There’s much debate over whether or not to mount your TV, but there’s one place in particular that might end up doing your cinema experience more harm than good: over the fireplace.
At first glance, it seems like a great idea. Move the TV out of the way, get it up off the floor and make it part of the décor. But some fail to consider the drawbacks of mounting the object of your attention to that particular space.
In the name of full disclosure, the house my family just bought has a mounting unit above the fireplace. We had a choice: leave it where it is or move it to the familiar configuration in the entertainment unit.
Normally, I’m sold on new ways of bucking conventional design norms, but in the case of the TV, I took a hard look at the pros and cons of leaving the mount where it is. And you should too.
Fireplace TV Pros
Floor Space Galore
The most obvious benefit of mounting your TV above your fireplace is the elimination of the floor space otherwise occupied by a table or entertainment unit. An above-the-fireplace mount keeps your TV off the floor, away from traffic and out of reach of children.
Wires? What Wires?
Most folks take the opportunity to hide their unit’s wires by using a specialized cable plate for wall-mounted TVs. The benefit of hiding wires is clear: no stray strands of cable to clutter up your view.
A Moving Picture (Frame)
One of the biggest selling features of today’s flat televisions is the lack of a visible edge. There’s an industry push to minimize the hardware surrounding the screen, almost to the point of pushing the viewable area to the edge.
In addition to losing the border, TV resolutions creep higher and higher with each passing year.
Taking those two features into account, you’ve not only got a solid outlet for your shows and movies, but you’ve also got a pretty decent picture frame.
In our house, we have an Apple TV hooked up in our family room. When the screen is idle, we find ourselves watching an endless cycle of photos that are pulled from our cloud-based storage. It sometimes makes for better family viewing than anything we could go out and find on our own.
Fireplace TV Cons
It’s a Pain in the Neck, Literally
Mounting the top of the TV at anything higher than a viewing of 15–35 degrees from the horizontal plane of your eye level can cause neck fatigue. In his CNET answer to a curious reader in 2011, Geoffrey Morrison likens it to watching a movie in the theater from the front row. After two hours, your neck is going to be paining.
If 15–35 degrees is out of the question, Morrison says eye-level is the next best thing.
The higher the TV is mounted, the higher the seat needs to be situated to avoid that dreaded neck fatigue. Otherwise, your neck is left to make up that difference in viewing angle.
It’s All About the Angles
If you own a flat-screen LED, LCD or plasma TV, you know that viewing angles can be tricky. If you’re not watching TV from within the angles recommended by the manufacturer, you might not be watching TV at all. Picture quality changes the farther you get from the center of the screen. And if you want to watch in 3-D, the viewing angles are even less forgiving.
Consider this picture from THX Home Entertainment:
For an entirely immersive viewing experience (look at all those subwoofers!), THX recommends that a 40-inch TV be 4–6 feet from the seating area, a 50-inch be 5–7.5 feet away, and a 60-inch be 6–9 feet away. For some family rooms, that just isn’t realistic.
You’ll also have to take into account the distance of your TV to the couch when considering viewing angles and resolution. The higher the TV is off the ground, the farther it is from your seat. If reading the viewing guide is a challenge at eye level, how much worse would it be if your TV is 2, or even 3 feet higher?
Viewing from 40 degrees or less from center is recommended in the case mentioned above, but the vertical viewing angle should be considered as well. A swiveling mount for your wall might solve for some of that, but if you’re watching with friends, everyone appreciates being able to watch at once.
Manufacturers have pretty universal language in their warranties against “harmful operation” (in that it’s harmful to operate a TV in a certain way), and against their basic use principles. Whether mounting your TV above the fireplace falls within that rule of operation is between the manufacturer and you.
If your TV fails and it’s within the warranty period, and you’ve mounted above the fireplace, it might not be covered. Check with the manufacturer just to make sure if fireplace mounting is the way to go.
In the end, to each their own. Some people don’t have the option to put their TV in the entertainment center. Besides, mounting it above the fireplace can be pretty attractive.
We haven’t decided which way to go just yet, so share your thoughts in the comments below. I’m eager to hear what you think.