Lessons Learned When Wall-Mounting TVs

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Tuesday was a big day in the Broughall household. After years of having to unpack, setup, review, repack, and send back countless flat panel TVs, I finally had my very own plasma delivered and installed. But despite being more fortunate than most consumers in having previously tested plenty of TVs in the comfort of my own loungeroom, there were still a large number of lessons to be learned from the experience of wall-mounting for the first time.

So if you're planning on buying a new flat-panel TV, or thinking of sticking your current screen up on the wall, there are plenty of important factors you'll need to consider. Luckily, I've just been through the process, so you can learn from my mistakes...Lesson 1: Pay someone to install it for you When I purchased my plasma from Harvey Norman a couple of weeks ago, I knew that I wanted to wall mount. The salesman offered to sell me the bracket there and then, suggesting that I could stick it up with the assistance of a strong friend. I'm glad I declined.

The installation and delivery fee cost me $400 odd bucks on top of the TV, but it was worth every cent. My installer - Paul - from Harvey Norman's Tech2Home service was friendly, polite, and professional. A qualified electrician, he knew the ins and outs of installing TVs, which solved a heap of problems I would have completely botched. And even though I was quite keen on helping him install the TV myself (and sorting out all the connections), he could just have easily called in some backup when it came time to stick the TV on the wall.

Lesson 2: Not all brackets are created equal There are three main types of wall-mounting brackets: Ones that sit flat on the wall, ones that tilt up and down a little bit, and fully maneuverable models that offer absolute flexibility. Naturally, I went with the cheapest option, the flat-on-the-wall type.

My loungeroom is easily darkened during the day, so I didn't think I'd require any tilting functionality. It's quite a long room, with a good viewing angle from everywhere you sit, so sitting flush seemed the obvious solution. However, when we got the plasma up on the wall, Paul was kind enough to inform me that HDMI cables generally struggle with the flat-mounted brackets - the actual plug is quite long and the cable doesn't offer a lot of flexibility. When you mount the TV so close to the wall, it creates a very tight fit for HDMI cabling - which is a problem that can be alleviated with a mid-range bracket.

Lesson 3: Know how you plan to cable I think Paul was a happy installer when he realised that I knew what I wanted cable-wise: all components running through my Yamaha receiver, with a single HDMI cable to the TV; particularly with the flat-mounted bracket we were using - once the TV is up on the wall, taking it down again to fiddle around with cables is a nightmare. Obviously using a receiver is the ultimate option, but if you don't own a receiver, it's worth thinking ahead. If you're planning on buying a Blu-ray player in a few months, for example, maybe you should pick up a cheap HDMI cable before you wall-mount and run the cable from the TV in preparation. Alternatively, if you think you'll need to change connections on your TV regularly, opt for the more versatile and flexible bracket for your wall.

Lesson 4: Hiding cables can be harder than you'd think. Probably the single biggest reason I got Paul to install my TV was that I wanted my cables hidden in the wall. A few years ago I had tried to install a centre channel speaker on the same wall, and found that I couldn't actually hide the cable like I wanted, so I thought a professional install would be able to succeed where I had failed.

Before he started, Paul told me that on nine out of ten internal walls, it's impossible to hide the cables. Or, rather than impossible, require you to knock out a large section of the wall, drill away part of the support beam, hide the cables, replaster the wall and then repaint - a job the Tech2Home guys tend not to do.

Obviously I was disheartened, but my hopes picked up when Paul ran his stud-finder along the section of wall without it beeping at the presence of a support timber. When he drilled the holes for hiding the cable and ran an HDMI cable through successfully, I broke out in a nervous grin.

However, my grin quickly faded when he tried to run the TV's power cable through the holes. Turned out there was a half-timber which wasn't picked up by the stud-finder - this reduced the amount of space available in the wall to run the power cable through. Fortunately, with some gentle prodding and cursing under my breath, Paul managed to get the power cable through the holes, meaning my hopes for hidden cables would be realised.

Lesson 5: Height is important Of course this goes without saying, but having had an experienced installer come to stick my TV up on the wall meant that I didn't have to stuff around guesstimating the optimum height for wall mounting my new plasma. For the curious, Paul revealed the secret of TV placement to me: 900mm. That's the height the bottom of your TV should sit in relation to the ground. Any higher than that, and you'll probably end up straining like you're sitting in the front row of the cinema.

Lesson 6: Installers will try and upsell you Okay, this isn't the greatest situation to be in. Paul was actually really good - he could see I knew what I wanted and what I was talking about, so spared me the efforts to upsell me some new cables (or a better bracket). And considering how passionate Harvey Norman seem to be about Monster cables, it's best for any prospective customers to be forewarned of their efforts to upsell. Make sure you've got everything you need before the installer comes, and it will be easier to say no.

Lesson 7: Wall mounting is worth it Take a look at the results: wallmount2.jpg I still need to finish setting up my entertainment unit - I want to get the 360 and my Wii inside, along with all my DVDs and Blu-ray movies - but the overall satisfaction from having a gorgeous 50-inch screen mounted on your wall is huge.

I'm glad I didn't try to do it myself - if it were a smaller set I may have been tempted, but in the end the quality of the job done and the avoidance of any major disasters means I'd recommend having professionals wall mount your new TV any day.