Should you have your HDTV professionally installed?

Integrating your television into a home theater may require special expertise.  See more HDTV pictures.

Purchasing a new HDTV is a big investment and it takes some preparation, too. There are a lot of factors to consider. What size television would best suit the room? Should you get a flat-panel TV? Do you want a plasma television, LCD TV, projection screen or some other HDTV technology? And once you've come up with the answers and actually made the purchase of your new television there's one more thing to think about: Who's going to install it?

There are plenty of companies and contractors who will be happy to install your new television -- for a price. Home theater installation services are a big business. We've come a long way from the days when setting up a television meant plugging it in and playing with the rabbit ears antenna to pick up the local stations. With an elaborate home theater system, you may have to run cables through a wall, tweak a sophisticated sound system and calibrate your television's image quality.

Determining if you should hire a professional to install your theater system depends on the complexity of the job and your confidence in your own skills. You probably won't need help physically installing it if your television is going to sit on a stand or in an entertainment center, or if it has a built-in base. But if you plan to mount a flat panel television on a wall you may want to consider hiring an expert.

Even if you're confident that you can mount the television to the wall on your own, you should consider the cables. Will you want the cables to be hidden? A wall-mounted television with two or three cables dangling from it isn't very attractive. But to hide the cables would require either running them through the wall or investing in flat-wire technology. In either case, the job just got a bit more complicated.

Assuming you've got a complex job ahead of you, what should you look for when hiring a professional?