Using a Projector Outside - Everything You Need to Know

Written by Jonah Matthes
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Have you ever wanted to bring the feel of the drive-ins to your backyard? With an outdoor theater setup (more on the kind of enclosures you need in our guide), you can watch movies under the stars with some of your favorite candy and a soda, at a quarter of the price, in the comfort of your own backyard with a projector. But what are the details of using a projector outside?

A projector provides a movie theater viewing experience, along with the flexibility of different screen sizes sizes, and it is a great alternative to an outdoor TV. Unlike an outdoor TV, however, an outdoor projector shouldn't be stored outside.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions asked about using a projector outside to find out everything you need to know to make your projector experience the best it can be, moreover, check out our article on using regular TVs outside if you need more information on protecting inside equipment from the elements.

Can You Leave a Projector Outside?

Unfortunately, projectors are not designed to be left outdoors for extended periods of time. A projector is a great option for outdoor gatherings like movie days/nights with friends, family, or a significant other. However, the projector should be brought indoors after each use.

Projectors are pieces of technology and should be treated with care. If you wouldn’t leave your phone or laptop outside overnight or all day long to succumb to the morning dew or the beating sun, then it wouldn’t be recommended to leave a projector out in that way either.

A projector should be stored properly and protected from extreme cold, heat, weather, and moisture, in order to stay in peak working order and last a long time.

Using a Projector During the Day - Is It Possible?

Using a projector at a corporate meeting

A projector can be used during the day (and in fact, we have a separate article discussing this unique use-case) but there are some details to get right. Think about stepping outside during a very sunny day, no clouds in the sky, and trying to view your phone. It’s not easy, is it? The sun is so bright it washes out the light from screens, and light from projectors too.

A shaded area is a necessity when viewing movies or TV on your projector screen outdoors. The projector will have to compete with the sun when used in a sunny location but won’t have to work as hard when located in a shaded area.

High Lumen Count is Ideal

There are some specifications that your projector must have in order to be viewed during the day. If you're in the market for a new projector, it’s best to use a high-quality projector with a high number of lumens for optimal use outdoors during the day.

What are lumens? In simplest terms, a lumen is a measurement of the amount of light emitted — in this case, by a light bulb in the projector. The more lumens present, the more light will be emitted. The WiMiUS P28 LED Projector (on Amazon), for example, sports a whopping 7000 lumens, while the Hompow Smartphone Portable Video Projector (also on Amazon) only has 3600 So the first one would be a better option for outdoor use.

However, even a projector with a significant number of lumens will still provide a difficult-to-see viewing experience on the screen in direct sunlight. The best option is to place your projector and screen in a shaded area (or partially shaded at the least), which may be either under a tree or on a covered patio. If you'd like to read more about lumens, what they are, and why they matter, be sure to check our separate guide on the subject.

Using a Projector at Night

Projectors are most often used outdoors in the night time, but you may have questions about the specifics. To no surprise, it is much more practical to use a projector outdoors at night. The projector won’t have to compete with the sun once it begins to set and dusk commences its takeover of the night sky.

Projectors are great to use on movie night with family, friends, or your partner. They provide a big-screen viewing experience, making your content more impressive. Projectors are flexible to fit any screen size, so there are no worries about matching your specific viewing area.

Even if you're planning on using your projector mostly at night, it’s still essential to have a projector with a high number of lumens. There will almost always be some light that the projector will need to cut through, whether light from inside the house, a streetlamp or a fire close by to keep the bugs at bay.

Plus, you can start your movie night earlier with a higher quality projector that has a high lumen count. A bright screen coupled with great resolution will make the picture quality and viewing that much better. It's also a great idea to have a bug repellent candle or spray near the projector, as the bright light emitted from the lens will be attractive to bugs.

Where to Set Up Your Projector

Fortunately, projectors are easy to move due to their relatively compact size, so there doesn’t need to be a permanent location determined. However, you do need a screen and that might be a little more of a hassle to move and set up.

During the day, it is best to set up your projector in a partly or fully shaded area. Some ideas for location include under a popup canopy or gazebo, a covered patio, or under a large tree. After dark, the options for location become a little easier but avoid the projector too close to the house if there are motion sensors or indoor lights that must remain on (as well as other sources of light).

Find a place that is comfortable and has enough space for the projector, screen, and seating/viewing, and you’re ready to go.

Outdoor TV vs Outdoor Projector

You may be wondering: What's the difference between an outdoor TV and an outdoor projector? What are the pros and cons? When choosing between a projector and a television for outdoor entertainment, there are a few things to consider.

Outdoor Projectors

If it’s about the viewing experience for you, then a projector is the winner here. A projector will provide the ambiance of an actual drive-in or movie theater. The screen size can be whatever you want it to be (depending on your projector), and it is a great choice that will deliver a big-screen feel.

It's not too much of a hassle to bring a projector and your choice of screen from storage to the outdoors each time you want to use it. It’s going to be more affordable than creating a permanent outdoor television setup, and it won't take up permanent space on your patio or in your backyard.

Outdoor TVs

On the contrary, outdoor TVs can stay outside, unlike projectors that are used for outdoor viewing. They are expensive, which is why we have a full tutorial on how to protect them, but they do provide a high-end style and a high-quality viewing experience.

If you're looking for a permanent fixture for outdoor watching but don't mind spending a good amount of money on an outdoor TV, an outdoor TV might be a great choice for you.

Outdoor TVs are expensive because they are made by very few manufacturers. As an alternative, you could bring an indoor TV outside as well your speakers (our guide) each time you want to watch a TV show or movie.

Conclusion

If you would like to enjoy the great outdoors while watching a recently released film or a heartwarming home movie, a projector is a great option for making this a reality. You can utilize a projector both during the day and at night, but it must be stored inside.

A projector is more affordable than a large television set up, and it is also more flexible in terms of how it can be used. You can rest assured that you will have an amazing experience with minimal effort and without breaking the bank.

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About Me

Hi! I’m Jonah. I grew up addicted to different electronics. I began working for an Audio/Video installation company years ago and realized my passion for Home Theaters! The Home Theater DIY is a place for me to share my different findings and experiences about home theaters and home electronics. For more information, check out my about me page!

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