You walk around your favorite retail store in awe of the flat screen TVs on display, wondering when you will be able to purchase the quintessential piece for your own personal home theater. You finally make your decision, and then you wonder…what else will I need?

There’s a misconception that once you buy your flat panel TV – that’s “all you’ll need.” But really, there’s this accessory, and that accessory. Before you know it, your budget is blown and you leave frustrated by your list of potential “add-ons.”

Determining what’s necessary can be tricky, especially when it comes to a mounting solution. Many flat panel TVs are sold with basic stands that allow the TV to sit on top of a piece of furniture, or within a media cabinet. These solutions will do the trick; however, in an increasing effort to save space, obtain maximum viewing angles, and showcase that big purchase in all its glory, you need a quality mounting solution.

Choosing the right mounting solution for your flat screen is crucial to the overall integrity of the installation and appearance of the final solution. Getting educated on this before you enter the retail store will give you a definite advantage!

Types of Mounts

Standard TV mounts have been around for many years in both the Professional and Residential markets. With the boom of flat screen and plasma TVs, you now have many more options to choose from, all providing varying degrees of viewing angles and mounting flexibility.

* Static: Mounts to the wall, locks the TV into stationary position
* Tilt: Tilts up or down, generally +/-15 degrees
* Tilt and Swivel: Allows increased peripheral viewing angles, 90 degrees left and right (may be limited by size of flat panel)
* Articulating: Maximizes viewing angles by extending out from the wall anywhere from 12 – 36 inches, also allows tilting and swiveling

Still don’t know which way to turn? Walk through this easy guide to choosing the best mounting solution for your flat screen TV.

* What size is your flat panel TV? You will fall into one of two categories: Small: 10″ – 26″ Medium: 26 – 40″ Large: 37″ – 60″
* How much does the TV weigh?
* Where are you going to hang the TV? Wall, in a corner, over fireplace, in front of window or under cabinet?
* What range of viewing is necessary? (refer to the Types of Mounts above)
* What year was your home built?
* What is the wall structure comprised of, drywall, wood studs, or concrete

What to Look for in a Mount

You may find your brain speeding on overdrive, but no worries. Ultimately, you want to hang your flat screen safely, and maximize the enjoyment of the viewing experience. Here are some additional tips you can use in selecting a manufacturer and mount:

* UL Listing – a third party certification which approves the weight rating for each mount, look for the UL logo on the box and don’t buy a mount without it!
* Easy Installation – integrated cable management, included hardware, self-leveling and quick screen attachment are features will make your mount installation much more enjoyable. Ask your retailer which one customers have preferred to install. A thorough installation manual is also an essential piece of the puzzle
* Integrated Lateral Shift – allows perfect positioning of screen between studs
* Safety Features – securely lock plasma to wall bracket
* Weight Capacity – as mentioned above, it is very important that your flat panel TV does not exceed the mount’s maximum weight limit
* Aesthetics – create a seamless look by choosing a flat panel mount that best integrates into the room décor
* Quality – Ensure the mount has been professionally designed and constructed with top quality materials. This becomes especially important to avoid sag over time for swing arms used with large flat panel TVs

In Store Knowledge

In a vast effort to educate retailers on positioning and benefits of flat panel mounts, manufacturers have developed many tools to help them become experts in mounting solutions. However, being aware of your options, as well as your ultimate home theater goals, will greatly impact the selection process. Be sure and ask your sales person for any manufacturer literature they might have on hand.

Ask about the Pro Installer

Retailers should have a list of installers that they can refer you to for a safe and solid installation. If you prefer to leave it to the Pros, be sure and check references and confirm that any damage to your home or TV is covered under their insurance policies.

Planning to do your own install?

Prepare for your installation by ensuring the following:

* Proper Hardware – Use the correct fasteners for the installation
* Reinforcement – Determine if wall structure will need strengthening
* Precise Measurements – For an accurate installation, use the actual screen and mount when taking measurements. This is especially imperative for recessed applications

As you can see, mounts are not just and accessory item, but a true companion to your flat panel TV, helping you maximize viewing pleasure. Whatever you decide, at least you’re aware of your options. Now go forth and most of all, enjoy your home theater experience!