This is a good question and one that deserves discussion and planning. Lots of people are installing big screen TV’s above their fireplace. It’s a great use of space, but will the TV be damaged if the fireplace in operating? Is there anything that can be done to protect the TV? If you’re building or remodeling, are there techniques that can be incorporated into the project to shield the TV from heat?
A POPULAR IDEA
Years ago, it didn’t take people long to discover that large, flat screen TV’s take up a lot of space in the family or living room. So why not hang them on the wall, right? Viewing angles of the TV were better, improved sound systems added and a theatre experience was relocated to the home.
The space above the fireplace, usually reserved for family pictures and seasonal decorations became a prime location for the TV. And, rightly so. Since the fireplace is the focal point of the living room, why not install the TV right above it? Enjoy the ambiance and benefits of the fire and flames while you’re relaxing watching your favorite shows or movies. Great idea! But what about the heat from the fireplace? We know that sensitive electronics and high heat are not a good combination. A great way to permanently damage or shorten the life of the TV is to subject it to high temperatures.
Before we go any further, understand that fireplace manufacturers generally do not endorse this idea. Most will defer you follow the recommendation in the TV owner’s manual. None will assume liability or be responsible for an expensive TV being damaged from the heat of their fireplace. Furthermore, most TV manufacturers do not endorse the idea of mounting their products above a fireplace. Still, it’s done successfully every day and common sense will go a long way to prevent any difficulties.
If yours is an electric fireplace, heat should not be an issue. The heating elements for electric fireplaces can be located along the top or along the bottom of the fireplace. Purchase an electric model where the heat is in the bottom, furthest away from the TV above it. And if the heat is on, make sure the fan is, too.
GAS & WOOD FIREPLACES
Wood fireplaces and gas units are a different story. Gas and wood models will get considerably hotter than an electric fireplace.
Make sure a mantle is installed above the fireplace. Be sure to comply with the fireplace manufacturer’s requirements regarding clearances from the top of the fireplace to a mantle. Most mantles are between 6” and 10” deep and extend further than the full width of the fireplace. They will provide a first line defense from the heat off a fireplace. Mantles will act as a deflector as the heat rolls off the front of the fireplace. With the fireplace fan turned on, even on low, the heat will be pushed forward into the room and not have a tendency to drift up to the mantle. But with the fan off, the mantle will shield that heat and provide significant protection for the TV.
Smoke is another enemy of sensitive electronics. Take extra care and make sure the smoke is contained to the fireplace. This means learning how to build a fire from a cold start and how to refuel the fireplace during operation. The big-screen will thank you for reading, understanding and following the owner’s manual for your wood burning fireplace!
TECHNIQUES FOR FRAMING
There are a couple of framing techniques during installation that are certainly worth considering. One involves framing the front of the fireplace into the room several inches. This allows the big screen to be mounted on the wall behind the fireplace. Another technique is to build a small recessed area above the TV. The TV can be mounted into space which can provide another 4 or 5 inches of depth from the adjacent wall. Be sure the interstitial space above the fireplace allows for adequate clearances for any venting or chimney components. In both these framing scenarios, it would still be prudent to install a mantle to help deflect the heat. Also, it’s a good idea to allow a 1” – 2” air gap behind the TV for air circulation.
Mounting a TV above a fireplace is very popular today. Just keep in mind not to mount the TV too high on the wall. If yours is an 8’ ceiling and the mantle is 4 ½ or 5 feet off the floor, it might not be the right application. The TV will end up too high on the wall. It would be like being the last one seated in a theatre for a popular movie. If you sit in the front row, you’re going to have a sore neck by the time the movie’s over! So keep in mind the size of the room, the ceiling height in the room, the size of the television and the mounting/viewing height of the TV.