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Can You Use a Regular TV Outside?

An exterior TV can provide a modern touch to your house, and offer a great place to hang outside with friends and family. If you have familiarity with electronics you know they don’t mix well with the weather, so you may be wondering if you need extra hardware like a cabinet or a specialized TV for outdoor use. Can’t you just use a normal TV outside?

Unfortunately, using a regular TV outside will eventually break it. Even under an overhang, the TV will be exposed to weather, humidity, and elements that will damage the internal components and void most manufacturer’s warranties.

You may not be able to haul the living room TV out to the porch and call it a day, but there are steps you can take to use an indoor TV outside, and even your speakers if you want (our tutorial). You will also want to keep an eye out for potential hazards when installing your own TV outdoors, or, alternatively, consider a TV manufactured for exterior use.

How to Use a Regular TV Outside

Outdoor TV in a Bar
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While it’s difficult to completely shelter your exterior TV from the natural elements there are some choices you can make to extend the life of a regular TV outside.

Some of these options are free and others can range in cost depending on how many you combine, what tier product you purchase, or if you try to DIY. Be advised, using any combination of these preventative measures may still void your warranty, be sure you are aware of your warranty details, and take all steps possible to maintain it.

Check the Weather Rating

Before you purchase your new TV, be sure to check the weather rating of the product. Many will have similar specifications based on make, model, and size. Often you can find some with ratings for higher operating temperatures if you live in a hotter climate.

Consider the Location

The most critical decision when mounting a TV outside is your placement. A well-placed TV can make all the difference in the longevity of your device. The main priority will be hanging the TV so that it is in complete shade throughout the day.

This will help prevent glare, regulate a more consistent temperature, and prevent damage to the device by direct sunlight. If full shade coverage is not possible, facing the TV north or south can mitigate some of the damage sunlight can cause when facing east or west.

Another factor is dust and debris blown around by the wind, which wreaks havoc the delicate interior components. Choose a location with as much protection from the wind as possible to avoid dirt and other particles from entering your device.  However, when looking for this location, remember sightlines will factor into your placement as well. Your TV does not do much good in a corner where only a few can enjoy it.

Look for the Right Mount

A critical piece for your exterior TV is what is holding it up, which can often be tough to protect from the elements, your hardware can easily become a fail point. You want something thick and resistant to extreme temperatures, to prevent expansion and contraction, to ensure your exterior flat screen does not end up flat on the ground.

Consider a Cover

A well-fit cover to wrap your TV in when not in use will protect it from some of the dangers already mentioned including dust, temperature cycling, and direct sun damage. Like we explained in our guide on how to protect outside TVs, covers are highly recommended to those in colder climates, or desert-like climates, where temperatures swing severely between day and night.

TV covers can be relatively inexpensive and last a very long time. Here’s a great outdoor TV cover (on Amazon).

Consider an Enclosure/Shell

Similarly, full enclosures can offer many of the same benefits while the TV is actually in use. Based on your budget and protection needs, the right enclosure can do wonders to protect your investment, and there are plenty of options available.

But you get what you pay for here, and a poorly built enclosure may make problems like extreme heat even worse if they don’t have a way to vent that heat.

The Storm Shell Outdoor TV Hard Cover (on Amazon) is a solid choice and should keep your TV protected for many years to come.

Consider TV Cabinets

A full cabinet, sealed properly with caulk and weather stripping, can be a great first defense to debris, temperature variation, and moisture. The best feature of full protective cabinets is they will often also house your mounting equipment.

These protective pieces can also be sleek accent pieces and serve as additional security to hide and protect your TV. Unfortunately, they can be very difficult to find and are highly expensive.

They aren’t available at your normal retailer’s, so you’ll have to do some searching to find one you like.

Dangers of Using a Normal TV Outside

We’ve outlined some of the potential dangers of using a regular TV outside above, but let’s review them and name a few others here, so you can take proper precautions with your exterior TV. Potential dangers that could damage either interior or exterior components include:

  • Dust & debris
  • Direct sun damage
  • Temperature variations
    • Extreme heat
    • Extreme cold
    • Rapid temperature change
    • Improper ventilation of enclosure heat
  • Inclement weather (rain/sleet/snow/hail, either direct or blown in by the wind
  • Humidity, which can lead to internal condensation
  • Mount failure
  • Security (theft)
  • Voided warranty

There are a variety of potential threats to your outdoor electronics, but by being aware of those dangers, you can work to avoid them, giving your device the best chance for survival and extended use. Just as freak accidents can occur with interior electronics, they also can occur outside.

Some A/V installation companies even recommend, when planning to use an interior TV outside, to set up and secure your current TV outside, and use your new purchase inside. This allows you to keep the warranty on your new purchase and relieve some of the worry placing your expensive electronics outside.

Are there TVs Made Specifically for Outside Use

Yes, there are TVs designed specifically for exterior use. They typically range higher in price for comparable sizes, but the investment will always be the official recommendation of anyone who designs or installs any exterior lounge or viewing spaces.

Due to the fact they are designed to live and work outside, they do so far better than their interior counterparts and need less work to look sharp and clear even when glare can’t be mitigated.

While you may, and should, still consider some of the above recommendations for your interior TV, your exterior TV will have considered most of these factors before you even open the box, making set up quicker and easier.

Samsung’s The Terrace (on Amazon) is a more recent outdoor TV that has been extremely popular. It uses many of the modern TV technologies, unlike other outdoor televisions.

A Word to the Wise

You know now how to protect your TV, and we mentioned sightlines and glare, but be sure to also consider sound when planning your exterior viewing area.

The clearest picture will not be enough if you can’t hear over the crickets chirping. Professionally mounted, directional speakers can enhance your outdoor movie night, enabling you to hear the movie and not the world around you.