Here’s a good article on outdoor living from Great Day Improvements.
Our backyard is a nature-blessed sanctuary of peace and beauty. But there are times when—I’m embarrassed to admit—we’d like to watch TV in the midst of all that natural goodness. After we researched the possibilities, though, we realized that water- and weather-proof outdoor TV protectors have yet to catch up with the high-tech qualities of the televisions we’d like them to protect.
Confronting the Usual Suspects
The usual problems that must be overcome to have television outside are:
Weather – Even mild weather creates heat and cold out of the ordinary range for indoor TVs. Rain is another animal altogether, and snow is always a problem. The usual solutions for weather protection have to do with fail-safe sealing, grommets, fans, and heaters.
Condensation from heat and humidity – Moisture will collect wherever you find dew, so an outdoor environment is a condensation collector. Electronics don’t like moisture. You can compensate for condensation with a small fan installed inside the unit and/or moisture-removing silica gel packs.
Extreme heat and cold – Electronics don’t like extreme heat either, which is why you often see them paired up with fans of some sort. Likewise, in below-freezing climates, you’ll want to install some kind of heater to keep everything from cracking and deteriorating.
We checked out various possible solutions and discovered that each has their own set of problems:
- Add a sunroom. This solution protects the television from weather, sun, and robbery better than any other method we looked at. We’re not out in the middle of the backyard oasis, which is the only drawback, but with windows all around us, we feel like we are, and we’re protected from the elements.
- Buy an “outdoor TV”. Did you know that such things existed? We were surprised to find out they do. They are the state-of-the-art solution for having a TV outside year-round in all kinds of extreme weather, including snow and heavy rain. They can be fraught with problems of their own, and they’re expensive, ranging from about $2,000 for a small 22-inch TV to about $7,000 for a 55-inch TV set. (These are all fully HD LCDs. Apparently the Plasmas create havoc when exposed to extreme heat.)
- Buy an “outdoor TV” enclosure. These things can be pretty iffy and they cost upwards of $700. If you read the marketing lingo real carefully, you’ll notice that the words “weather proof” are avoided. Weather resistant is what they are. And depending on your climate, you’ll probably have to fork over even more money for humidity-control gel packs and interior fans and heaters. The installation of your outdoor TV isn’t for lightweight do-it-yourselfers, either. If you don’t own a good electric drill and know the right way to measure between drill holes, the precision required will defeat you, and may even ruin the entire unit. Also, if you decide to buy one of these ready-made solutions, we recommend that you get steel, not plastic, since plastic can easily be broken into.
- Build a weather-proof cabinet. This is a simpler solution, and much cheaper. You can make a cabinet out of wood, plastic, or metal. The idea here is that you simply store the TV in the cabinet and only open up the front when you want to watch it. The main problem with this is that the box will trap heat, which will often condense into dampness that can eventually damage the TV. But each time you open it up, you let the air circulate and the condensation will dry up.
- Turn a house window into a TV screen cover. This is a unique idea that might work for some. Just point the TV screen out an existing window and install outdoor speakers. Simple, cost-effective, and smart. The problem with this solution is that your TV screen will not provide the quality you’re used to. A helpful tip is to open the window when you want to use the TV.
- Soft outdoor TV cover. For about $60, you can buy these to protect your outdoor television, or you can make them out of any soft weatherproof material, such as vinyl. If you decide to make it, just create a sealable bag with good, strong seams and something like Velcro for a closure. One big drawback, of course, is that you can’t put a lock on it. You could store the TV in a lockable outdoor cabinet, such as a bar, inside its soft cover, when not in use. That would also give it further protection from extreme temperatures. Check it now and then for condensation.
- Surrender to life’s frailties. Many outdoor TV-watchers get cranky and overwhelmed at this point and just decide to put a cheap television outside until it breaks, and then replace it with another one. This is a surprisingly viable solution for some families, but keep in mind that indoor televisions pose a risk of electrical hazard if they are placed outside.
A DIY Waterproof TV… or a Box with a Sealed Door?
For you die-hard do-it-yourselfers out there, before you start drawing up plans for your homemade waterproof TV enclosure, take a good look at this overview posted on AV Forums, which shows the process from the beginning through the bitter end. You might conclude that your best bet is to simply make a box with a sealed door, weather stripping at every seam, and an internal fan. You’ll want to put a good-quality lock on it too. Think about using wood, instead of plastic or metal. It can be waterproofed and is much easier to make such things out of. Laminated plywood for marine applications might be just the thing. Be sure to make the cabinet roomy, so that air will circulate inside and to give you space to put additional components.
If you’re planning to keep the TV in an environment that sometimes goes below freezing, you might think about installing some kind of thermostatic heating system to protect it… or taking the whole shebang inside during the winter. Since this defeats the whole original goal, we’re back to either using an economical set outside and replacing it when it breaks (as break it will), or building a sunroom around a TV and calling it a day.
A couple of things to consider before jumping in with your hammer and saw:
- Frequently, television manufacturers will refuse to honor any warranty or guarantee claim if they think you kept the TV in a humid, extremely hot or cold, dusty environment.
- Whatever option you finally choose for watching TV outdoors, try to find a place where the set will be at least somewhat sheltered and in the shade, such as under an awning, close to one of the walls of the house. You might even consider putting it on a cart with rollers, so you can move it as weather or convenience dictates.
- Above all, remember that electricity and water, even humidity, simply do not mix, and can be dangerous for the uninitiated. When in doubt… leave it out!
When you think about all the problems you have to solve just to watch TV in your back yard, isn’t it amazing how effortlessly Mother Nature sails through?