People love the idea of mounting a TV over a fireplace. Sometimes it's the only option in a room whose walls are consumed by windows and doorways, or sometimes it's a simple matter of preference: it just looks cool. Either way, putting an electronic device over what amounts to an oven is certainly not ideal. It's not necessarily the end of the world either, as long as you keep the following caveats in mind.
Electronics generate heat
Not exactly a revelation, but a TV's innards create plenty of heat on their own, so exposing them to additional heat for long periods of time is not a great idea. Translation: if you love roaring fires and like to keep your fireplace busy through the fall and winter months, think twice about hanging that expensive piece of electronics over the hearth. Exposure to heat can raise the TV's operating temperature beyond normal limits, which can damage sensitive electronics and, ultimately, shorten the set's life. You also run the risk of voiding the manufacturer's warranty. Some TV manufacturers even specifically recommend against above-fireplace mounting.
Of course, if you rarely use the fireplace or it's a properly installed gas-burning unit, you probably won't have much to worry about. And if you're unsure, it never hurts to consult a professional.
Fireplaces generate soot
Wood-burning fireplaces create soot, so make sure it is operating properly and your chimney isn't gunked up with creosote before mounting a TV above the mantle. A build-up of tar-like creosote can restrict the flow of smoke and soot up the chimney, causing it to leak into the room and deposit residue on (and in) a nearby TV. Worse, such build-ups are a fire hazard.
Avoiding the front row syndrome
Watching a TV above a fireplace can be like sitting in the first row of a concert hall or movie theater. The action is right there, but you have to crane your neck to watch the show. Trust us - this is not the way you want to watch TV, and it can lead to long-term neck pain. Ideally, the center of the screen should be roughly in line with your eyes when you're sitting down. Fortunately, there's a simple workaround: make sure the bracket used to secure the TV to the wall has tilting capability so the screen can be angled for comfortable viewing. A variety of TV mounts are available from several companies, including models that pull out from the wall, swivel left and right and even drop down in the case of one model designed specifically for above-fireplace mounting.
There's another benefit to being able to adjust the screen: You can compensate for viewing-angle limitations if your TV is an LCD model (most are these days). If your seated viewing position is too far "off axis" - that is, away from the center of the screen - images can appear washed out.
Mounting a TV on the wall can be a tricky proposition that is usually best left in the hands of a pro - especially when a fireplace is part of the equation.
To learn more about custom installation, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.