Elevate your antenna setup with precision and flexibility by installing an antenna rotor (or rotator). Our comprehensive guide takes you through the process, from choosing the right rotor to mounting and wiring.
A directional antenna is typically better at receiving TV signals compared to a multi-directional antenna and is a great option if your house is miles away from the nearest TV broadcast station. However, a directional antenna has a major downside is that it can only be aimed—or pointed— in one direction.
So, if for example, you want to get channels from different directions, you won’t be able to. Here we will discuss all you need to know about antenna rotors from how it works, to how to install one, to our recommendations for the best antenna rotor available on the market right now.
Without further ado, let us begin.
How Does a TV Antenna Rotor Work?
The way a an antenna rotor works is actually very simple. There are only two main parts: a drive unit and a control unit.
The drive unit has a motor inside, which will support the mast of the antenna and rotates this mast. The control unit is separated from the drive unit and is typically positioned near your TV.
Both units are connected to each other via the rotator cable, and typically you’ll get a remote control that will allow you to interact with the control unit wirelessly to change the antenna’s position or direction.
The rotator cable normally consists of three wires: red, black, and green (can come in different sets of colors) each will provide power, input/control signal, and ground.
At least at the moment, we still don’t have a totally wireless antenna rotator product where the drive unit and control unit are wirelessly connected to each other, but probably we’ll get them in the near future.
Typically using the remote control is very simple: it has two arrow buttons (left and right) and by pushing each, you’ll rotate the rotator normally by one degree each push.
Operating an Antenna Rotator
Normally the control unit of your antenna rotator allows you to enter an azimuth heading information, and once you do so, the rotator will turn the antenna towards this azimuth heading direction.
With this function, you can rotate the antenna a full 360 degrees to face towards the heading of any station in your area.
First, you can use our TV station locator tool to find azimuth headings and RF channels for TV broadcast towers around you, and then you can enter the azimuth heading to your rotator’s control unit.
For example, if you are looking to change your TV channel to a station that is located directly on your west, then you can enter 270 in the control unit to rotate the antenna to the location directed by an azimuth heading of 270 (precisely west).
Benefits of Installing a TV Antenna Rotor
The main advantage of having a TV antenna rotor is that you can change your antenna’s direction without needing to make those annoying climbs to your rooftop.
However, there are also other benefits you might want to consider:
1. Ease of Use
As we have discussed above, an antenna TV rotor is very easy to use. Once the rotor is properly set up, you can simply push the remote control to direct the rotor to where the antenna should point, or alternatively, you can simply input the azimuth heading to the rotor’s control unit.
2. Getting More Channels
Why do you want to rotate the antenna in the first place? TV broadcast towers are located in all different places, so if you are relying on your over-the-air antenna, you won’t be able to get them all from a centralized location.
This can create various issues, for example, your favorite channel may send its signal from the east, while the station your spouse prefers may come from the south.
If you are using a fixed directional antenna, then this is going to be an issue since one of you would get a poor signal or no signal at all. A TV antenna rotor can be a cost-effective solution instead of having to install two different antennas, which we will discuss below.
3. No Need To Install Two Different Antennas
While you can simply install two or more antennas pointing to all the directions you need, obviously this isn’t going to be a cost-effective solution.
Besides, you might not have enough space to install two antennas on your roof, and even if you do, your home will look uglier with two or more antennas sticking out of your roof.
Also, don’t forget that two antennas would also translate into twice the amount of maintenance.
Drawbacks of Installing a TV Antenna Rotor?
While there aren’t too many, there are some disadvantages to installing a TV antenna rotor instead of having two different antennas:
- All the TVs connected to the antenna will get the same station, you can’t, for example, allow one TV to get stations from one direction and another TV from another direction. So, typically they aren’t a great solution for multiple TVs.
- You must perform a channel scan independently on the rotator and it’s not typically synchronized to your TV
- If you are recording with DVR, you have to always check whether the antenna is already facing the intended direction.
How to Install a TV Antenna Rotor
Installing a an antenna rotor isn’t typically difficult, and most likely you won’t need the help of a professional.
First, check whether you have the following:
- The antenna rotor: both the drive unit and control unit, as well as the included installation parts (will vary depending on the model)
- Rotator cable: as a general rule of thumb, the longer the cable will run (i.e. how far the control unit and drive unit are separated), the thicker you’ll need the cable. You can use a 20AWG wire for up to 180 feet of cable runs, but if the range is more than that, you’ll need a thicker wire.
- Mast: to support the drive unit. Make sure it can support your antenna’s weight.
- Mounting clamps and U-bolts: for securing the antenna to the mast, typically included in the rotator’s box.
- Sealants: to weatherproof cable connections
- Compass: or a compass app in your phone
- Necessary tools: like screwdriver, wrench, etc.
Step 1: Remove your antenna from its current position (skip this if you are going to install a brand new antenna). Attach the antenna to the shorter section of the mast, and keep the base of the mast fastened.
Step 2: measure the length of the antenna’s existing mast. The motor of the drive unit will be placed on top of the base mast. Thus, the antenna’s mast shouldn’t be longer than necessary for it to rotate well.
For large outdoor antennas, a 3 ½ feet mast is typically the ideal length, but if the antenna is small, you might want a shorter mast. Cut the antenna’s mast if necessary and attach it with the rotator’s mast.
Step 3: attach the rotator cable’s transmission line to the antenna. Remove the existing transmission wires if any.
Step 4: Remove the access plate at the bottom of the drive unit to attach the rotator cable. Typically there are three wires with the rotator cable. Make sure there are no loose strands when attaching the wires.
Step 5: After you’ve connected the wires, cover the three wire connections with an electrical tape or other insulating materials to prevent rusting and corrosion.
Once the connections are properly insulated, fasten the bottom access plate of the drive unit.
Step 6: Attach the rotor housing over the baste mast with the clamps. Keep rotating until the access plate faces your position (for easier maintenance later on), then fasten it.
Step 7: Place the short mast where you’ve attached the antenna (see step 1) just above the drive unit housing.
Step 8: Connect the antenna wire to your TV
Step 9: Connect the rotor wire to the control unit, similar to how you’ve attached the cable and wires to the drive unit.
Step 10: Synchronize the control unit with the drive unit. Typically this will involve plugging in the control unit and turning the knob clockwise to let the antenna rotate until it stops.
Once the antenna stops rotating, turn the knob counter-clockwise and let it rotate until it stops. The synchronization is successful and you’ve finished the installation.
Best TV Antenna Rotors (Our Top Pick)
RCA VH226F Outdoor Antenna Rotator with Remote
- Digital Display Controller
- Indicates Preset and Antenna Position During Operation
- Wind Stability Antenna with High Gear Reduction Locks Motor In Place
- High Precision Gear Mechanism
- Programmable Memory
- Set Up to 12 TV/FM Station Directions for Automatic Antenna Positioning
- Infrared Remote Control
- Motor Drive
Pros and Cons
- Durable, built from high-quality aluminum
- Easy to use with automatic antenna positioning technology and programmable memory
- Comes with a wireless remote for ease of use and convenience
- Large display on the control unit for easy monitoring
- Not the most affordable option available
- Doesn’t include the 3-wire cable
While the RCA Antenna Rotor above is a true antenna rotor that will suit most any antenna, the options listed below are antenna models with built-in rotors for more ease-of-installation.
A TV antenna rotor can add more channel options to your TV, but keep in mind that it does have certain limitations. For instance, it can’t allow two TVs to get different channels simultaneously.
However, it can add more versatility without needing to add another antenna (which will translate to more expenses).
Nevertheless, an antenna rotor can be a cost-effective option if you want to get more channels from different TV towers, and you can also pick the products we’ve recommended above if you are currently looking to get a TV antenna rotator.
If you found this article informative, consider checking out some of our other great articles.