Motorized TV lifts have been available for some time; however, they generally have been very expensive or sized for a set range of TVs. If the installation location or TV size fell outside of these parameters, there were no easy options. Now with a broader range of DIY consumer electronics available, building a custom TV lift is achievable for the moderately experienced DIYer.
A linear actuator is basically an electric motor attached to a worm drive and a track. When 12v is applied in one direction, a bracket on the worm drive moves up the track. When the 12v is reversed, the bracket moves down the track. Actuators are useful for a range of material conveyances and come in a variety of stroke lengths and weight capacities. The better ones will also have built-in end stops (limit switches) that make installation and wiring easier. When selecting a linear actuator (available online) choose one with a weight capacity at least 50 percent greater than the TV and a stroke length at least 1 to 2 inches longer than the height of the TV. Also pay close attention to the operating speed — a lift with a 1-inch-per-second speed will take 20 seconds to fully lift a 20" tall TV. Most manufacturers also offer a bracket kit, which simplifies attachment of the TV mount.
As the wiring is a simple 12v positive and negative pair, all that is needed is a double pole double throw (DPDT) switch rated for 12v and 10 amps. Flip the switch up for TV up and flip the switch down for TV down. In this case, a stealthier installation was needed and a remote control unit was selected, which made wiring simpler as built-in relays provided the switch function and only two pairs of wires were required: 12v in and out. Be sure to determine the maximum amp draw for the selected linear actuator and also order a 12v wall plug transformer rated for 50 percent over the actuator amperage. In this case, a 10 amp transformer was required. Another benefit to this system is that all voltage beyond the wall outlet is 12v, making an easier and safer installation for most DIYers. If ever in doubt, be sure to employ a licensed electrician to handle the actual wiring. Depending on the location of the lift, an additional outlet located near the actuator may be required.
The actuator should be ideally centered behind the TV. Locate all studs in the vicinity of the actuator location and be sure to have any electrical wiring in this area temporarily deactivated by a licensed electrician. Remove the drywall from inside the face of adjacent studs, exposing a cavity the width of studs and the height of the actuator. If installing on an exterior wall and the depth of the cabinet/enclosure allows, install the actuator on the wall to prevent displacement of insulation. Next, install blocking and a piece of 5/8” plywood across the cavity. Locate it depth-wise so that the actuator bracket protrudes at least 3/4” from the wall. Locate it height-wise so the bracket in the up position is as close to the top of the enclosure as possible. Using wood screws, mount the actuator into the plywood.
Since the TV is hidden when not in use, there needs to be an operable door that opens and closes over the TV. In this case, a piano hinge was installed in the mantel top so that a 4” x 30” piece of painted plywood would close over the TV when retracted. Felt pads were added to the backside of the door to prevent direct contact with the plastic side bezels.
A piece of plywood will be used to create a mounting plate between the actuator bracket and the TV. Using a large piece of cardboard, create a template that covers the rear TV screw holes plus an additional 1”. Extend the template to the bottom of the TV. Measure from the bottom of the linear actuator lift bracket to the top of the operable door in the open position and add 1/2”. Add this dimension to the cardboard template below the TV. Using a large piece of paper, transfer the screw-hole pattern from the back of the TV and the actuator bracket to the cardboard template, respectively. Cut a piece of 5/8” plywood to this size and loosely mount the TV on the mount using 1/2” x 1” bolts, washers and lock nuts at the actuator bracket. If the TV came with wall-mount bracket screws, buy longer ones (25MM) with matching threads to fit through the plywood. Once mounted, operate the TV up and down to make sure all moving assemblies are free and clear. Slowly observe the operable door as the TV passes through. Consider installing a wood block on the TV mounting plate so the door stays open once the TV passes. Otherwise the door may damage the mount or TV.
Remove the TV mounting plate and finish it off with a little sanding. Paint it to either blend in with the TV or the wall. Re-mount the TV making sure to tighten all screws and bolts. Hook up all cords/cables and carefully wire tie them so that the TV can fully move up and down without getting caught on anything. Finally test the lift operation and TV. With a little planning and smart parts sourcing, this custom TV lift project can be completed in one day.