Few things are cozier than watching television next to a crackling fire. But what about when the TV itself is above the fireplace? Both activities seem to fit together. Plus, due to the layout of some homes, this is often the best arrangement—in some cases, the only arrangement.
But is it ever good practice to mount a TV above a fireplace, either from the standpoint of viewing comfort or safety? In particular, will a TV or any other video monitor become damaged from the nearby heat of the fireplace?
Mount TV Above a Fireplace: Yes or No?
While you can mount a TV above a fireplace, you should try to place the TV in another location, if possible, due to viewing and safety limitations.
The issues with mounting the TV above a fireplace center more around the quality of the viewing experience and user comfort than with damage to the electronics. Modern flatscreen TVs are generally tough enough to withstand nearby heat from a gas fireplace.
In some cases, a fire might become hot enough to surpass the safe temperature range for your equipment's internal electronics and even the lower part of the casing.
Provides more flexibility for placing the screen
Frees up wall space for other items such as pictures
Location is often closest to cables and jacks
Acceptable location if you rarely use the TV
Poor height and angle for viewing screen
Limits the size of the TV; screens that are too tall may not fit
Fireplace flames can be a viewing distraction
Possible heat issues from fireplace
TV and Video Monitor Heat Limitations
Unlike the cathode ray televisions of the past, which drew from 65 to 133 watts depending on size, current TV and video monitors produce relatively little heat.
The operable word is relative since screens keep getting larger. For a 50-inch screen, LED TVs can use as much as 100 watts. Plasma TVs—no longer sold but still found on secondary markets—can draw as much as 300 watts. Enclosures are vented to allow the heat produced locally by the electronics to escape.
Subjecting the TV to additional heat from the fireplace can counteract the TV's normal operations. Sealed gas fireplaces give off relatively little heat and likely will not harm a TV mounted over the fireplace—provided there is enough distance between the two. But wood fireplaces may push TVs past their safe operating temperature ranges.
Reasons to Avoid Mounting a TV Above a Fireplace
Viewing Height and Angle Are Incorrect
Consult the instructions included with your TV for the correct height, angle, and distance you should maintain from the screen. Typically, the center of the screen should be at eye height when you are sitting and facing the screen. Unless the fireplace is especially low, its height will conflict with the optimal viewing height for the TV.
Additionally, with the advent of 4K TVs, the optional viewing angle has increased.
As the distance from the viewer to the TV decreases, the viewing angle increases. If you like viewing your screen as close as possible, the angle imposed by the fireplace will detract from your viewing experience.
While a full motion articulating wall mount can help to angle the screen downward, you are still forced to tip your head back to see the screen. In short, while you can find a number of workarounds for the poor placement of a TV mounted over a fireplace, it's hardly the first place that you would choose for the screen.
Not Enough Room For the TV
Fireplace mantels range from 50 to 60 inches tall. Sixty inches is 5 feet tall.
Considering that most ceilings are 7-1/2 to 8 feet tall, this leaves barely 2-1/2 to 3 feet of vertical space for the TV—and that's if you don't mind the TV touching the mantel and the ceiling.
If you want to upgrade to a larger TV, mounting the TV over the fireplace will not make this possible.
Flames Distract From Viewing Experience
True film lovers abhor distraction. Ambient light and background activity combine to take away from the best cinematic experience. Cinephiles will even paint surrounding walls black and remove or paint over shiny objects in order to reduce distractions.
The licking flames of even a modest fireplace represent both light and activity. If you value premium picture quality, a fireplace underneath the TV is not conducive to a peak cinematic experience. Even the glass front of a sealed gas fireplace can be enough to distract from your enjoyment.
Wood Fires May Affect the TV
With its crackle and smoke, an authentic wood fire is charming and romantic. But intense heat and smoke are bad for TVs that are mounted above them.
Wood fires can put out as much as 60,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) and can reach temperatures high enough to ignite creosote in the flue and start chimney fires. Since heat rises, any heat not vented up the chimney cascades over the front of the mantel and upward. If the heat doesn't affect the TV, the smoke might.
At the same time, heat rising from a fireplace quickly dissipates. Heat measured directly above the top lip of the fireplace box will be different from heat even a foot or two above that location. The only way to know if the area where you intend to mount the TV is too hot is by taking temperature readings.
Wiring and Mounting May Be Difficult
By most electrical codes, NM electrical cable cannot be surface-mounted. The only code-compliant alternative would be to run wires through surface-level conduit, hardly an attractive feature for any fireplace.
When Mounting a TV Above a Fireplace Is Acceptable
When Cables and Jacks Are Located There
Houses and apartments are often built with recessed niches intended for TV placement. These niches also have an electrical outlet, Ethernet cable, and cable TV jack.
In our increasingly wireless world, your WiFi TV may be free of the limitations of cable TV jacks and Ethernet cables. Still, many people tend to prefer the reliability and faster speeds of the Ethernet connection.
If your home has a recessed niche above the fireplace with all of the connections you desire, there is no reason why you cannot place a TV there.
When Room Space Is Tight
When you need to maximize your small living room and pack in as many functions as possible, you may want to mount the TV above the fireplace. Placing the TV in this area frees up wall space for other elements such as bookcases, furniture, or wall art.
Small living rooms demand creative thinking to make everything fit together, and placing the TV above the fireplace may be one way to accomplish this.
When You Have a Gas or Gel Fireplace
Over time, home fireplaces have increasingly become cooler. Intensely hot wood fires are becoming a thing of the past, as more communities enact air-quality restrictions and fewer wood fireplaces are being built.
Natural gas fireplaces with inserts, particularly ventless gas fireplaces, are considerably cooler. At the low end of the temperature scale are gel fireplaces, which put out less heat than both wood and natural gas fireplaces.