Radiators are an effective way to heat a room, and they add a certain charm. However, if you have moved into a house or apartment with a radiator, you are probably wondering what you can put near a radiator. For example, is it safe to put a TV near one?

It is generally safe to put a TV near a radiator. The space above the radiator does not get hot enough to damage your TV. If you want to be extra cautious, hang a shelf above your radiator to push the air away from the TV.

If you don’t have a lot of experience with radiators, it makes sense that you would be cautious. However, after you understand how one works, you will see why putting a TV near a radiator is actually safer than hanging one over a fireplace.

What Is a Radiator and How Does it Work?

To understand how a radiator could affect your television, let’s begin by explaining how a radiator works.

A radiator works on the principle of heat transfer or convection. They pull cool air from the bottom and warm the air as it passes over the fins heated by steam. The warm air then travels up the radiator and heats the room.

Most radiators rely on steam to heat a room. The water in the radiator is boiled, which creates steam. The steam travels through pipes in the radiator to create heat. As the steam cools, it condenses into water, making its way back to the boiler, where it is again heated, and the steam travels through the pipes, cools, and condenses—an almost endless cycle.

Along with the traditional cast-iron radiators, modern variations include systems that run along the baseboard and ceramic radiators, which are cooler to the touch and more efficient.

Some radiators have a metal reservoir that is filled with a heat transfer or thermal oil. A heating element similar to one inside a stove runs along the bottom and heats the oil. The heat rises up the radiator’s fins, warming them, and the heat then radiates through the space.

Although radiators are typically not installed in new homes, they are very safe. You should probably not use one to dry your clothes, but a radiator is not likely to burn your clothes or catch them on fire unless it is hot to the touch.

What Is the Temperature Around a Radiator?

Most radiators are hot but will not burn. It isn’t hot water that enters the radiator’s fins but steam. When you put your hands over a boiling pot of water, the steam is uncomfortably hot, but it won’t burn you. The same principle is at play with radiators.

However, the space above a fireplace can be too hot for a TV. If you plan to hang your television above the fireplace, it is a good idea to check the wall’s temperature.

To do so, put a thermometer on the wall, let the fire get good and hot, and check the temperature. If it is higher than the recommended maximum temperature, you should either mount your TV somewhere else or use a mount to give the back of the set a few inches clearance.

You could also use a thermometer to check the temperature above a radiator. Make sure it is good and hot, and check your thermometer. It’s difficult to imagine it would ever go above 100 °F (37.87 °C).

Placement of Radiators

In older houses, radiators were often placed in front of windows. This was done to counteract the cold that single-pane windows let into an already drafty, uninsulated house. However, in adequately insulated homes, a radiator can be placed practically anywhere.

Most radiators have minimum clearances. Typically they will be 6 inches (150 mm) off the floor and 4 inches (100 mm) on either side. Radiators can be recessed in a wall, mainly for a decorative effect. In those situations, 6-inch (150 mm) clearances around the sides and on top are recommended.

What Temperature Can You Safely Operate Your Television?

Most manufacturers will provide ranges for safe operation, providing both minimums and maximums. They provide these temperatures because some people want to store TVs in their summer or winter cabins.

  • Samsung LCD TVs’ operating temperature range is from 50 to 104 °F (10 to 40 °C).
  • The storage temperature range is from -4 to 113 °F (-20 to 45 °C).
  • Sony has a similar range of 32-104 °F (0 to 40 °C) for usage.

Check your specific model to see if safe operation temperatures fall outside these ranges.

Is There a Way to Block the Temperature?

If there isn’t already a shelf above your radiator, you might want to consider putting one up. Shelves above a radiator push the warm air out into the room instead of up the wall. You can buy shelves made specifically for radiators, such as the Greenhurst Radiator Shelf, although most any shelf will work, such as this InPlace Floating Shelf.

When you hang your shelf, consider going beyond the minimum clearances to keep heat away from your TV.

What Can Cause a TV to Get Hot?

If your TV is getting too hot, the problem might not lie with the temperature near it. Instead, it could be due to dust or poor airflow.

  • Clogged vents: Sometimes, the ventilation holes become clogged. This is often due to dust accumulation. Most TV owners should be cleaning the vents. If you have a newer TV, they will be in the back. Unplug the cable to keep from damaging it and let your vacuum cleaner do the work (with the proper attachment, of course).
  • Poor airflow: If your television is situated in the corner or a too-small cabinet, it will overheat.

Also, avoid placing your TV where direct sunlight can hit it.

Should I Run the Power Cables Behind the Radiator?

This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, cords are generally rated for how many watts and amps they can carry, not the heat load, so it is difficult to know if a radiator will cause them to burn. On the other hand, power cords can be near electric radiators, as long as they do not touch the heating elements.

You have three options:

  1. Run power cords along the wall away from the radiator.
  2. Run the power cord on the wall behind the radiator and see how hot the cord gets.
  3. Put the cord inside a thermal insulation tunnel.

You need to decide what you are comfortable with based on your preference and risk tolerance.

What Can Cause Power Cables to Malfunction?

Another common concern is whether a radiator can cause the TV’s power cord to malfunction. The most common causes of power cable malfunctions are not heat-related, instead due to design problems or preventable circumstances.

  • Power cord damage: Cords can be damaged at the connectors or be crimped. If this happens, the resistance can heat up the cord.
  • Short circuits: A circuit in your house could short, causing a malfunction in the cord or the equipment.
  • Excessive strain: This happens when the cord is wrapped around the adapter frequently, which is common for people who regularly take their laptops with them as they travel. If this happens, you will often see exposed wires.
  • Counterfeit cords: Electronic equipment is being sold with counterfeit cords. You can spot them by the misspelled labels, color differences, and slight design differences.

As you can see, the most common cord malfunctions aren’t heat-related.

Bottom Line

Generally speaking, you can put a TV above a radiator, as long as you give it some clearance. Many people hang their televisions over a fireplace, and a fire gets hotter than a radiator. Some people hang a shelf over the radiator to deflect heat away from the TV.