Installations: The House That Jim Built - Part Two Page 2


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We mounted the plasma on a wall between two large windows, with the lower bezel 48 inches from the floor. The height was a compromise: Lower would have been better for TV viewing from the sofa, but it would have been awkward for anyone standing in the room. And the higher location is more appropriate when we're sitting at the kitchen island or when we have guests milling around during parties.
New Master Bedroom
:: NEC 42XM4 42-inch plasma HDTV :: DirecTV HD satellite receiver :: Sony DVD player :: Zvox 315 speaker system :: Belkin PureAV HDTV power conditioner PFHD /surge protector :: Electrograph ELENEC-SM fixed plasma mount
I could have mounted the rather heavy plasma (almost 100 pounds) with the help of a friend or two, but two of Hudson Valley Media's installers did it for me, using substantial lag bolts to secure the Electrograph fixed mount ($199) to the wall's studs. The installers had previously recommended that I put a recessed clock outlet in the wall to hide the TV's power cord and had already run all the A/V wiring inside the wall to a hole in the sheetrock, so all the wires between the A/V gear and the TV are now completely hidden. Hooking up my satellite-TV receiver to a nearby RG-45 jack allows broadband Internet access for pay-per-view movies.

At the time of the installation, I was getting my satellite programming, via one HD receiver and one standard-def receiver/DVR, from Dish Network. But I decided to switch to DirecTV (even though I had to pay Dish a $100 early-cancellation fee) because of price, customer service, and signal quality. When I called Dish to upgrade, I was told they could supply only two HD receivers (I needed three) and that there was a $200 up-front fee for each one. I asked what would happen when Dish migrates to receivers that support MPEG-4 decoding in a few months and was told I'd have to get new boxes and pay additional fees. (After I canceled, Dish called to tell me I'd received incorrect information and offered a break on the programming. But by then, the dishes had been pulled off my roof.)

With DirecTV, I got three HD receivers for an up-front fee of $100 and a $4.95-per-month charge per box along with three months of free premium programming. I also checked out Verizon's new FiOS fiber-optic TV service but was put off by the $9.95-per-box monthly rental charge and by anecdotal information that the boxes run extremely hot.

The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang

Mounting the speakers went pretty smoothly. The installers had made cardboard speaker templates and mounted them to the studs and ceiling joists so the drywallers would know where to pull the wires through the plasterboard. But I wish I'd ordered the speakers earlier, since they come with very accurate mounting templates that would have allowed the drywall crew to cut exact openings for them. Instead, once I determined there were no electrical wires directly behind the ceiling dry wall, I used the included cut-out templates to cut the three holes in the ceiling with a drywall saw, then connected the speaker wires and installed the speakers using the spring-loaded clamps.