experience. I can’t tell you how many times we would get calls from clients whose TV’s decided to stop working at the worst possible times.

Option #1 Summary; for those with a limited budget and that have a bit of a gambler in them this is the right solution. Just keep in mind that the clock is ticking from the first day you mount your TV outside. I would recommend buying a new TV for your family room and moving the old TV outdoors. It will hurt much less when it decides to go “poof” on you.

Option #2 Weatherproof TV;

As the market for outdoor living continued its growth a few companies introduced the Weatherproof TV. The weatherproof TV offers an attractive self contained package that fits nicely into most designs. Most of the weatherproof TV models offered were from “value added manufactures”. These are manufacturing companies that take an already existing product and customize it for more specialized applications.

The process;

1) utilize a standard indoor TV

2) disassemble it

3) weatherize the components

4) reassemble it under their brand name.

One outdoor TV manufacturer lists; LG, Hitachi, Vizio, JVC, and Hisense as “model donors” for their TV’s.

The weatherproof TV offers a solution to the protection from rain or water infiltration but offers little or no protection against vandalism or airborne debris striking the screen. A review of their websites shows no mention of the protection capabilities of the

The weatherproof TV also comes at a premium price. The price could be 5 times or more of the price of a standard TV. This is still the case today. While these TV’s offer protection against the weather they.

Here is an example from the Best Buy website on 9-10-2014.

Outdoor TV – SunBrite TV Signature Series – 55″ Class – LED – 1080p – 60Hz – HDTV $4,100.00.

Standard TV – VIZIO E-Series – 55″ Class – LED – 1080p – 120Hz – Smart – HDTV $680.00.

Option #2 Summary; when design aesthetics are the most important element of your project, price/budget is not a concern and protection from vandals or debris is not an issue then the weatherproof TV is the right choice.

Option #3; Outdoor TV Enclosure;

In recent years a popular alternative has emerged, the outdoor TV enclosure or outdoor TV cabinet. The benefit of the outdoor TV cabinet it that you can place any flat screen TV outdoors and have it protected from the elements and potential vandalism. The pricing on these units range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the size, quality and level of protection offered.

Let’s take our 55″ TV from above at $680.00. The price for a weatherproof,vandal resistant outdoor TV cabinet will range from $1000 to $2000. Add that to the price of the TV and you’re still well below the cost of the weatherproof TV. When we look at commercial applications for restaurants, sporting facilities, digital advertising where multiple displays are required the potential savings could be substantial.

The two main construction materials used for the enclosure/cabinet are;

1) Polyethylene, is the most common plastic. Polyethylene is a thermoplastic polymer consisting of long hydrocarbon chains. a durable plastic with good outdoor use properties.

2) Powder Coated Steel, Powder coated products are more resistant to diminished coating quality as a result of impact, moisture, chemicals, utraviolet light, and other extreme weather conditions. In turn, this reduces the risk of scratches, chipping, abrasions, corrosion, fading, and other wear issues.

The proper research to address your specific requirements is required you ensure you make the correct choice.

Outdoor Plastic Cabinet

Pros; plastic is waterproof, durable, large operating temperature and light weight.

Cons; the material can’t support heavy loads and has then tendency to flex or bend in larger sizes. This limits its effectiveness to smaller size TV’s.

Steel Cabinet

Pros; waterproof, strong rigid material, large operating temperature, durable when powder coated, can be manufactured to accommodate large TV’s.

Cons; steel cabinets are heavier than the plastic enclosures.

Polycarbonate

Pros; strong material, used in bullet proof glass applications.

Cons; lower light transmission then glass, tendency to scratch which can’t be repaired, will yellow over prolonged exposure to sunlight, high reflection and glare from the material.

Optically Bonded Tempered Glass

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