Outdoor Projector Vs Outdoor TV? The Right Option For Woodlands & Houston

Projectors are used to project images onto walls, screens, and other surfaces. They come in many shapes and sizes, including large projectors that are often referred to as

  • Wall-mounted
  • Outdoor large screen
  • Outdoor LED TV
  • and even sometimes the projector itself is the part people think of when considering installing an “outdoor home theater.”

Some projectors are portable (like this whole collection of tiny portable TV projectors on Amazon) while others are stationary.

Obviously there’s much more to an outdoor space and experience than just the projector and screen that’s there, including audio and surround sound options.

outdoor home theater

People want to know how we are able to do what we do for our clients in The Woodlands and Greater Houston Area, especially when it comes to some of the custom outdoor home theaters and projector installations we’ve set up over 15+ years in business

So we’ve put together this article to help answer many of the questions we get.

Generally speaking, most projectors use some type of electronic device to convert digital signals (delivered to the projector over Coaxial Cable, USB, Ethernet, or even wirelessly) into physical light beams. That projection then becomes the image we see on the wall or screen. Projectors work through a variety of technologies which include liquid crystal displays (LCDs), plasma panels, DLP chips, and LCD/DLP combination units. 

What’s Better? An Outdoor TV Or A Projector And Outdoor Projection Screen?

The short answer: It depends!

The most important thing is looking at your backyard and knowing how you use your space.  There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all solution here.  That’s because Texas backyard living is as individual as you and how your space gets used.

In a larger outdoor space, a projector might be better because it can provide a larger viewing area (when projected onto a larger screen) than any size of outdoor television. In a smaller yard though, a projector might be more than what you need, and in a smaller space, you may get a better picture and overall experience using an outdoor television instead.  Other considerations outside of the size of your space might be things like when you watch (after work when the sun has gone down – or poolside all day), how covered or protected your space is, as well as if you have kids running around or pets (need to make sure there’s nothing to trip over).

outdoor projection screen on green grass

If you’re not sure, we recommend starting with thinking about your space and how you will use it on any given day.

  • Do you watch daytime events like sports events, golf, NASCAR, and similar?
  • Will your space be used for parties and holidays?
  • Will you host family movie night outside?
  • Do you get together with friends 2x/year to watch your cult favorite film while eating tailgate classics like pulled pork sandwiches, reminiscing how you used to watch the same movie after drinking cheap pitchers of beer in your favorite sports bars (or maybe that’s just me)?
  • Do you have backyard animals (types of animals might include dogs, chickens, armadillos) that you’ll need to consider?  Maybe you’ll need to put some fencing around your equipment for protection.

Answering some of these questions about current and future projected use of your backyard or front yard space can help you know whether to use a TV, projector and screen, or both!

Yes, But Instead Of A Projector, Can You Use a Standard TV Outside?

Yes, you absolutely can use a television outdoors. We show waterproof and weather resistant TVs and flat screens installed in hidden places in some of our videos in the video library. In general though, to prolong the life of your outdoor television, you’ll need to make sure that you’re covering it with a protective cover when it’s not in use.

We have partnerships with a couple of outdoor TV manufacturers. We also work with a company that can take apart pretty much any LCD, LED, or QLED Television and convert it so that it is ready for outdoor use. Whether it’s poolside, next to the hot tub, in a hidden grotto, or in your outdoor fireplace and lounge area, there are options available to you if you decide to go with a TV instead of a projector and screen.

outdoor projection screen blue
scenic outdoor home theater

Can Modern Projectors Deal With Wet, Wind, And Cold?

If you have lived in Houston or the Woodlands for any length of time, then you probably already know how important it is to protect your home and property from the elements. Especially in recent years, we’ve been shown that we get all kinds of weather here in the Greater Houston Area. We do have an article coming soon about hurricane preparedness (so stay tuned for that).

Depending on where you mount your projector, as well as your plans to take care of it, there can be disadvantages when dealing with the weather. These can include interference from rain (or more recently in The Woodlands, even from snow – snow in Houston… who’dathunkit), and also your ability to run either a coaxial or Ethernet cable to wherever your projector gets mounted.

You’ll want to be sure that you can get a signal to the projector, and that there isn’t a possibility for water to get inside the projector. At a minimum, water or moisture can cause the display to be negatively affected. In worst case scenarios, rain or water inside the projector may permanently damage the electronics.

Is LED or LCD Better (For Outdoor Events Like Movie Night In The Backyard)?

This is a more tech geeky question, and good for you for doing your research! The most common types of outdoor projection systems are those using an LCD panel.

These days, there are many options for lower cost LCD based projection systems and projectors with easier and less expensive installation, and an ability to be mounted almost anywhere outdoors.

The other main type of outdoor projection system uses LEDs instead of LCDs. The advantage of LEDs are that they stay cooler. Overheating can be a big problem for equipment here. So any technology that helps the projector stay cooler is a good thing.  LED projectors can be more expensive than LCD projectors and the color quality can vary greatly depending on what you choose, so you’ll want to be sure to do thorough research before finalizing an LED or LCD projector purchase.

outdoor projection screen w/ hot tub
television under covered patio

Where to Set Up Your Outdoor Projector?

In order for it to be safe for you to use your projector outdoors, you’ll first need to decide where you want to mount your projector.  A question to ask before deciding where to mount it is to decide if you want to mount it at all

As we mentioned at the start of this article, there are many options available to you for tiny portable projectors.  These won’t need to be mounted, as you can generally set them anywhere.  Generally though, we’ve been a little hard pressed to find a really professional mini projector that we recommend for regular professional quality outdoor use.  

So, we typically recommend something a little more robust in the projector department.

This helps to ensure that even on the brightest days, you’ll be able to see some picture displayed.

More robust projectors tend to be larger and heavier, which makes them less portable. But they usually offer better performance and longer life. Generally, more robust projectors are going to have more weight. Because of this, you’ll want to have a dedicated place to have it more permanently installed, or at least well supported .

If you choose a more heavy duty projector, you have many options for your fixed mount set up, but in general, you can

  • mount it on a flat surface (such as a table top),
  • mount it on a pole or other support,
  • hang it from a ceiling, overhang, or under a deck.

When choosing between options, you’ll want to consider several factors. For example, if you hang your projector from the ceiling, you may not be able to adjust its height or focal point very easily without a ladder. On the other hand, if you permanently mount it on a flat surface and you decide to later move the projector, you may not be able to move it easily.

So, you’ll want to determine whether you want to use a fixed-mount or portable projector based on these factors.

projector under covered patio
covered deck with television

In Terms Of Power, What Size Should My Projector Be?  How Many Lumens Should My Outdoor Projector Have?

Lumens are basically a measure of brightness. The measurement in lumens tells us how bright the projected image will be.  Lumens help determine the quality of the display.

 A higher number (generally) means a brighter image. So, ideally, you’d like to find a projector with a high lumens rating.

But the size or lumen rating your projector will need depends greatly on what kind of image you’re projecting.  It also depends on how much light you’ll need in order to send the image from the projector to the screen you’ll project onto.  This is determined by both distance and the surface you’re using as your screen.

If you’re planning to project onto a brick wall for example, you’ll want to make sure that your projector has enough lumens to illuminate the entire area, even through whatever color the brick may be. 

In general, if you’re projecting onto something other than a flat white screen, you’re likely to need a higher lumens rating.

What Color Screen is Best for An Outdoor Projector?

When you’re watching an image projected onto screen, what you’re actually doing is watching light reflecting off of that screen and coming back to you. There’s a reason movie theaters use white for their screens – it reflects the most color. So, unless there’s some reason you want to have a screen that’s a color other than white, choose a white screen.

Can A Projector Screen Get Wet?

It depends on the screen.  Some projector screens can get wet. Depending on supply chain issues these days, there are a myriad of outdoor screens you can choose from.  There are even multiple inflatable movie screen options to choose from on Amazon.com and Wal-Mart.  These inflatable screen options are often specifically designed to be able to get wet either in a storm or poolside.  So yes, there are some screens that can get wet.  But it’s also possible, unless you choose a screen that is waterproof or water resistant, that even one time of getting it wet will cause permanent damage. This is because water can cause the screen to warp, crack, or otherwise become damaged. So, if you plan to have the screen where it will get wet, either choose a screen designed for that, or put the screen somewhere it can stay dry and/or be out of the elements when not in use.

outdoor projection screen-mounted
outdoor home theater w/ soft sofa

With The Bright Summer Sun And Heat In Houston, Is it Possible For Me to Use An Outdoor Projector During the Day?

There are options and situations where you can use outdoor projectors during the day. It is important to remember though that the sun and our Houston heat will create wear and tear on both the projector and the screen.  You also should consider how to place your screen and projector relative to where you’re sitting and your sun exposure as well.  You want to be able to watch movies and shows without worrying about getting too hot, or having a bright sun shining directly on your face.

An option is to use a tent or canopy, or install everything under a deck. This way you won’t have direct sunlight hitting your projector or screen, and also can (depending on the robustness of the tent or canopy you choose,) help protect against rain damage to your screen. 

How Much Does An Outdoor Movie Screen Cost?

Separate from the projector, there are so many options for outdoor-friendly movie screens.  Size and portability are the main considerations in the cost of your screen. Amazon has options starting as low as $59, but we’ve worked on projects where the cost of the outdoor screen (just the screen alone) was over $10,000.

Size of Outdoor Movie Screen

Depending on the space you have available, some people like to go with a large portable screen. Others prefer something smaller and sturdier. There are also different sizes (and even different shapes) of screens available.

evening outdoor movie theater

Do You Need Multiple Screens?

Depending on your set up, you might consider getting multiple screens for different areas.  You could potentially even arrange it so that you could have just one projector and mount your projector on a swivel. If you did this, and didn’t need to display in 2 places at the same time, you could project movies onto multiple areas around your backyard using just 1 projector. 

For example, you could put up a big screen near your barbecue grill, and another one by your swimming pool. During pool parties, the projector would point toward the pool, but if you were just having some friends for dinner, you could watch the game on the screen by the grill.

 The most important part of all of this is considering how you use your backyard, and how you want your home and outdoor spaces to work for you.

This All Sounds Expensive.  Can I Just Find An Outdoor Movie Screen Rental Here Instead? Do You Have A Houston-Based Company You Recommend For Projector Screen Rentals?

Unfortunately, at the moment, we don’t have a company we recommend.  (If you have one you like or if you own an outdoor screen rental company, please contact us… maybe we can work together.)   

But when we’re looking for local contractors to work with, often we’ll look on AngiesList and/or read reviews on NextDoor. 

 If you’re here in The Woodlands, you can also check out companies on The Woodlands Online. There may be an outdoor screen rental company there.

Want to Learn More?

We hope this has helped answer some of your questions about outdoor home theaters and outdoor projectors.

Please check out our home automation videos library to see many of the indoor and outdoor projects we’ve done for Televisions and projection solutions here in The Woodlands (and all over Houston). 

We’ve done hundreds of outdoor installations over 15+ years in business, on everything from small backyards where we hang a TV under a deck, to huge screens installed in churches, schools, and theaters.  We’ve also installed in several corporate conference rooms.

If you have any other questions or would like help/advice locally, we’re just a phone call or email away.

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