Whether you live in a city, a sandy beach, or several miles away from the nearest city, installing a TV antenna can be the must cost effective way to untether from those ever-growing cable and satellite subscriptions. For people who live in rural areas, a TV antenna may be their only option.
However, getting a TV antenna installed and functioning optimally is not always a straight forward task. If you rely on a television antenna and are not receiving all the OTA (Over-the-Air) channels you should be, we have put together a list of DIY type fixes you can try today.
There are several factors that can contribute to your TV antenna signal not be optimized, including your installation, distance from the towers, location, direction, among many other factors we will discuss in a moment. Below is our guide on 11 ways to boost your TV antenna signal strength.
#1. Ensure the Antenna is Aimed Properly
Multi- and unidirectional antennas and some omnidirectional antennas provide powerful signal reception. However, they must be accurately pointed to the RF (Radio Frequency) signal source.
Consumers who use unidirectional antennas are usually of log-periodic or Yagi design. If you have a poor signal reception, try re-aiming your antenna towards the transmission or broadcast towers. You could be astonished to find that even a shift by a few degrees might help.
But how do you know where the nearest transmission towers are? Fortunately, there are some online tools like RabbitEars.info, we did a comprehensive guide here on how to use this tool. Also, check out our TV station locator tool page that will help you locate the nearest broadcast towers.
When orienting your antenna, pay attention to the following two things:
- The antenna mast should always be vertically level: Use a carpenter’s level to verify that the mast is level. If the antenna isn’t vertical from bottom to top, it will have a poor signal reception. Ask another person to rescan the channels on your TV and inform you how your re-aiming efforts are working.
- Ensure that you use the tower’s magnetic azimuth heading to aim your antenna using your compass. A compass smartphone app can also be used. When you are aiming towards a group of towers, experiment for some time to receive the best signal.
#2. Changing Your Antenna’s Location and Position
It may be the case that your current installation location is just not ideal. Relocating may be the best way to improve your TV antenna signal. If you’ve tried step #1 above and are still not getting the result you expect consider moving your antenna to another location.
Relocating your TV antenna may work due to the physics of signal transmission and its LOS (Line Of Sight). If you are going to do the heavy lifting required in relocating your TV antenna, be sure to carefully plan out your new location.
Make sure your new location takes into consideration things like trees, hills, walls, buildings, and any other obstruction you may be dealing with.
Next, run the RabbitEars report for your location, and reassess whether your current antenna is even capable of receiving TV broadcasts. You may find that upgrading your TV antenna can solve some of these problems.
#3. Installing an Antenna Preamplifier
TV signals generally get weaker as it moves through coaxial cable to your network tuner or TV. If the signal is split at one or more points, the signal reaching your TV may become weak, making it necessary to install a preamplifier.
An antenna preamplifier is usually installed on the antenna mast close to the antenna. It amplifies your signal before a line loss occurs. Ensure the coax cable length between the preamplifier and antenna is as short as possible to get the best results.
Additionally, ensure you don’t install signal splitters on the coax cable that runs between the power supply and the preamplifier. If your connection has signal slitters along this cable, it could be the reason for the poor signal.
We highly recommend reading our guide on antenna preamplifiers vs. distribution amplifiers.
Installing a preamplifier is an excellent solution whenever the signal strength becomes degraded because of splitters and cable runs. The degree to which the preamplifiers raise the signal strength can be measured in dB (decibels), meaning that if an amplifier has a higher dB rating, it will best boost TV antenna signal.
However, ensure you don’t over-amplify the antenna signal. TV signal over-amplification can be even worse than those weak signals. A signal load might arise in the TV tuner, amplifier, or both. This can be avoided by using an antenna preamplifier with an adjustable gain.
#4. Increase Your Antenna’s Height
Your antenna reception will perform optimally if it has a clear line of sight to the broadcast towers. Ideally, this means that the antenna should be pointed directly towards the tower, ensuring there aren’t any local obstacles like mountains, trees, or buildings on its way.
The obstacles create a perfect opportunity for the signals to split when they bounce off these surfaces and become out of face in what is called multipath interference. During the VHF analog days, multipath interference would produce weird effects like ghosting.
However, multipath interference will most likely result in pixilation or lack of a picture at all these days.
Unfortunately, having a clean line of sight to the closest TV station or transmission tower is unattainable for many households. Therefore, you should mount the antenna as high as possible and outside if possible. This is the best option to clear your local obstacles.
Safety should be your priority when installing the antenna outdoors or in your house. Take the necessary precautions before climbing onto your roof. Antennas mounted on homes on hilltops receive signals better than those built in a valley.
Your attic isn’t the best place to mount the antenna if an outdoor option is available. However, if you have no choice but the attic to get the antenna up in the air, check out our attic antenna installation guide.
At your home, the roof provides the highest option, and it is recommended that you install the antenna at least 2-30 feet above the ground. If mounting your antenna on your rooftop, be sure to properly ground it.
#5. Using an Attenuator
You should understand that no one antenna type or antenna will provide great TV signal reception at every location. Your TV antenna’s distance from the television station transmitters is another factor determining signal reception quality.
If you live close to a station transmitter or a broadcast tower, and the signal’s path to your TV is unobstructed, you might receive quality signals on your TV antenna. As discussed above, this isn’t always a good thing as it might result in a signal overload in the TV tuner.
Is your home located too close to a TV transmitting tower, and you are experiencing signal overloads on your DTV converter box or TV tuner? Are mobile LTE and 5G networks causing signal interference? In this case we recommend a signal attenuator such as the the Channel Master LTE Filter.
#6. Resetting your Digital Tuner
Digital tuners are devices that convert the incoming television signals from analog to digital to be displayed on your TV screen. You can find the device on either side of the TV or externally, if you are using an external network tuner such as the HDHomeRun ATSC 3 Tuner.
To refresh the channel information, try clearing the memory cache of the tuner. Due to channel repacks and other variables, broadcasters might change the channel’s meta information occasionally. Usually, resetting your tuner isn’t necessary; a channel rescan would suffice.
However, resetting the tuner might be a trick worth trying if you have a hard time accessing some channels. Follow the procedure below to recompile your channel list and clear the tuner’s existing memory:
- Disconnect the antenna’s coaxial cable from the converter/set-top box or TV.
- Perform a channel scan on your converter/set-top box or TV having the antenna disconnected.
- Turn off, disconnect the converter/set-top box or TV, and wait.
- Then, reconnect the antenna on your device or TV.
- Plug your converter/set-top box or TV back and switch it on.
- Finally, perform a channel scan.
#7. Protect Your Components & Antenna Against the Elements
Outdoor equipment can be worn down and eroded by wind, rain, and even the blazing sun. An antenna’s structure might be waterproof and strong, but if the individual pieces like connectors and screws are of poor quality, they can’t last for long.
Once a year, it is recommended that you inspect the outdoor TV antenna and any other devices or cables. This allows you to spot any eroded or rusted parts and fix them before they turn into a problem.
Weatherproof Cable Connections
Check all the connections between the equipment and coaxial cables in particular, and waterproof them if needed. This is a pretty simple thing to accomplish. To begin with, disconnect and clean the coax cable from its connection and dry it. After plugging it back in, carefully wrap a moisture-proof tape around the connection.
If you are not using compressions connectors on your coax, you should be. You can pick up a coax compression connector kit on Amazon relatively cheap and it will save you may headaches down the road. We recommend this kit from Ideal Industries.
You can alternatively waterproof the cable connections. Unplug the cable and directly apply waterproofing grease like STUF Dielectric to the cable core and the connector before you plug it back in. This will not interfere with the flow of signals to your TV.
Some antennas have a rubber or weather “boot” that protects sensitive components like baluns (the rubber section of the antenna that covers where the coax cable emerges) or transformers. If the antenna has a balun, inspect it and perform a replacement if it’s broken or damaged.
Replacing The Damaged Coax Cables
Old coaxial cables having frayed or worn outer sheaths should be avoided because they can sometimes have open places, enabling moisture to penetrate. Ensure you use the modern RG6 cable featuring quad or tri shielding to protect the signals from electromagnetic interference.
Fastening Your Antenna
Finally, if you are sitting at your home watching a TV and suddenly lose signal due to strong winds, you’ll need to ensure that your outdoor antenna is firmly and securely mounted. For example, if you’ve mounted the antenna on top of a swaying pole in strong wind, poor signal reception will result because a moving antenna may lead to signal dropouts.
#8. Dealing With Interference
Isolating The TV Coax Cable From Electrical Wiring
Some electrical appliances at your home, like hair driers and microwaves, might distort the TV signals. This usually is common in older homes with older wiring systems. The electromagnetic shielding in these homes is considered poor by the current standards.
Does the TV signal deteriorate as soon as your daughter or wife activates the hair drier? Your home may have substandard electromagnetic shielding.
Ensure you inspect the entire system starting from the antenna whenever you notice that your TV images keep blacking out at specific moments. Ensure that the coaxial cables aren’t running perpendicularly or parallel to any electrical wiring, and they do not intersect at any point.
Test the effect of your appliances by separately activating them while also observing the signal reaction to isolate the cause of the issue. When you’re confident that you’ve isolated the source of the interference, install a power conditioner to protect the television equipment from any power surge damage whenever filtering the electromagnetic noise interference.
Dealing With The Reflective Surfaces Around Your Antenna
Reflective surfaces are a form of interference that may distort or weaken the radio frequency signals around the TV antenna. These include metal roofs that may block the reception or interfere with the TV signals. For example, bug screens and burglar bars on your window might block the reception by the indoor antennas if they are metallic. Keep a distance of about 6ft between these metallic objects and your antenna.
Cell Phone Signals
Many cellphones 4G LTE and 5G signals can sometimes interfere with TV signals and UHF channels. You can install an LTE filter like the Channel Master LTE filter mentioned above to avoid such interference. You screw the LTE filter between your set-top box and the coaxial antenna cable.
Do you live near an FM radio station? There is a probability that the station may interfere with your weaker VHF television station. Most preamplifiers also have inbuilt FM traps to boost TV antenna signals to block these signals.
#9. Protect Against Power Surges & Lightning Strikes
It is a fact that power surges caused by thunderstorms might damage your household appliances. The buildup of static electric charges on the antenna caused by storms might damage any devices connected to the antenna, including your TV, amplifiers, and converter boxes.
Although you might not live in an area prone to lightning, you will still want to have a strategy for dealing with power surges since they are inevitable.
First off, it is recommended that you ground the coaxial cable and the outdoor antenna. This protects the TV equipment from direct lightning strikes and the other common issues caused by thunderstorms, like a static electrical buildup.
We recommend using a #10 AWG solid copper ground wire for this job. However, for proper installation and codes relating to antenna installation for your area, we recommend contacting a professional installer.
You could also decide to simply install surge protectors on the coax cable between your set-top box or TV and the antenna. However, you should remember that surge protectors only ground the coax cable and do not offer to ground to the antenna mast.
#10. Mounting a Second Antenna
There may be situations where the antenna is working just fine, but it can’t pick up a tower(s) in a varying direction; mounting a second antenna, also called antenna stacking, might make sense.
If your first antenna is VHF or UHF, having a second one is an excellent way to boost your TV antenna signal. This makes sense because it affords you a chance to receive a channel or two on the other spectrum (Frequency band). To minimize any interference between two antennas, ensure that;
- Their coax cables are of the same length to prevent phase problems.
- The antennas should be separated by 2-4 ft in the distance, especially when mounting the two on one mast.
Ensure you mount and connect each antenna individually to your TV, to be sure that each individual antenna is receiving all their channels. Then you have a couple of options:
- Antenna Coupler: Remember, the signal combiner has two coax IN ports to connect your antennas and a single OUT port for it to connect to your set-top box or TV.
- External Network Tuner: This is our preferred way to connect multiple antennas and making the signals available over WiFi to any smart device in your house.
#11. Using an Antenna Rotator
If you have a unidirectional outdoor antenna and your area’s transmission towers are over 90 degrees apart in relation to you, you might consider purchasing and fitting an antenna rotator. The rotator helps you re-orient the antenna towards the next transmission tower(s) whenever necessary without you having to climb onto the roof yourself to turn the antenna.
We did a comprehensive article that discusses antenna rotators here, including their installation and where your can buy them. Antenna rotators are of different price categories. However, you shouldn’t scrimp on them. Do not purchase a cheap rotator that’ll be breaking now and then.
We like this rotator made by RCA readily available on Amazon. You can check out its latest price here.
Installing an antenna rotator on the mast may require professional experience or a reasonable amount of Do-It-Yourself skill. Usually, the control unit is placed near the television.
The rotator should be installed close to the antenna to minimize the load-bearing weight that it will be turning. After installing it, do the configuration by performing an initial rotation and registering the tower locations with the control unit’s memory positions. After that, you will just use the remote to choose a memory position for turning your antenna.
Now that you have learned several tips and tricks to boost TV antenna signal homemade, you must understand that sometimes the methods above might not be efficient on their own, especially when you have a faulty antenna, set-top box, or coaxial cable. You may need to employ one or more of the tips offered.