Flat Panel Over the Fireplace

In my family room, the only place I can mount my TV is above a brick fireplace. The ceiling height is 9 feet, and the fireplace is 57 inches tall, giving me 51 inches above the fireplace with a width of 69 inches. The sofa is 12 feet from the fireplace. I get the sense that the TV would be too high, and I would like your thoughts on the height and distance.

barecomp

I always recommend against mounting a flat panel above a fireplace—no so much because of heat, because the flue insulates the wall. And unless you have a glass or metal radiator in front of the fireplace, there's no heat rising right in front of the TV. (Of course, if you do have a radiator in front of the fireplace, the TV could get way too hot for its own good!)

Rather, it's because this type of mounting is way too high for optimum viewing, as you suspect. In fact, it's too high for comfortable viewing—you must crane your neck to watch, and you'll likely get sore before a 2-hour movie is over. So if at all possible, I strongly recommend that you find another solution that puts the middle of the screen at seated eye height.

If that's simply not possible, get a mount that tilts the screen downward toward the sofa, though that still isn't great. A much better option is called ComfortVu (seen above), a motorized wall-mount kit that swings the TV out and down to a more reasonable viewing height in front of the fireplace. It can accommodate TVs measuring 55 to 80 inches diagonally and weighing up to 200 pounds, but it ain't cheap at $3600.

As for the TV itself, the optimum diagonal screen size for a seating distance of 12 feet is 90 to 120 inches, but your available space is 69 inches wide and 51 inches tall, so the biggest screen that will fit is less than 80 inches diagonally. How much less depends on the size of the TV's bezel, so let's say 65 or 70 inches, which are the largest standard flat-panel screen sizes under 80 inches. All the major brands offer 65-inch flat panels, but only Sharp goes up to 70 and even 80 inches.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

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COMMENTS
barecomp's picture

This is really great information. I cannot believe that the ConfortVu will actually cost me more than the TV. Is there any other option than ComforVu?

I think the 65 inch would work fine.

My wife and I are in our mid 50's and really do not watch that much TV and I am debating between 3D and 2D. We are trying to minimize any additional speakers and sub-woofers external to the TV. We are currently using a SONY 36" Console TV and are waiting for it to die but it won't. I would like to be able to watch Netflix, Blue-Ray and already have a Pioneer Elite Receiver available but it does not have any ethernet connectivity.

Which TV model would you say would best be suited for us.

Rob Sabin's picture
It's worth pointing out that, although Scott is technically correct that the wall above the fireplace does not usually suffer from heat transfer from the flue, heat may still be an issue with any fireplace install. The problem is with the venting of heat off the hearth. Based on the design of the fireplace, as well as the depth and design of the mantle, heat may indeed crawl right up the wall to where it can bathe a television in temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees. For the record, anything over 85-90 degrees or so is not recommended as a regular operating temperature for any electronics you hope to imbue with long life, and truly excessive heat can warp or melt the plastic elements of a television over time. I agree with Scott in not usually recommending above-the-fireplace installs because of the comfort factor; either you're sitting too close and craning your neck, or sitting too far back and turning the screen into a postage stamp. But if you have to do it and aren't sure the area stays cool enough, get a cheap electronic thermometer with an outdoor probe at the end of a wire and tape that to the wall above the mantle. Then get a blazing fire going and see what you're dealing with before putting an expensive TV up there. I once installed a TV above a relatively low gas fireplace that had no mantle. I checked beforehand and warned the homeowner that the temperature above the fireplace was reaching in excess of 110 degrees when the fireplace was on. He had me do it anyway, and the only saving grace was that I also mounted a large surroundbar that had an aluminum cabinet right below the TV, which helped draft the heat out from the wall a little bit like a mantle might have. But the metal underside of that cabinet got pretty darn warm, and I had to strongly recommended he not use the fireplace, and certainly not with the TV running, if he hoped to extend the life of the gear and keep things safe.
barecomp's picture

The heat from the Fireplace definitely makes sense. Fortunately we live in Southern California and only turn on the fireplace during Xmas and it is just for show. Most of the home I have been in, have mounted the TV over the fireplace, so I am surprised that there is not a better solution or at least something a little bit more affordable. I mean 4K for a TV mount - come on!

Rob Sabin's picture

Yes, motorized mounts and lifts are never cheap, but this is also a nearly unique solution. ComfortVu's only competition for a dropping mount we're aware of is from UK-based Future Automation, which makes a similar product. Here's the link. You can call their US distribution arm and check pricing.

http://www.futureautomation.co.uk/Product/Browse/Wall-Mounts/Electric-Ti...

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I looked at the Future Automation product during my research for this question (thanks for pointing me toward it, Rob!), but according to the website, it accommodates TVs only up to 50 inches.
jnemesh's picture

I would recommend a standard tilt mount if the ComforVu is too pricey for you...and, actually, if you sit in recliners, having the TV up so high isn't as big of a deal...if you sit in a normal chair though, prepare for some neck pain! In the long run,though, having a $3200 mount might be less expensive than a chiropractor or doctor's bill!

As for the TV itself? Well, first off, you shouldn't approach it from a "3D or 2D" angle. Think of 3D as just one other feature that the high end TVs offer, instead. I would recommend not paying attention to 3D at all, and simply choose the TV that offers the best picture quality. These sets will all probably have 3D, but that doesn't mean you have to use that function if you don't like it or don't care about it!

If you are shopping for a 65" set, the plasma sets are going to be much less expensive than LED (actually, they are LED backlit LCD screens, but manufacturers insist on just calling them LED here in the US). If you are looking for a top quality set, you should take a look at the upcoming Panasonic TCP65VT50 which will have an MSRP of $3699. While this new model has not shipped yet, it will be available within the next month or so. Judging from last year's model, the TCP65VT30, this should offer outstanding picture quality with deep, dark blacks, vivid (but accurate!) color, and very good performance with fast motion.

If you don't want to wait, take a look at Samsung's new 64" PN64E8000. Samsung is claiming that black levels are 30% lower on this year's models compared to last years sets, and last years Samsung Plasma sets looked incredible! The Samsung also offers some interesting features, including a full web browser, voice and motion control, and an integrated camera for video calls over Skype! Again, don't worry so much if you don't care about the bells and whistles...they are fun, but the main thing you are looking for is performance, and this set has that, in spades! The PN64ES8000 has an MSRP of $3949.99 but right now they are offering instant rebates on this model, so you will find it being sold at $3599.99.

If your room has a lot of light, you may prefer an LED set. They will have a higher overall brightness and so will perform a bit better in a brightly lit room. However, there are other compromises. The thin LED sets are edge lit, so you will sometimes have issues with the set having uneven brightness across the screen. Additionally, as you get off center, you will notice that the picture's contrast deteriorates the further off center you are. Motion isn't handled as well either...some blurring occurs, which is why you see TVs advertised with 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rates...this is to compensate for the limitations of the LCD technology (remember, LED sets currently being sold are just LED backlit/edgelit LCD panels!). There are pros and cons...you will have to weigh them yourself to see whether a plasma or LED/LCD set is right for you.

For a recommendation on the LED 65", I would again say Samsung. They have a UN65ES8000 set coming out in the next month or two (everyone is changing over to the new 2012 models, and the 65" sizes usually come out last). This one will be selling for $4699 MSRP when it is released in the next month or two.

If you can't wait, my 2nd recommendation would be for a Sharp. They offer 60" and 70" sizes, so you will have to go up or down in size with this brand. Sharp has some truly EXCELLENT sets out this year, and they are generally a little less expensive for the larger screen sizes than their competition. They have the 70" LC70LE847U for $3699 MSRP...about the same price as a 65" plasma! A 60" version of the same set will be only $2699 MSRP!

It should be noted that Sharp is making the new "Elite" branded LED sets. These "Elite" models ARE top of the line as far as picture quality, but also a little on the expensive side. The 70" Elite is $7000 MSRP. A good choice if you can afford it...if not, go with the 70" Sharp and you will get a pretty good "bang for the buck"!

Now, about the audio...I can understand your reluctance to have the hassle and expense of having speakers everywhere, but TV speakers really are NOT very good at all! I would HIGHLY recommend having speakers added to your system.

Take a look at the speakers from Artison at artisonusa.com . They have speakers that mount to the sides of your TV, providing not only the left and right channels, but also a dedicated center channel as well! The real beauty of these speakers is that they offer custom grilles to match the height of your set! When properly installed, they look like they are part of your TV! They have a "Good, Better, Best" set of options for you...the "Sketch", "Portrait", and "Masterpiece". Pick one that fits your budget! Oh, they also offer a soundbar option, if you prefer having the speaker along the top or bottom of the set...personally, I think with where you are mounting on the fireplace, the ones that attach to the sides will work better.

You could also continue using your existing Pioneer AVR with the system. You don't have to use rears with it if you don't want to...just set your AVR to say "none" under rear speakers. Even with just the front 3 speakers and a small subwoofer running, it will still sound outstanding compared to the wimpy speakers built in to the TVs!

Keep in mind, with all of the sets you are looking at, you will have access through the TV to Pandora, your local music collection, and other internet radio services, so it's really not that important to have the network functions in your AVR.

If simplicity and ease of use is the primary reason you are hesitant to add speakers, I would again HIGHLY recommend a professionally set up control system. They can set up your system to be as easy to operate as possible, as well as getting all of your equipment hidden in a closet or cabinet. They can also give you options from a traditional or touch screen remote, to having your iPhone or iPad control the entire system! Having a control system is often means the difference between having a system you tolerate to having a system you LOVE!

I hope all this helps...I set out to give a couple of simple recommendations on the TV set and ended up writing an article on it! Scott, if you ever need someone to fill in when you are on vacation, let me know! :)

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Quite an article at that; nice job! I agree with just about everything you wrote. My only quibble might be with your recommendation of a Sharp (non-Elite), though I admit we haven't reviewed any models other than the Elite for quite some time. So my opinion is based on long-past experience and the knowledge that, other than the Elite, Sharp sets with full-array LED backlighting do not implement local dimming, which means the blacks are probably not all that great. I hope to get one of Sharp's 70-inchers in for review some time soon.

One more thing: as far as I know, the 70-inch Sharp Elite PRO-70X5FD MSRP is $8500, not $7000.

jnemesh's picture

I have been very pleasantly surprised by Sharp's quality lately. I just un-boxed and put on display their new LC70LE745U 70" set, which is non "Quattron" (only RGB sub-pixels) and "only" 120Hz refresh rate. I have since had several dealers comment on the excellent picture quality, and I haven't even attempted to calibrate the set yet!

It is set to "standard" mode, and (of course) the first thing I did was turn off their "motion" interpolation and "film mode" (which also does something wonky to the picture). After that...the set looks EXCELLENT with 2D material...although I feel that the 3D performance will suffer with the lower refresh rate.

One other thing that my dealers LOVE is that this model has a matte screen! I had thought that they were doing away with the matte finish completely, and I am glad they didn't! While the glossy screens have filters that help with contrast and black level, in my opinion DRAMATICALLY improving the picture quality, there are always customers who have windows facing their TV and are bothered by sharp reflections (no pun intended) on the screen. It's nice to at least have the option!

The other big win for Sharp, is that they realize that people MIGHT want to control their sets with something other than the IR remote! They have both RS-232 serial control AND IP control over the network! Even better, the protocol and codes for these are printed right in the user's manual! What a concept! This makes it EXTREMELY easy for a custom installer to control the set using a control system like Crestron, RTI, AMX, etc.

The company seems to be "betting big" by focusing on 60", 70" and 80" sizes, where they have a definite advantage over the other brands. I don't necessarily think that they have the overall BEST performance, but they ARE very good, and they have a GREAT bang for the buck! I can't wait to see you put these guys through the paces and get a thorough review out!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Well, now you've piqued my curiosity! Is Standard mode equivalent to Movie or Cinema mode? I don't recall if Sharp sets have a Movie or Cinema mode. What color-temp setting is closest to D65? Normally, it's Warm, but I don't know with the new Sharps. Also, I'm surprised that film mode does something wonky to the picture; after all, this mode is supposed to properly deinterlace 3:2 content, so if you disable it and send 3:2 content (like a movie from broadcast TV), that should look pretty wonky.

I never thought that the yellow subpixel did any real good, so I'm glad it's not in all Sharp sets. Also, I agree that matte screens are becoming rare, and they are great for combatting reflections and glare. But you're right that shiny screens can help lower the black level, so I'm concerned about the black level of the Sharp, especially since local dimming is not implemented.

Still, I look forward to reviewing one soon!

jnemesh's picture

Apparently "Film Mode" does not refer to 3:2 pulldown on the Sharps. I was pretty upset that last year's top end model (the LC60LE835) looked like it did, until I figured out that "Film Mode" was screwing with the image! After turning it off, I noticed that the image improved DRAMATICALLY!

The picture settings included on the LC70LE745U include Auto, Standard, Movie, Game, PC, User, Dynamic, and Dynamic (Fixed). The "movie" mode is probably closest to D65, but due to the environment in my showroom (bright florescent lights, yay!) I usually keep the sets on "Standard"...even in such a harsh environment, I can't bring myself to set them to "dynamic"!

As to the black levels...they look OK...not outstanding, not poor. But, considering that this is an entry level set, and sells for $3199 for a 70" set (less than competitors 65" LEDs!), I think it's a great value!

mehuang's picture

Fireplace TV mount is fine
I have a TV over the fireplace in my family room and have had no issues with viewing angle. I have a 13.5’ x 20’ family room that opens to our casual dining area and kitchen. We have a 51” Samsung D7000 plasma on a tilt mount over the fireplace and it looks awesome when it is on and off. We chose it for picture and wide viewing angles. We have 8’ ceilings and the bottom of the TV is 57” off of the ground. Our sofa is about 12’ from the TV so it really quite similar to your room. We have absolutely no issues with the viewing angle being too high from any seating position. We have recliners up closer to the TV which eliminate any issues of “looking up” at the TV. As a bonus, when we have parties, due to the higher height of the TV, people who are standing around or in the kitchen can still see the TV.

Is the TV small for the viewing distance? Absolutely. Would I want a larger TV? Yes if it were just a home theater, no for where it is which is a family room. We aren’t heavy TV watchers so don't want it to look out of place when the TV is OFF.

I say don’t bother with that expensive motorized mount, a tilt mount is fine for your scenario. Get it at monoprice (and your cables as well) for a whole lot less than most places with great quality.

As pointed out earlier, make sure to check to see if your fireplace wall gets too warm, otherwise it is not worth mounting the TV to fry it with the fireplace. I also do not simultaneously watch TV with the fireplace on; not because of the heat, but because I find the fireplace very distracting to watching TV.

As for your TV go for as large as possible that won’t make the room look unbalanced, when in doubt tape out an area on the wall to simulate the TV, take a picture, then darken the space outlined in photo editing software to give you a rough feel.

Some pictures of our room for perspective:
http://pix.kg/p/2539528590103%3A1413805519/scl

HardBoiled's picture

If they hardly ever use the fireplace how about a tv stand with wheels and just move it to the side to use the fireplace. the tv would be closer also.

gamecock79's picture

We also have our TV mounted over the fireplace. In our room it is the only logical place to put it considering the placement of the windows, doors, large furniture and the fireplace. We have been enjoying ours in this position for over a year now with no problems. We are viewing a 47" from 12 feet at about the same height as your proposed location. It is on a tilt mount and it looks great. We have absolutley no issues with pains in the neck or discomfort at all. You will only be looking slightly upward and it doesn't look like a "postage stamp" at that distance either. Living in South Carolina we don't have much need for a fire in the fireplace but on the few times that we have burned one there were no issues with heat. I'm sure I could create a bad situation with a big roaring fire but we have no need for that.

shwami loki's picture

If you have a screen over your fireplace and think its fine you are just settling, its not optimal by any measure, you have to look unnaturally upward to view any tv, not just lean back movies. its not ergonomic to say the least, and looks a bit absurd, the only thing that belongs above a fireplace is artwork, you stand and view from close distance and it becomes background noise after a while.

a cheaper solution if one is willing to sacrifice your fireplace is to build a mount frame/bracket inside the fireplace so you can mount the tv lower, just be creative. under the tv just put in some shelves for av equipment, the tv will block off most of the fireplace, but thats kinda how it has to be.

barecomp's picture

These are all great comments and I really appreciate all your input. I did not realize that there was so much thought process to selecting a TV.

Guess I will have to print and study all this.

Thanks

Lynn Maudlin's picture

I found this thread by searching for "flat screen TV mounted over fireplace" since, in my new location, that's an option I need to consider - really helpful, thank you all!

But I'm prompted to comment because, back in the mid-1990s, I put my 32" TV, which was big for the day, inside my fireplace! It was the only practical way to deal with the long backside of the CRT and it sits very nicely upon the hearth at a good height. But I don't plan to move that aging TV set and expect to buy a flat screen for the new location.

Thanks!

ednaz's picture

Our family room fireplace was build with a whole area with moldings and such framing an area that's the size and shape of a 70" flat screen tv. Also heavy duty beams behind the wood panel. No such thing as a 70 incher at my price range five years ago when we moved in but the Pioneer 52 inch plasma went up there. Bottom of the screen is about 5 1/2 feet up. Slight down angle to the screen, which avoids all kinds of reflections. No stiff necks - the distance from the seat to screen is such that the angle is about like sitting a third of the way back in a well-raked movie theater.

Put something up about 7 feet high and sit 10 feet back and look at it... your head won't be tilted back. Half the time I'm stretched out on the couch anyway, zero problem there even if it was on the ceiling.

The fireplace is gas, with vents to push out warm air, and I put a thermometer on the mantel to see whether there were issues. The temperature was about 15 degrees higher than the room. Then I checked when the TV was off but the fireplace on, and it was only 10 degrees warmer. The plasma set generates some heat itself, clearly. The air vents in the fireplace have small fans in them, and the air doesn't really start to rise much until it gets a foot or two out.

Where it was an issue was with audio. My 2 channel sound system is Krell with Gradient Revolution speakers, and when I tried them as speakers with the TV, the difference in the speaker imaging height and the TV height just didn't work. We ended up with an AV receiver and a Definitive Tech ProSub 1000 setup for the TV, keeping a separate two channel system. LCR speakers on the mantel work just fine, although nowhere near the sound quality I want in general.

I just bought a set of Golden Ear Triton Two towers, which I was going to put in my studio... then I thought I'd try them as fronts with my TV setup, borrowing a Golden Ear center for the test. I'm going to wire them with a pass-through setup, so for music, the Krell gear will drive them; for video, the AV receiver will drive them. The Gradients are too power hungry for me to even consider this, but with the Golden Ear efficiency, this may all work out. The Golden Ears are taller than the Gradients, and they image quite a bit higher. I'm hoping the center will "pull" the perceived height up higher.

If it works, I'll be able to reduce the number of speakers in the room by 2, and the number of subs by 2 (one for the Gradients, one for the AV system). My wife is rooting for this to work...

We're now shopping for a 70 inch screen, which'll fill the space that the builder seemed to create just for that purpose, and hoping I sell a few more works so we can buy the 70 incher.

pollardmarker's picture

Modern era decorating home with modern furniture's is one of the best ways of home improvements. Big sized LCD TV's are one of that modern furniture's. I'm so glad to find instructive tutorial for flat panel over the fireplace TV installing methods. Thanks a lot for helpful allocation.
bedroom furniture

schradep's picture

I needed to mount a TV above the fireplace because it was really the only place in the room it could be viewed by everyone and not in the way. The mantel of our fireplace is rather high (almost 6 feet) which would put the center of the TV well above a comfortable viewing angle. I spent months searching for a TV mount that could lower the TV to a decent height. I quickly discovered that anything motorized would cost several times what I paid for the TV. Beyond that, there were 2 options: Omnimount or Down and Out by Dynamic Mounting (http://www.dynamicmounting.com/index.php). The Omnimount is cheaper ($200-$300 vs. $400-$500) but an inferior product for my purposes. The Down and Out mount is much thinner (protrudes ~4 inches from the wall) and can lower the TV much farther (~30 inches!). I should also say that I have engineering degrees and tend to do all my own work. I thought about making my own mount but was a bit surprised at both the cost and level of difficulty. The Down and Out was fairly simple to mount on the wall and works VERY well.

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