Smart Home Entertainment Can Be A Pain In The Neck. Literally …
July 31, 2022
Debbie and I have received a lot of great comments the past couple weeks on ways to beat the scorching summer heat we’re experiencing right now with smart home technology. If you missed them, catch up on my posts about smart thermostats and smart ceiling fans to help stay cool and not run up your electric bill. If neither of these can help you then you probably live somewhere it’s just plain hot.
I thought it might be a better idea this week to go in another direction, or as distraction, to just stop thinking about the heat. So, still being a little irritated, I thought I’d cover one of my pet peeves that Debbie and I run across way too often during our home building research. TVs mounted WAY too high on a wall.
I imagine some of you glanced over at the Smart TV you have hanging on the wall just now, wondering if it’s too high. It’s obviously all subjective but there is actual science behind the optimum places and heights to wall mount TVs. And I’ve been guilty of violating that science in the past so don’t feel bad. I mounted our flat panel over the fireplace in our home outside New Orleans. It was the last place left to be able to watch TV once Debbie arranged all the furniture. And I thought I was pretty clever rewiring an electrical outlet and installing a Smurf Tube in order to hide all the cables that connected the TV to power, the cable box and a Blu-Ray player that were all located in the shelving next to the fireplace. It seemed ideal but it actually wasn’t.
I’ll explain so you don’t make the same mistake I did. I bought a heavy-duty TV mount and there was that free space above the fireplace and the next thing I knew, we had a huge TV mounted above the fireplace. At first, it seemed really cool to have the TV up there, but my family soon realized that in order to see the TV comfortably, there were very limited seating options. You would inevitably end up slouching on the couch so you your head could lay across the top, facing the TV, or lying on the couch taking up seating space for other people. For larger gatherings someone always ended up sitting or lying on the floor. Or if they had to stand and watch it was perfect as the TV was mounted too high due to the height of the fireplace mantel.
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a deal breaker to say the least. As my kids were teenagers we *rarely* watched any TV together like we did when they were younger. It eliminated a lot of fighting over what to watch between Transformers or some Disney princess movie but I did miss snuggling with my kids on the couch.
So where’s the harm? Debbie and I spend a significant amount of time researching home design either online, through TV shows or walking through model homes. Sadly, more often than not, we see TVs mounted over fireplaces WAY too high. They look great but from a viewability and personal health perspective, they’re all wrong. And if you’re going to invest in a Smart TV for the variety of content options and high quality image, why not get the the optimal viewing experience.
To put it in perspective from my time working for NBA and NHL teams, think about sitting in the front row. I mean right on the wooden basketball floor or on the glass at a hockey game. Pretty awesome. But you watch the entire game on the JumboTron hanging over the court or ice. I doubt you make it long into the game before your neck starts to hurt.
TV manufacturers recommend mounting the middle of a TV set at about eye level from where you’ll be sitting. Anything else is a recipe for horrible neck strain. Every TV set has an ideal viewing angle both horizontally and vertically that depends on what type of display it uses. That means if you’re looking at the screen from outside the viewing angle, the picture on the TV screen might be darker, blurrier or discolored. Mounting a TV set up high above a fireplace might place your line-of-light out of the ideal viewing angle unless you tilt the TV downward with a special mount.
Another issue with mounting a TV over your fireplace is cable management. If you don’t have any way to conceal the cables dangling from your TV set, you’ll end up with a huge eyesore hanging from the wall above your fireplace. I overcame this issue with the Smurf Tube I referenced above but was lucky that we had the adjacent shelving to route cable to. Otherwise I’m not sure what the options were other than to have the cable box and Blu-Ray player sit on the mantel. Not a look Debbie would have been happy with.
We loved to burn wood in the fireplace in the winter for a rustic feel or when entertaining. Luckily we had a mantel above the fireplace and just below the TV that could block some of the rising heat coming from the fireplace. Regardless, the heat was not great for the longevity of the TV set.
New mount options for over your fireplace now exist that I wish were around when I needed one. They’re a little more involved than the traditional type mounts but allow you to lower your TV over the mantel. Models from MantelMount and Mount It! are height adjustable TV wall mounts designed specifically for fireplace mantel use. The spring assisted height adjustment allows TVs to be pulled down to a more comfortable viewing height. A counterbalance mechanism assists in lifting and lowering the TV, allowing easy height adjustment. Just don’t use them while you have a fire in the fireplace.
This seems like a great solution to the sore neck issue with watching a TV mounted over a fireplace. I would caution however that with the weight of the TV and the motion, you need to make sure the mount is adequately anchored to the wall. I’d suggest at least having your lag bolts secured in wall studs or blocking, which is specifically designed for this purpose. You can use a ‘stud finder’ to locate the studs pretty easily to accomplish this.
I’d suggest blocking if you are building or renovating a home, it’s a good idea to dedicate some time to include this. For our new home we will probably design in more than we need. It will give us flexibility to safely mount TVs in the Great Room and bedrooms but also hang pictures, mount drapery rods and install handicap ‘grab bars’ in the bathrooms in case we live long enough to need them.
If your space is conducive to mount the TV on a wall, attach it at a lower height that corresponds with where most people will be standing or sitting when they watch it. The height of the middle of the TV set should be roughly eye-level with most of the viewers. That means don’t put it up high if everyone will be sitting down while they watch, and keep the TV away from the ceiling.
We’ve thought through our Great Room design regarding TV entertainment and having a fireplace. As the focus in the room will be entertainment and the fireplace is secondary, we moved the fireplace to a corner of the room in order to preserve the ideal viewing space for the TV. This also helps make planning for the room audio easier.
You can also have your TV sitting on a piece of furniture. It takes up a lot more space and not ideal, but it’ll also give you a safe place to store your peripherals (cable box, Blu-Ray player, gaming console) with cables concealed and your neck will be better off for it.
Hopefully this helps with a more pleasurable TV viewing experience. Nobody wants a sore neck but I realize sometimes you have to work with what you have. Luckily there are new solutions to help now. And all this can be done with a little DIY skills and the appropriate tools. It’s only limited by your imagination and a little elbow grease.
I’m curious if you have mounted a TV at home and how you accomplished it. Is your TV over a fireplace and you just figured out why your neck is always sore? Or did you wall mount elsewhere? Is it placed on a cabinet? There are other pole mount options from the ceiling that I didn’t cover here that are ideal solutions for TVs in corners. What is your solution for exposed cables, if any? There are many simple ways to make them less conspicuous.
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …
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