Solved! Why It’s a Mistake to Mount a TV Above a Fireplace
Hang that flat screen in the best place for viewing that won’t damage the delicate electronics.
Q: We just bought a new 55-inch flat screen TV, and I’d like to hang it over the fireplace in our family room. But my husband’s afraid that heat from the fireplace will mess with it. Is it really a bad idea to mount a TV above a fireplace?
A: Talk about a hot-button issue! You’re not the first person to think above the fireplace is an ideal spot for a TV; in fact, home builders often install electrical and cable outlets over the mantle (the horizontal shelf above the fireplace) for just that purpose. But depending on the type of fireplace you have, it could very well be a mistake to hang your new flat screen there—for reasons that go beyond the heat. Keep reading to find out why it might be best to locate your TV elsewhere.
Excess heat and electronics don’t mix. A gas fireplace can generate 20,000 to 35,000 British thermal units (BTUs) of heat per hour. To put that into perspective, it takes approximately 15,000 BTUs per hour to heat an entire 1,400 square foot house during a typical New England winter. Heat rises, and even a fireplace with a blower that directs hot air toward the center of the room will still allow some heat to escape upward. This makes the area above the fireplace warmer than other wall surfaces in your home.
A number of factors come into play: The farther the fireplace mantle extends into the room, the more it will deflect heat from the above wall. In addition, some fireplaces produce less heat than others, and when combined with a good blower, the wall above the fireplace may get only slightly warm. To find out, tape a thermometer to the wall in the approximate center of where your flat-screen TV might hang. Then, start the fireplace and let it run for several hours. Check the thermometer, and if the temperature reaches or exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the location is too hot for your TV. If the temp remains below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the TV should be safe in that location—but you still might want to reconsider, for the reasons explained below.
An electric fireplace is less likely to generate excess heat. Some electric fireplaces are for ambiance only and they don’t produce any heat at all, while others produce a moderate amount of heat—less than 5,000 BTUs per hour. To be sure the wall above an electric fireplace is safe, perform the thermometer test (described above). Some freestanding electric fireplaces are designed for the very purpose of positioning a TV on top of a shelf built over the firebox, such as the Carter Convertible Electric Media Fireplace (available from Home Depot). The Carter fireplace generates only 3,000 BTUs per hour on its highest setting, making it a safer choice for TV placement.
Damage from heat could void your TV’s warranty. Today’s new big screen TVs cost a pretty penny, and if yours goes on the fritz soon after you buy it, you’ll want to call a service technician to fix it. If the technician discovers signs of heat damage, the manufacturer will often refuse to pay for the repairs, even if the TV is still within the warranty period. Read the warranty’s fine print; it may specify that just the act of mounting the TV over a fireplace is enough to void its warranty.
Watching a TV that’s mounted too high can literally be a pain in the neck. If you’ve ever had to sit in the front row of a movie theater, you probably left with a kink in your neck from looking up at the screen. The same effect can occur if you’re watching a TV that’s mounted above a fireplace. The most comfortable angle for viewing a television is when the bottom third of the TV is at eye level. If you watch TV from a recliner that’s tilted backward, you may not develop a sore neck, but anyone sitting upright will likely suffer some discomfort after watching TV longer than 30 minutes or so.
The image on the screen isn’t optimal when viewed from an angle. LCD TVs are notorious for being difficult to see from an angle more than 30 degrees from horizontal. If you mount the flat-screen TV flat against the wall above the fireplace, and you’re sitting on a sofa or loveseat, you’ll be viewing the screen from an angle. The greater the angle, the worse the quality of the picture. An angle of no more than 15 degrees is acceptable, and if you have to mount your TV on the upper section of any wall, it’s a good idea to use a mount that swivels, such as the Emerald Full-Motion TV Wall Mount (available from Walmart.com), which allows you to angle the screen downward for viewing and then push it flat against the wall when it’s not in use.
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Think creatively when figuring out a spot for a large screen TV. You’re not limited to putting a large TV on a small media console. The following ideas will help you think outside of the box for where to place the TV.
• If you have a window that’s wider than your TV, considering hanging the TV in front of the window. Lined curtains can create a backdrop and block light from the street from entering the window.
• Surround the TV with shelving to create an “entertainment center” look. Install cabinets below (providing a spot for the TV to sit) and build shelves above and alongside the TV to help integrate it into the overall look of your room.