Many people are returning to Antennas for Television reception. The reason for this can be many but for most of us it is the high prices of Cable or Satellite TV programming and the quality of programming available on these services.
Most homes and even apartments have more than one television today. It seems we just can’t go without television for a moment and they can be found not just in our living rooms but our bedrooms, kitchens, basements and some people even put them in their bathrooms.
If you live in a metropolitan area or a suburban location where you can receive over the air broadcasts with a small antenna then your best bet is to install an antenna on each of your televisions. Some antennas are relatively attractive or can mount behind the television to go unnoticed.
If you live outside of normal reception locations you will need something larger to receive your television signals. Depending on your distance you may require an antenna in your attic, on your roof or maybe one that is mounted on a tower.
Although there are many new wireless devices that can improve wifi or telephone reception without the requirement of wiring no one at this point has designed a way to capture signal from an antenna and then distribute it locally to our televisions.
For this reason you will need to hardwire each television to your antenna. In the past many homes accomplished this with a twinlead wire that was run to each television. However if your home is already wired for cable or satellite you might be able to use your existing coax cable to make the connection.
Most antenna manufacturers recommend that you do not exceed a 100 foot length of cable from your antenna to your television.The reason for this is that television signal will be reduced for each foot of coax. At some point you could have so much signal loss that even the best antenna can not overcome the impedance factor of a long distribution wire.
If your antenna is mounted in your attic or on a tower you must measure the total distance from the antenna to the television. For this reason it is important to locate your antenna in the center of your home to reduce the amount of cable needed to reach each television.
A good idea would be to run a wire from the antenna to a splitter that will allow the shortest lengths of wire to each room.
If you find that the distances are approaching 100 feet then you can use a preamp on your antenna or a distribution amp in place of your coax splitter.
PreAmps, Distribution Amps and Splitters
A PreAmp sits on or very close to your antenna and it takes the signal originating from the antenna and gives it a shove through your entire house. This is the best method for increasing signal strength. Some antenna manufacturers build their antennas with amplifiers and others require you to purchase one separately.
The preamp is installed before any splitter and before the primary coax cable that brings signal from the antenna into your home or to a distribution point like a splitter. The reason for this is because you want to grab the best signal from the antenna before you amplify it. If you have a long length of cable before the preamp you will be amplifying degraded signal.
If you find that this is not enough because maybe you are placing your antenna on a tower that is away from the home and or the wiring in the home along with your standard splitters are reducing signal you can look into using a distribution amplifier. Remember though the same concept of signal degradation applies. If the signal coming into the distribution amp is of poor quality all you will be doing is amplifying bad signal.
One problem with either type of amplifier is that you can overload your system. You can push the amplification so high that the signal is full of noise and can’t be used by the television.
Over Amplification normally happens when a home owner has a one or more tv station towers close to their home but they are trying to pick up other signals from far away. The signals that are coming from towers that are near the home are amplified along with the distant ones and they overpower the system. It is kind of like putting a single microphone near the orchestra’s base drum and then turning up the sound system loud enough that you can hear the flute that is all the way across the stage. All you end up with is boom boom boom and even the drum is so loud it blows out the sound system.
Using your existing Cable TV Coax Cable to distribute signal from your Antenna
If your home was wired in the past 10 years for Cable TV or Satellite Dish reception then the wiring in your home has already been distributed to all of the rooms where you want to watch television. More than likely that cable is a higher grade RG6 Coax Cable that has lower impedance and will work well to carry the signal from your Antenna.
If you don’t have RG6 Cable then you will benefit by changing it out. RG6 has a thicker internal element and better shielding this means signals will have a better chance to get to your televisions and the better cable means it should last longer.
The problem you may run into is the layout of the cable and if it has been optimized for the shortest run between the primary splitter bringing cable tv signal into your home and the individual televisions.
Another problem is the use of splitters within your home to add more outlets. Since every splitter robs your antenna signal of at least 3 to 4 dB you want to use the least number of splitters as possible.
Once you account for the layout and the splitters you can more than likely simply hook your antenna to this distribution network and feed all of your tvs.
If you don’t need to use a rotator to pickup signals from different directions then all of your channels will be available to all of your televisions at the same time. If you do need a rotator then you are going to have to handle the fights in your family hahaha .. or you might be able to install two antennas to receive all your stations if there are no channel conflicts.
Keeping your Cable Modem
If you have a Cable Modem then you will need to make some allowances if you expect to continue using it. I would suggest that you find the single home run that was installed for your Cable Modem and hook it directly to your Cable Companies primary wire into your home with a Barrel Connector and not a Splitter.
You can not have your antenna connected to the line your cable modem is on so you may need to run a new cable from the cable tv demarcation point.. where it enters your home .. directly to the modem. However this might really improve your cable modem speed and dependability so it is really worth doing if you haven’t yet.
More than likely when you cancel your Television subscription they will send a truck to your home and at that point you can get them to make the connection. At the very least you want them to install a 2 way splitter for the cable modem if it is on a 4 to 6 way splitter now. The fewer ports you have on a splitter the better the quality of the signal after the split. A straight barrel connector which has two female ends is your best bet because no splitting occurs.
As normal there is much more to this than can be handled in one how to guide but the important things are…
Measure the cable distance from the antenna to the television and keep it as short as you can.
Reduce your use of splitters on your cables or you will cut your signal strength and this may result in the need of a distribution amplifier.
Where ever your amps are placed you want them as close to the original or a direct connection to your antenna. PreAmps must be at the antenna whether its in the attic or on a tower. That means you might need to run power to it if it can’t get power over the coax cable. That can be a serious drag.
And finally don’t go overboard with amps if you amp up a bad signal you are going to end up with garbage. If you have the amp on and a local station is being amplified you will overpower all the other stations.
If you are having problems use a signal meter if you can get one .. they normally cost about $20 and will tell you what your signals are like.