When setting up your home theater, it’s tempting to mount the TV above your fireplace. This arrangement seems like a great use of space, but it’s actually one of the worst things you can do for both the TV itself, and for your own viewing experience.
It’s Bad for the TV
First and foremost, the heat and soot generated by a fireplace can raise the operating temperature of the set, and reduce its usable life span. If the damage to the internals is noticeable, the manufacturer could even refuse warranty service. This won’t really matter if you rarely use the fireplace, but it’s a non-starter if you do.
It’s a Pain in the Neck
Even if you aren’t concerned about damaging the TV, you’ll still strain your neck watching it it if it’s mounted too high. Geoff Morrison at CNET likens it to sitting in the front row of a movie theater every time you watch TV, and suggests placing the center of the screen at eye level from your standard sitting position, or even slightly below. Apartment Therapy offers similar advice, recommending that the top of the screen should only be about 15 degrees above your horizontal plane of vision. By either measure, hanging your screen above a fireplace isn’t remotely close to an optimal position. In fact, you’d be better off mounting it inside the fireplace.
It Hurts Your Image Quality
If this weren’t enough, most LCD and LED-backlit sets still suffer from poor viewing angles, so looking at them from below can spoil your experience. An exhaustive 2008 DisplayMate study found that every LCD TV they tested suffered from noticeable color shifts at less than 15 degrees, far less than the angle from your couch to the top of a fireplace-mounted screen. LCD technology has improved somewhat in recent years, but unless you have a plasma screen or an expensive IPS display, you’ll never get as vibrant a picture from a mantle-mounted TV as you would from one at eye level.
If you spent good money on a new flat panel, you want to put it in a position to shine. So avoid the fireplace and find another wall to mount it lower, or set it on an entertainment center. Your TV, neck, and eyes will thank you for it.