My Flypaper Mind Brenden Schaaf's opinions, ideas, comments, rantings, & minutiae

17Nov/100

Easily (and cheaply) hang a flat-panel TV

This is one of those posts that has been sitting in the back of my brain for a few months now, but I've just been too busy with other things to actually sit down for 30 minutes and bang it out.

I stumbled upon a deal on a plasma TV back in July and I decided that was a sign that I needed to replace the hulking 32" CRT that was taking up space in our bedroom.  Nevermind the fact that I had only recently lugged the behemoth upstairs when we bought a new LCD for the living room -- there was no mistaking the wisdom of purchasing a new TV for upstairs and ditching our old TV and the armoire in which it sits (both of which are still sitting in our upstairs hallway several months later).

Perhaps, like me, you have been relatively ignorant to the new TV technology and associated hardware and requirements.  I was surprised to learn, for example, that hanging a TV on a wall requires a wall mount that comes at a cost that is a large percentage of what I paid for the TV in the first place.  For example, the first mount I studied was at Costco and it was over $100.  Even basic, non-swiveling mounts at Costco can be expensive.  It turns out this is not unusual.  I was quickly able to determine that I could do without the swiveling/rotating features that allow the TV to extend from the wall and that doing so could save a bit of money, but I still wasn't prepared to spend $100 for a mount, but I'd prefer to do that than have my TV crash to the ground I reasoned.

Another issue with hanging a TV was cord management.  It does little aesthetically speaking to hang your shiny new TV on the wall and then run power, cable, DVD, etc. cords down or across the wall.  Plus taking some time to tuck the cords away goes a long way to keeping the marital peace I've found.  So I set off researching how to hide the cords in the wall and I was lucky enough to stumble upon a solution at monoprice.com.  A nice bonus is that they also sell  deals on sturdy wall mounts...at prices that look ridiculously cheap when compared to those offered elsewhere.

This, then, is the story of the solution I went with to successfully (it hasn't fallen yet) mount my 42" plasma TV to the bedroom wall keeping things looking nice and neat.

Wall mount

View of the bracket that screws to the TV. Once hung on the wall bracket, the small part at the bottom slides up and is screwed into a locked position to securely hold the two together. (click to enlarge)

As I mentioned above, I decided that I needed a stationary wall mount that allowed for slight tilting.  For barely over $20 I ordered product #3900 at MonoPrice.  In addition to being inexpensive, this is an extremely sturdy mount and the installation process was a snap.  Once I located the studs (relatively easy because of the outlets beneath my hanging area that I knew to be hung on a stud) I just had to bolt one side of the bracket to the wall and two other pieces screwed into the back of the TV.  Then it was like hanging a picture to put the TV onto the bracket.  All of this was a one-person job.  Before I could hang the TV, however, I needed to make sure that the cables would not be visible once the TV was in place.

Behind-set power and wall plate for low voltage cable passage

MonoPrice conveniently recommended product #4006 to me as an accessory to the wall mount bracket.  This is a recessed power outlet coupled with a tunnel that allowed the threading of low voltage cable through the wall.  Note that it is a code violation to thread power cords through the wall so that is the purpose of the power outlet on this device.  Simply mount it above an existing outlet and piggy-back on the power to that outlet by running sheathed electric cable between the locations.  If you aren't comfortable with this you can hire an electrician, though it is not very difficult.  For safety's sake turn the power off before you begin.

View of the wall plate and power/low-voltage outlet.

As can be seen in this photo, the wall plate has swivel tabs that allow for installation without an electrical box on the side that allows for low-votage cable passage.  This is needed because installing a box would block the passage of cables through the wall.  The side with the power outlet does require a single-gang box, which can be purchased at your local hardware store.

Like the MonoPrice wall plate, the electrical box will have tabs that screw out and then tighten to the back of the drywall until secure.  Tools needed for this are a small drywall saw and a couple screwdrivers.  You probably also will find a box cutter and/or wire stripping tool to be handy.

Second low voltage wall plate for cable passage

A second wall plate needs to be installed toward the bottom of the wall.  This is where HDMI, coax, and other audio/visual cable will enter the wall before exiting behind the TV.  Since this is a low voltage installation, the "box" is really just a bracket (get this at the hardware store as well) that allows for the installation of something like product #3997 from MonoPrice.  I chose this because it matched the outlet I ordered for behind the TV (mentioned above) and it was under $3.  I have no idea if these things are also sold locally, but for $3 it wasn't worth my time to find out. Like the wall plate above, a drywall saw and a couple screwdrivers are all that is needed for this part of the installation.

Cables

2nd wall plate for low voltage wiring pass-through. Note the yellow and green HDMI cables.

One of my big frustrations even when I can see all of my cables is trying to figure out what is plugged in where.  Hiding the cables behind the wall was sure to make this chore even more difficult.  Thankfully MonoPrice has the answer to this issue as well.  They sell HDMI cables in a variety of colors so I ordered several 10-foot cables in a variety of colors such as this yellow one.  That way I could easily know which cable was for the satellite box and which was for the DVD player.  I used a steel fish tape to thread the cables through the wall, but it would be possible to do this by unbending a coat hanger or with a string and weight if the holes in your wall are lined up fairly straight given that the distance between them isn't too big.  Wall studs are typically 16" apart and the cables need to run vertically within the same wall cavity to avoid having to travel through studs.  This means that the likely distance between the hole is limited to 3-4 feet.

Once you have installed the wall plates and the run the cables, simply screw things into place and hang up the TV.  In my experience, the entire installation took about 30 minutes, though time will vary depending on how many trips to the hardware store you need to make!  When all was completed, I had a solidly mounted TV on the wall with no wiring visible.  I consider this a job well done!

12Jun/100

Got a 2nd HDTV = more decisions than I bargained for

Is anyone using DirecTV Whole-Home DVR service? I'd like to hear how/if it works.

http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/content/directv/technology/wholehome

Here's the situation: we got a new flat panel for the bedroom and are looking at options where we can have HD service there but also watch shows in the bedroom that are on the DVR in our living room in HD quality.

Currently we have Dish Network and our current DVR (722) can output only SD signal to TV2. So a 2nd option (other than switching to DirecTV) is that we could upgrade to Dish 922k DVR and hope they release the "HDTV Multi-Room Extender" (which is really an HD SlingCatcher) soon also. I like Dish's receivers better than DirecTV's because it can record from over-the-air sources in addition to satellite sources so +1 to Dish for this as an option.

http://www.dishnetwork.com/tveverywhere/default.aspx

A 3rd option is to build a over-the-air DVR/PC for the bedroom. I could put a blu-ray player in that and it would do double-duty but, of course, we'd be limited to watching recorded shows in HD that came from over-the-air sources (which is probably 80% of what we record to be honest).  This idea is gaining favor in my mind now that I've written it, actually. A minor annoyance is that we would have some shows recorded in both places (on the PC in the bedroom and on the DVR in the living room) so it would be harder to manage what we have watched and not watched.

Every option has advantages/disadvantages to the point where I'm spinning in circles trying to decide what to do. Seeking advice!!

One final item of note is that my wife claims to not be able to tell the difference between SD and HD so this is only a big deal to me 🙂