The dilemma of mounting a TV over a fireplace reminds me of a “Twilight Zone” episode in which a spaceship carrying highly intelligent beings lands on a distant planet where a group of colonists had crashed 30 years before.
When one of the colonists breaks his wrist, the resident physician begins to apply a splint to the man’s arm. But before he gets halfway through the process, one of the advanced visitors waves a wand and the man’s wrist is immediately healed.
The old doctor protests in earnest, claiming that the only way to heal a broken arm is the tried-and-true splint method. But, after examining the man’s arm, he had to admit: the wand had worked. There was no cogent argument he could make to claim otherwise.
There is a valuable lesson here: conventional wisdom – doing things the way you’ve always done them — is fine, until something better comes along. And there is no better illustration of this adage than with trying to mount a TV above a fireplace.
For the longest time, conventional wisdom has said: “It’s a mistake to hang your TV over the fireplace!” As a professional installer, you’ve likely heard all the reasons why. The heat will damage the TV. The viewing angle is too high. The TV will be off axis.
Perhaps you agree with them, perhaps you don’t… or perhaps you agree with some but not with others. The bottom line is this: while the reasons commonly cited did once hold water, nowadays, there’s nothing stopping you from mounting you TV above the fireplace.
Why is this so important? One look at google search will just show how popular of an option mounting a TV above a fireplace is for people. A quick search will also show you all the misconceptions regarding mounting a TV over the fireplace.
Once you understand the reasons that this can be done cost-effectively efficiently, and safely, you’ll instantly become a more valuable resource to customers. The other reason is that for many homeowners, when considering where they should mount a TV, the most logical place for is often over the fireplace.
With that being said, let’s look at some of the misconceptions out there about mounting a TV over a fireplace, and why these should no longer be considered an issue given modern technology and mounting options.
Myth #1: Mounting a TV Above the Fireplace Puts it Too High to be Viewed
The myth here is that mounting the TV above the fireplace puts the viewing angle above eye level. This requires the viewer to crane his or her neck to see the television, which can result in all kinds of health problems. The Prairie Spine Institute states, if the TV is mounted too high, it can lead to muscular imbalances and neck stiffness.
For those who try to avoid the sore-neck issue by using their eyes to look up instead of lifting their head, the problem of dry eyes comes into play, as their eyes are forced to open wider. And the eye muscles get tired from working too hard as well. Other sources speak of damage to your deep-neck stabilizers and other scary-sounding medical concerns.
Experts will also say there is the quality of the picture to consider. If the viewer is not looking straight at the screen (as they likely would with a TV mounted above a fireplace), the result can be a washed-out image, as the viewer is only seeing a fraction of the light being produced by the TV.
So, after paying what was likely a sizable chunk of cash for their new 65-inch, 4K Ultra-HD flat screen, they are not likely to want to make this kind of compromise.
Truth: The Right Mount Can Fix any Issue with Viewing Angle
No one can argue that mounting the TV above the fireplace creates a horrible viewing angle. That’s why you want to ensure you find the right type of TV mount for the project. Pull-down and full-motion mounts offer a variety of capabilities that enhance the TV-viewing experience.
The key words here are “full motion.” There are a number of mounts that offer tilt capability, as well as articulation. While both are useful, it is the vertical movement which allows the viewer to mount their TV above the fireplace, pull it down to eye level when they want to watch it, then easily move it back when they’re finished. No neck craning, no health problems, no doctor’s appointments.
The best picture quality is going to come from watching your TV at eye level, according to Lee Marc, CEO of MantelMount.
“If you set your TV to the perfect height, your eyes would be parallel to roughly the center of your TV, but that’s in a perfect world if there’s no fireplace in the way,” Marc says.
“The good rule of thumb for the viewing distance with a fireplace or in any other situation is to take the size of your TV and divide by 0.55 — so a 55-inch TV would mean that the viewer should be about 100 inches, or eight feet, away from the screen.”
Using a modern, full-motion TV wall mount over the fireplace, fixes the issue with picture quality, too. Mounts with vertical capability allow the viewer to bring the TV down to eye level. Since they are now looking straight at the screen, the problem of washed-out picture quality is eliminated. Even for mounts without vertical movement, they can at least be tilted downward to minimize loss of resolution.
Myth #2: Fireplace Heat Will Damage the TV
According to some electronics experts, having an open blaze going while your TV is above the fireplace can potentially damage sensitive electronic parts. There is actually considerable disagreement over this issue; even those who agree can’t necessarily agree on what temperature is considered too high and how long a TV must be exposed to it before damage occurs.
Truth: Your Mantle Will Protect Your TV From Fireplace Heat
Understanding the clearance of a fireplace is definitely something you want to be aware of when mounting a new, expensive TV. Clearance is a fancy way of saying the minimum distance from a fireplace that combustibles such as a mantel, shelf or flat-screen TV can be placed.
However, you might have already pieced together that if the fireplace already has a mantel in place, then you already know the fireplace’s clearance.
The fact is, as long as the TV is above the mantel, the mantel will act as a shield from the rising heat. However, the situation changes when you have a full-motion mount with vertical movement that allows the viewer to put the TV right out in front of the fireplace. Look for TV mounts that include heat alerts.
Marc says just about all TVs are generally rated to handle 120 degrees of heat without any damage.
“If you’re dealing with one of these humongous, wood-burning fireplaces and it throws off a ton of heat, it may not be the best idea to put your TV over that fireplace. However, there’s usually a mantel in the way, and the mantel blocks a lot of that heat from going to the TV. Most newer homes these days have gas fireplaces which don’t put off a lot of heat at all.”
“Years ago, people were very concerned with smoke and soot affecting the wires. In the whole time I’ve been in this business, I haven’t heard of one case where that actually happened.”
Myth #3: TV Cables Will Distract from the Design of the Fireplace Area
Nobody wants ugly cables dangling everywhere, especially in situations where the homeowner is using their TV as an entertainment center. Maybe they’ve got wiring in their wall that goes to to their stereo in another location.
Truth: There Are Plenty of Accessories to Keep Fireplace’s Design Intact
The cable mess doesn’t have to happen in the first place! Some will use what’s called a cable routing box to divert cables. These small boxes are about the size of an electrical switch, and they allow integrators to attach a conduit to either end and route the cables through the back of the wall.
Take it From a Professional, Mounting a TV Above the Fireplace Isn’t the Mistake it Once Was
The frustrating aspect to all of this is that despite the introduction of full-motion pull down TV mounts, the number of articles claiming that a TV should never be placed above a fireplace continue to proliferate.
With the possible exception of an aesthetics issue, a high-quality, full-motion mount renders all of the objections moot. Should you decide to mount a TV above a fireplace – or high on any wall, even without a fireplace – remember that the vast majority of articles strongly recommending against it are not taking full-motion mounts into consideration.
The biggest concerns are going to be mounting into the stone or brickwork housing the fireplace. It’s important to understand that, despite being referred to as “the glue for bricks” mortar does not behave like glue for whatever screws or anchors you happen to be using to secure your mount.
On the topic of screws, you’ll also want to avoid using screws or anchors that are too long, lest you puncture the chimney box and open a hole that allows smoke to escape into the home while the fire is burning.
Now, armed with this information, the next time you have a customer who is considering mounting their TV above their fireplace but is concerned by articles stating it’s a bad idea, you will be able to explain that it is a fine idea, and won’t be forced to find an alternative location. You can tell them that putting their TV above their fireplace is a fine idea, and you know just the way they can do it.
Spencer Greenwald is the vice president of marketing and e-commerce at MantelMount.
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