Basic TV sizes and styles

With so many options on the market, shopping for a TV can be intimidating. There are dozens of brands and types to choose from, but finding the television that best suits your needs is easier when you know where to start. Here are some basic considerations when it's time to consider buying a new TV set:

Location. Decide where you'll place the television. Will you use a stand or mount the TV on the wall? Then, examine where you will sit to watch it. Measure the space where you'll set up the TV as well as the distance between the seating area and the screen's location. Ideally, there should be about four to eight feet between you and the television. Write down the measurements and take them when you shop, to help you decide what size set will work best.

Picture quality. There are several picture options to choose from, including LCD, plasma and rear projection. Visit a store where you can see different kinds of TVs side-by-side and get a first-hand sense of the look and sound you prefer.

Screen types. Flat screens are available in LCD and plasma. LCD screens come in various sizes, have good picture quality and use less electricity than plasma screens but sometimes have problems with the color or contrast ratio not being set correctly. Plasma screens come in various sizes and have good picture quality. Rear-projection screens tend to be larger, taking up more room, and the color is sometimes duller than with a plasma or LCD.

Basic setup. Your new TV will come with step-by-step instructions for setup.  If you have a cable box or satellite and have trouble hooking up the TV, contact your local cable or satellite company for help.

When your TV doesn't work

If your television doesn't work, check the simplest explanation first by making sure the set's plugged in, turned on and the mute button is off. Check connections to the cable box and make sure the cable power is on. If you suspect the cable, call the company for a replacement box. If the screen is black, snowy or blue, check another TV to see if it's working correctly. If it isn't, the source of the problem is likely the satellite or cable.

If the problem is the TV, check to see if a warranty is still in force. Get a repair quote from a local repair shop. That information will help you decide whether it's worth paying to fix the television or better just to get a new one. Remember that Angie's List exists to help consumers with buying and hiring decisions, and members have access to local consumer reviews on companies that provide all kinds of services, including selling and repairing TVs and other electronics.

Kids and TV

Let there be no doubt that television plays a starring role in the life of the average U.S. child, according to these statistics from the Parents Television Council:

• Kids with TVs watch an average of four hours each day.

• Forty-four percent of kids watch different programs when alone than when they're with parents.

• Fifty-four percent of kids have a TV in their bedroom.

The question of how much TV kids should watch, or what they should view, is a matter of opinion, research and debate. But one thing that's clear is that parents should consider how the television itself can be a hazard, especially for younger children. Here are some childproofing tips:

• Place the set inside an armoire or mount it on the wall out of a child's reach. Keep the armoire or cabinet door shut when the TV's not in use. Be sure to anchor tall furniture to the wall to reduce the chance of a tipover.

• Bind wires with a plastic tie and hide the wires so they're out of a child's view.

• Consider hiding TV control buttons under plastic, baby-proof coverings.

TV antennas

If you decide to cut the cable cord, you'll need an antenna to tune in to your local broadcast channels. To make that happen, you need to know what kind of television you have and what antenna models work best with your unit.

LEARN MORE: Angie's List Guide to TV Antennas

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