How to install an indoor TV antenna

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Now that you’ve decided to commit to free over-the-air (OTA) television and have purchased your indoor TV antenna, you’re going to want to know how to install it properly. Fortunately, putting in an OTA antenna is easy and requires no special expertise. That’s a big change from cable, which often requires you to sit around for hours awaiting a company technician (whose arrival window inevitably seems to span most of your workday). See? You’re already ahead of the game.

Step No. 1: Gather Your Supplies

The first thing you’ll need to do when learning how to install an indoor TV antenna is to make sure you have all the proper equipment on hand. There’s nothing worse than starting a project only to realize you’ve got to run to the hardware store to get something you need.

Here are the items you may need for a complete installation of your TV antenna:

  • Indoor TV antenna of your choice with associated hardware
  • A digital tuner, if you’re using one
  • A TV connecting cable
  • Male-to-male 75-ohm coaxial extension cable
  • Pliers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Nuts, screws
  • Tape, hot glue gun and/or poster putty

You may not need all of these items, depending on where you end up placing your antenna.

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Step No. 2: Connect Your TV And Your Antenna

As long as you have a more modern television (manufactured after 2006), your indoor antenna should be plug-and-play. Simply attach the antenna’s coaxial cable into the plug labeled “Antenna/Cable” on the back of your television set.

If your TV is older than that, you’ll definitely need a digital tuner of some kind: either a VCR, DVD, or DVR with a digital tuner, or a digital converter box. You’ll connect your antenna to the digital tuner, then connect the digital tuner to the TV.

If your antenna requires a power source, you’ll have to have an outlet nearby, or a USB port if that applies to your model. Plug your antenna in—after that, it’s a simple matter of going to your “Settings” menu on your TV screen to search for channels. Look for an option for “Channels” or “Tuning,” and you’ll want to set that to “Auto.” Just remember every converter and TV varies when it comes to this part of the process, so you may have to consult a manual to find out how best to scan for the channels available to you.

And that’s where locating your antenna comes in.

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Step No. 3: Find The Right Location For Your Antenna

When it comes to placing your antenna, location is key. Take your time with this step, as it can significantly affect your television viewing experience. You’ll want to place the antenna in a spot with the fewest obstructions and least interference. So, try a spot that’s in the middle of an upper-story window or patio door. However, avoid doors with reflective or metallic mesh coverings; these can block TV signals. Indoor TV antennas are often designed to blend into the decor, it should be relatively unobtrusive.

Make sure the site you pick allows you to direct the antenna toward your local broadcast towers, wherever they are. If you don’t know, a resource like AntennaWeb.org or RabbitEars.info can help. The RCA Signal Finder app, available for iOS and Android phones, is another great option.

You’ll want to experiment a bit by moving the antenna around. Sometimes just a few inches one way or the other can affect reception or even which channels you get. If your antenna has a “rescan” option within its Settings section, use it to help you find a sweet spot for your signal.

Note that your antenna doesn’t have to be near your TV. But, if it’s too far away, you may need to run a coaxial cable between the TV and the antenna, or use your Wi-Fi network to distribute signals. Just remember, the higher the better (that’s where some of the supplies above can come in handy).

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Common Errors And Troubleshooting

Signal Reception Problems: If you’re having trouble receiving a television signal, this could be caused by a few different issues. It could simply be that you don’t have a clear path to the broadcast towers. In that case, you want to get your antenna as high inside your home as possible. If you continue to have problems, you may wish to consider an outdoor antenna instead.

Another common problem is that your signal might be degraded by the distance between your antenna, your tuner, and your television, especially if you’re using a splitter. Antennas Direct estimates that if your coaxial cable is more than 100 feet long, you may be losing up to a third of the signal before it arrives at your TV. In this situation, you may wish to purchase an amplifier to enhance the signal.

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Missing Station: If you can’t get one particular station you like, this may be because, while most stations transmit on the UHF frequency, some use VHF. You need an antenna that’s optimized for both if you want to receive both UHF and VHF-based channels. VHF signals are actually better at getting around obstacles, but they have different requirements for you to receive them properly.

Channels Disappear: If sometimes your broadcast channels change or disappear, this can be caused by a number of issues. A channel’s frequency may occasionally get altered, which you may be able to rectify with a simple re-scan. Sometimes TV channels use reduced power at different times or disappear completely because they aren’t popular. Or, you may wish to check the position of your antenna. If it has moved even just a tiny bit, that might be affecting your reception.

Tip: Check Your Connections and Look for Interference. Don’t forget to check for loose cables and connections, or corroded parts. And make sure your other devices (anything from fluorescent lights to Bluetooth devices) aren’t creating interference.

Bad digital signal on TV. Isolated on white.

As you can see, figuring out how to install an indoor antenna isn’t too difficult as long as you can get it in the right location. Once your antenna is installed, you’ll be on your way to saving money by watching OTA TV for free.

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