With all the hassle related to setting up cable TV, including the ever-increasing costs, a lot of people have turned back to antennas to pick up free OTA (Over-the-air) channels; and some never gave them up, to begin with.
In both cases, you can’t help but wonder how to boost outdoor TV antenna signal, whether to get more channels or enhance the quality of the ones that your antenna can already pick up.
In this article, I’ll go over seven tips that can help you maximize the benefit you get from your antenna TV set up. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.
1. Locate Transmission Towers
It’s crucial that you understand that the fewer obstacles there are between the antenna and the transmission tower that it receives its signals from.
This means that you should point the antenna directly at the tower, in the line of sight with no obstacles like trees, mountains, or other buildings.
If you’re wondering why, this is because when frequency signals meet an object, they split and bounce off it.
The signal becomes out of phase in what’s called “multipath interference,” which, naturally, reduces the strength of the signal and causes ghosting, pixelation, or the total loss of the transmission.
More often than not, you won’t find a completely clear line of sight to your closest TV station, and that’s why you should have your antenna outside, to begin with.
Moreover, you should install antennas on either side and place them at the highest possible point of elevation to eliminate the possibility of any obstacles standing in the way.
2. Boost Your Multi Directional Antenna
Firstly, you should install a multidirectional antenna because these are more effective at picking up reception than unidirectional ones -as long as you point them properly at the source of radio frequency signals.
Secondly, you should install a second antenna, which is a practice commonly referred to as “stacking.”
Like two heads, two antennas are better than one, especially if you use a UHF one and another VHF one, which gives you a broader frequency band.
Moreover, to get the best performance, you should make sure both antennas have around a 4-foot distance between them and that their coaxial cables are of the same length.
Otherwise, you’ll face some phase problems. The trick is to install each one separately, ensure they function properly, and then join them using a signal combiner.
Use an Amplifier
You can also use an amplifier on the coaxial cable, be it a preamplifier or a distribution one, or even both!
Amplifiers work on boosting the TV signal that travels down the coaxial cable and to your TV, which strengthens the signal of the channels whose transmission you already receive.
If you’re not sure whether you actually need an amplifier or not, you should check if your antenna comes with a preamplifier.
But bear in mind that if your position isn’t further than 10 miles from the transmission tower, then an amplifier could actually worsen the signal by adding interference or noise to the TV signal.
Generally, amplifiers start to become useful if you’re more than 10 miles away and are definitely needed if you’re more than 20 miles away.
Moreover, if your coaxial cable spans less than 50 feet long between the TV and antenna (not excluding splitter breaks or anything of the sort), then the signal probably isn’t weakened enough to require amplification.
Also, consider whether your antenna sends signals to multiple TVs with a splitter, which usually weakens signals and creates the need for an amplifier. In that case, you can use a distribution amplifier before the splitter or use a splitter/amplifier combo.
Installing a preamplifier on the antenna or somewhere near it is the most popular way to amplify its signals, as long as you can find a power supply close enough to provide electricity.
Generally speaking, you can add as many amplifiers (preamplifiers or distribution ones) as you want, but you should always find the balance between strengthening the signal without creating interference, which would have the opposite effect.
Does Foil Strengthen TV Antenna Signals?
Many people believe that adding foil around the antenna might strengthen the signal, but I’d say that’s a bit of a huckster remedy.
It’s just a matter of luck. Some people tried it, and it happened to reduce unnecessary noise or amplify radiofrequency waves, but it’s pretty much a hit-or-miss trick.
Moreover, this trick would probably only work with indoor antennas as wind, rain, and other factors would invariably wear away the tinfoil you wrap around the antenna, regardless of how well or carefully you place it.
3. Weatherproof Your Coaxial Connectors
Speaking of the weather-related factors, a very effective way of enhancing your antenna’s functionality is to provide it with weatherproofing.
It might sound like a complicated process, but it’s actually not too complicated.
You’ll have to unplug the coaxial cable, clean it, and dry it.
Plug it back in and then wrap a moisture-resistant tape around it and make sure to seal the connection completely.
Instead of doing so, you can opt for weatherproofing hardware, like STUF dielectric water-resistant grease.
You simply unplug the cable, apply the grease to the core and connector, and then plug it again. This way, it doesn’t cause any interference with the signal flow.
You can also opt for antennas that come with boots, which are special components that cover sensitive parts of the antenna like the baluns or transformers.
Speaking of baluns, if your antenna comes with one, make sure to regularly maintain it or replace it if it’s broken or worn out.
4. Provide Proper Cable and Wire Insulation
If you notice your TV channels dropping when you turn on another appliance, this means that the frequency of those devices creates noise and messes with the AC power system.
What’s more, if your cable is not well-covered, it may not provide proper insulation from the interference of electromagnetic waves.
You can test this by identifying the cause by unplugging several appliances and observing which one(s) cause that effect.
If it turns out that an appliance does cause interference by noise, you might want to install a power conditioner. These provide electromagnetic wave noise filtration and protection against power surges.
5. Test Out Multiple Antenna Locations
Start with re-aiming your antenna, which can cause a small distortion in the line of sight and enable it to pick up transmission more effectively.
Even a couple of degrees can make a huge difference, so trust in the process of trial and error.
You can use some websites to locate your nearest transmission towers to make sure you’re aiming the antenna their way.
When aiming your antenna, you should keep a couple of things in mind. Firstly, use a compass to aim the antenna toward the magnetic azimuth heading of the transmission towers.
And if you’re aiming at a group of towers, you might need to keep re-aiming the antenna until you get the best reception.
Moreover, make sure that your antenna is on a vertical level, and a carpenter’s level tool can help in this endeavor. If your antenna’s mast isn’t exactly vertical from the bottom to the top, you’re bound to get weaker reception.
Get a friend to help you when you’re re-aiming the antennas and give you feedback on whether your orientation is going well or not because you’ll need feedback in real-time.
6. Install a Rotator
An antenna rotator allows you to remotely re-aim your antenna toward different towers, with no manual labor whatsoever.
The installation process would require some DIY skills, but it would be an incredibly enjoyable experience if you already enjoy DIY projects.
Rotators come in many shapes, forms, and price categories, so make sure you get one with enough durability to spare you the need to go on the rooftop to replace it every year.
You’ll need to place the control unit around the TV and connect an electric wire from the unit to the rotator box that you place on the mast of the antenna.
This is why it’s important to make sure that the rotator fits the diameter of the mast you already own.
When installing the rotator on the mast, make sure to bring it as close as you can to the antenna itself to minimize the weight of the load-bearing, which inflicts wear on the rotor.
After you’ve installed it, you’ll have to do some configuration and match the locations of the towers to the memory positions on your control unit.
Finally, you can use your remote to select the position that matches the transmission tower whose signals you want to receive.
However, keep in mind that if you have multiple TVs at home, re-aiming the antenna will interfere with the transmission of the signals on other TVs.
7. Protect Your Antenna Against Power Surges
After a thunderstorm, you might face a power surge that damages household appliances, and antennas aren’t immune to that. Not to mention, the built-up static electric charge might even extend to damage connected devices, like splitters, converters, amplifiers, or even your TV!
That’s why it’s advisable to ground your outdoor antenna and the connected coaxial cable to protect your connected devices from the effects of a lightning strike or electric buildup.
Alternatively, you can install a surge protector on the coaxial cable that runs between the antenna and the TV.
By the end of this article, you should now, hopefully, be able to make your tv antenna signal stronger. Just follow these tricks, and you’ll be enjoying your favorite TV channels in no time.