Bought house...deciphering TV setup with Antenna

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Old 03-24-13, 11:23 AM
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Bought house...deciphering TV setup with Antenna

I just bought a house a few months ago and am trying to figure out the best way to push my attic antenna feed throughout. The house is pre-wired for Dish Network with coax in each room. I don't want to pay for cable, so I installed an antenna in the attic and currently have a coax running from my attic straight to my TV in the living room...not ideal.

Picture 1 - This box is in the crawlspace. The two coax inputs on the left side are "in from satellite" and snake outside to the (inactive) dish. The outputs at the bottom run out to each room upstairs (I think).

Questions
1. "Should" I be able to use this same switch if I replace the inputs with the coax from the antenna? I've tried this with a 100 foot coax cable running from the attic, but I didn't get any signal at my TVs. I did not try with any sort of signal booster, however.

2. If (1.) doesn't work, I have no problem purchasing a special switch/splitter if I need to. What equipment do I need to make this happen? I can probably make the run from the attic to the crawlspace with 50 feet of coax if I need to.

Picture 2 - I also found this in one of the bedroom attics. It appears to split the feed coming from the crawlspace for the upstairs bedrooms.

Thanks very much for any help!
 
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Old 03-24-13, 05:32 PM
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The splitter & the distance, of the coaxial cable, maybe degrading the signal & that's why nothing is reaching the TVs. The people at /server irc.dishnuts.org #skyscanner would know.
 
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Old 03-24-13, 06:22 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Since the TV stations are now broadcasting in HD digital.... the reception range has shrunk. They only need a fraction of the power they needed in the past. That is good and bad. With digital signals you'll either get a 100% perfect HD picture or absolutely nothing. You now need to be within 25 or so miles from the TV station to get any reception.

You need to aim your antenna directly at the nearest big city or where the stations are transmitting from. After aiming the antenna.... connect a single cable from the antenna directly to a TV with an HD digital tuner. Use the shortest possible cable and with no splitters in line. (You can rewire and add splitters later. We are just testing here. If this doesn't work....adding splitters and more cable will only make it worse.)

Make sure the TV is set for off air broadcasting (not cable) and then do a channel scan. Most TV's will not allow you to select a station directly if it didn't get cataloged during the original channel scan. After the scan is complete, and it may take 5-10 minutes, try changing channels and see what you pick up.

You may have to mount the antenna outside. Since the new broadcasts are low power and in the upper VHF/UHF bands...... a good and proper antenna is important. An old antenna that used to pick up the networks on channels 2-13 will no longer be effective for today's signals.

Also....in picture # 1... you can't use the satellite splitter and picture # 2 has a bad link.

To get further information on what stations are in your area and how to pick them up check out: AntennaWeb
 
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Old 03-24-13, 07:23 PM
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I agree with PJMax you really need to have your antenna outside having the antenna inside even if it is the best in the world really does nothing when it is in the attic. Splitters are o.k. but you need to keep them to a minimum as the more splitters you have the more it degrades your signal.

If I were you I would put the antenna on the chimney or if that is not possible on the roof or an antenna tower. I would also ask my neighbors who have antennas how good their signal is if possible and ask them if they have a signal booster. If they do have a signal booster then you probably will need one too. If no one has an antenna then I would go ahead and buy a booster and you should get an antenna rotor too while you are at it. Once you do all of that then you should have really good reception. Try not to go to a chain store if you can though as an independent dealer will usually have everything you need and be able to guide you in how to properly install an antenna. Please post back if you have any other questions.
 
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Old 03-25-13, 05:14 AM
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The dish switch in the crawl space is used to feed the satellite signal(s) to the satellite receivers. The receivers then connected to the TVs. That's why you're not getting a signal when you connect the antenna.

Follow the feed in the attic splitter to its source -- probably another splitter. Connect the antenna there and you should have signal to the entire house.

For the type of antenna you need and stations you can expect to see in your area, check AntennaWeb - Home
 
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Old 03-25-13, 12:07 PM
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Check to see if any of what you think are splitters say DiSEqC on them. If they do, they only work with satellite signals and won't pass/split terrestrial antenna. Neither will the multiswitch in the first pic. You have to swap them out for good quality standard splitters.
 
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Old 03-25-13, 10:28 PM
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Thanks everyone for the replies!

Sorry for the broken link; here they are again:
Picture 1 - box in crawlspace
Picture 2 - splitter in attic

To be clear; I'm getting great reception if I run the antenna feed directly from the attic to the TVs. I don't think that that's the problem.

It appears that the splitter in the bedroom attic (Picture 2) is fed from the box in the crawlspace (Picture 1), since the previous owners used Dish throughout the house....unless the house was wired for antenna before the Dish guys came in. Some of the rooms have small coax feeds coming under the baseboards, and some rooms just have the coax "ports" in the wall. Maybe the coax under the baseboards are the Dish feeds and the ports in the wall are prewired for attic antenna....

In either case, it sounds like I may need to buy a splitter that works with antenna signal and not try to use the satellite box. I wonder if an unpowered splitter in the crawlspace would work on the main floor...

Amazon.com: RCA 4-Way Signal Splitter (VH49): Electronics
 
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Old 03-25-13, 10:40 PM
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That would work as well as the one in the second picture.

I would highly recommend getting a useable signal on one TV before the wiring work.
You may end up needing a powered splitter.
 
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Old 03-26-13, 02:32 AM
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I agree with PJMax you might need a powered splitter especially since the antenna is in the attic. If you had the antenna on the roof or chimney then you would need a signal booster if the signal was bad.
 
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Old 03-26-13, 10:30 AM
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Yeah the house definitely was wired for antenna before the dish was installed. The splitter in the attic is definitely NOT connected to the box in the crawlspace because it would not work for satellite (aside from it being a Radio Shack splitter from the 1980's, there is no way a Dish installer would've left those sloppy crimped connectors).

What I would recommend is to make use of the Dish wiring instead (that will most likely be the cables that come in at the baseboards). It is higher quality cable with better terminations, which means less signal loss.

Find the cables that originally went to the dish outside, and connect one to the antenna (there will be at least two - unless they are marked or you have a toner you'll just have to use trial and error). Replace the box in the crawlspace with a new 4-way splitter (NOT powered, and DO NOT use the one from the attic), connecting one of the FROM DISH lines to the input of the splitter and the TO RECEIVER lines to the outputs. Connect the cables coming out of the baseboards to your TVs and see if you have a signal. If not, swap cables at the antenna.

I would also suggest you use this splitter instead of the RCA one... Little more expensive but it's better quality. Amazon.com: Splitter, 4-Way, MoCA enabling, 2-2150Mhz, Direct TV Approved: Electronics
 
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Old 03-26-13, 10:25 PM
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JerseyMatt, any specific reason why you would not suggest a powered splitter? i was looking at this one...

Amazon.com: 4 Port Cable TV/HDTV/Digital Amplifier Internet Modem Signal Booster Internet AMP: Electronics
 
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Old 03-27-13, 12:02 AM
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I personally think powered splitters are fine but you have to use the right kind what you are linking to is the wrong kind. What you really need if you are going that route is what is actually more accurately called an antenna distribution amplifier here is a link to the proper thing TV Antenna Distribution Amplifier - Denny's Antenna .

The person who owns the antenna business I gave a link to says that attic installation is fine well yes and no. Yes if you don't live too far away from the antenna tower of the tv station and no if you do. Even if you are right under one stations antenna though chances are you are missing out on a great deal having the antenna in the attic. Best really to have it outside and on a mast at least 3 feet tall and probably more if you are going to use a rotor which I highly recommend. If signals are real bad then you will need a preamplifier mounted on the mast and connected to the antenna. Here is a link to an example of that TV Antenna Preamplifier - Booster AP 8700 - Denny's Antenna .

The best thing though is to try to go without an antenna distribution amplifier or a preamplifier if at all possible. Reasons behind that is if you already are getting a good signal then you don't need either and if you buy the wrong thing then you are out money. I like that splitter that JerseyMatt pointed out and I think you should buy it if you have that many tv sets to feed and if not then buy the same brand but one with less connections. My uncle used to install antennas for a very long time that was all he did all day long for a major department store as a contractor. He installed two of our antennas we had on our house and told me a great deal about the proper way to strip the wire and about distribution amplifiers and preamplifiers.

JerseyMatt was also right about how bad a job someone did with the old antenna wires. If you are careful and take your time you can cut the ends off of the old antenna wire and then put on new connectors if the Dish wires are not placed in the right spot. Look that website over though it shows some of the proper ways to do things. I am not endorsing this website as the best to buy from just the best that I have seen so far for information.
 
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Old 03-27-13, 12:21 AM
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Here is a video from You Tube that I thought explained how the proper tv connector should go on. The connector looks a bit different from what I am used to but it is all done about the same way. The person on the video is using a special tool to strip the wires but I have had success with just a utility knife and a great deal of practice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=fVtaRWiK5jo&feature=endscreen
 
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Old 03-27-13, 05:29 AM
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Compression connectors have pretty much replaced crimp connectors. I find them easier to terminate, they maintain dielectric integrity better than crimp connectors, and they are more water resistant.

Sample here.
 
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Old 03-27-13, 08:35 AM
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I have to correct a couple things.. First of all, Rick nailed it with compression connectors. Nobody uses hex crimps anymore because they suck. Not only that but a one-step hex crimper (NOT the kind shown in the video!) that will give a mechanically and electrically sound termination is actually more expensive than a compression tool these days. (Home Depot carries a kit very similar to the one Rick linked to, and I think it is cheaper.)

Second, there is a very good (nearly guaranteed) chance that the existing cable that runs through the attic splitter is RG-59. It is a high loss cable, and as such is not even worth trying to salvage. The Dish cable is RG-6, which holds in much more of the signal and is much better at rejecting interference.

Third, if you are close enough to the transmitters (20 miles or less), having the antenna in the attic will not cause all that much - if any - loss. Especially if the stations are digital. The relatively small amount of wood and asphalt that makes up the roof does not impede VHF (analog) signals all that much and UHF (digital) signals hardly at all. What will cause a problem is if you have aluminum or other metal siding (including stucco with embedded metal mesh) on the gables and/or metal/concrete roofing material. Those WILL block the signals to a significant degree, even if the transmitter is close

Rotor.. Use the AntennaWeb link that PJ listed above.. If all your stations come from the same general direction (ie: within 15 degrees of each other), then a rotor will not help at all. If the the two outermost transmitters are between 15 and 60 degrees of each other, then you will see improvement on analog channels by using a rotor to point the antenna, but if you only have digital channels then you will be fine aiming right down the middle between the two outermost transmitters. If they are more than 60 degrees apart, then you basically NEED a rotor unless the stations are all very close to you (in this case you would use an omnidirectional antenna)..

As far as the powered splitter/distribution amp/preamp.. There is a very common misconception that an antenna amplifier will always help a poor signal. This is only true if the poor signal is caused by an excessive number of splits/outlets and/or cable run loss (long cable run with inadequately shielded cable). It will NOT help a poor signal caused by an improperly sized/aimed antenna, mounting an antenna in a non-optimal location (such as an attic), electrical interference from power lines/motors/other radio frequency sources, etc. It will also not improve a digital signal that is already being received properly - in fact it can actually DEGRADE an already strong signal by overmodulating.

Basically an amplifier will ONLY help you if you are receiving the signal fine with ONE outlet connected directly to the antenna, but the signal degrades when the line has been split. If you are not receiving a good signal even with only one TV connected, then an amplifier will NOT improve the signal one iota. It's a matter of Garbage In, Garbage Out. If you amplify a garbage signal, all you will get is amplified garbage.

That said, there is technically nothing wrong with the amp that you linked to that would make it not work, it just includes unnecessary features that you will not make use of. It is designed to work with the digital return channels that digital cable boxes and cable modems use to 'talk back' to the cable company.

If you only have four or less TVs, and the signal from the antenna is relatively strong, then using the Dish wiring with the standard passive splitter I linked you before you should work just fine. You should not need an amplifier.
 

Last edited by JerseyMatt; 03-27-13 at 09:10 AM.
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Old 03-28-13, 01:09 AM
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I don't dispute what you are saying JerseyMatt as I haven't done any tv wiring in a while so probably the tool you and Rick Johnston mention is much better and it did seem to be a bit faster. As for Pre-amplifiers you did forget one thing and that is trees in my neighborhood there are quite a few trees and with some houses that still use an antenna including our house you need a pre-amplifier. It depends on a great deal of things as to whether to use a pre-amplifier or not to use one.

Also I know my uncle would put up an antenna anywhere the customer wanted it but he always told me that to get the very best reception to always have the antenna outside. So there is always some loss of signal when in an attic. I can understand why it is done that way though as it is cheaper and easier for the do it yourself person not to mention less dangerous too so there are good points to be sure. Also as you said not very much loss but I would add sometimes to that as it varies by area. Right now Mixer85 is having trouble getting a signal in the attic so that kind of says to me maybe the antenna needs to be outside. Another possibility is maybe this particular area has a hard time picking up any signals as maybe the tv stations are too far away. With digital now some of the signals are not as good as they used to be. What I don't know about is if there is some kind of cheap meter that can pick up tv signals and maybe help Mixer85?
 
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Old 03-28-13, 11:10 AM
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I'm telling you "preamplifiers" do nothing to improve a signal that is weak at the antenna, because you can not boost something that isn't there to begin with.. They are high margin snake oil, and installers make a lot of money off technically ignorant people by selling them. The only thing that can make an antenna grab more signal is to swap it out for one with higher gain (ie: a larger one) and/or raise it up higher/aim it.

Amplifiers are ONLY for boosting a signal that weakens due to splits and cable runs. And even then, it has to be amplified BEFORE the splits/cable run so that it does not amplify garbage.

Trees aren't all that big of a problem with terrestrial TV like they are with satellite. If it is raining and the leaves are wet, then yeah you might see SOME quality loss on a distant analog station, but even a wet tree doesn't block as much of the signal as a building would.

There are no consumer-level meters like that. Basically someone who installs terrestrial antennae would just have a pocket TV to check the picture with. However, the OP has stated that he is not having any issues with reception when one TV is connected. So the point of changing the antenna mounting location is moot. He has a cabling issue.
 
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Old 03-28-13, 04:00 PM
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You are right JerseyMatt he did say he wasn't having a signal issue. A family member has been gravely ill and recently passed so I am a bit off with my advice of late. Coming here though helps take my mind off of things. That family member didn't live here but we were very close.

As to a pre-amplifier not boosting a signal though I must agree to disagree especially if you have several set connections but even there I am not totally disagreeing with you. I take two houses as examples in my area. Both houses I own one is my rental and one is our house. Next door I have an antenna for the tenants and it needs no pre-amplifier and the signal is great with the antenna being outside.

Both houses have the same amount of rooms and the only difference is our house has antenna connections in the basement and the rental house doesn't. At our house though we do need an amplifier and actually always have needed a pre-amplifier as to the neighbors I can't say when cable came they removed their antennas and when Fios came they for the most part replaced cable with Fios. Even our rental house today uses Fios although they still could use the antenna if they so desired.

Another case for an amplified antenna was at a friends house she had rabbit ears and was having a bit of trouble getting in some signals. I bought for her rabbit ears with an amplifier built in and it helped to bring a stronger signal than what she could get without the amplifier.

So pre-amplifiers do work to bring in a better signal. If you have no signal at all then you don't need any kind of antenna because you never will get a signal no matter what you add to the antenna. A pre-amplifier though will not work on a poor antenna if the antenna isn't bringing in some kind of signal at all then nothing will help it. With all of the pre-amplifiers I have had installed they can only boost the signal so much and no more. Poor weather,helicopters overhead and other atmospheric things will always distort a signal from any antenna amplified or not.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 07:18 AM
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There is a whole lot more to a digital TV signal than signal strength. The most important is C/N, or carrier-to-noise. If the C/N ratio is too low coming off the antenna, no amount of amplification will improve the reception. An amplifier will increase the level of noise along with the signal, and the ratio doesn't change.

Another important component is BER, or Bit Error Rate. This is the corruption of data. One of the main causes is "multipath" of the signal. A multipath is exactly that: More than one path from the transmitter to the antenna. The direct path arrives first, followed by reflections (from buildings, trees, etc.) which arrive later. When the two signals combine the data can be corrupted. Again, no amount of amplification will correct BER. A directional antenna can help minimize ingress from reflections, and even moving the antenna a few feet can change the strength of the reflected signals.
 
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Old 03-30-13, 02:50 PM
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Your right Rick if the signal is too weak an amplifier really will not help all that much. If you have a fairly strong signal already though that just needs a little bit of help then it will work to help bring in the signal a bit better.

One of the other reasons I like an outdoor antenna Rick is because of the BER. I didn't know the technical name for it until today but always knew that having an antenna with a rotor always helped. Outdoor antennas after all can move on their own if the wind is strong enough and you then have to correct the antenna so if you have no rotor then you can be stuck with a bad signal or no signal at all.

Getting back to pre-amplifiers there are days when I can't get signals very well at all from certain stations and some stations I only get in when the leaves are off of the trees and then only occasionally. So pre-amplifiers don't always help to bring in a better signal and actually do nothing at all for the signal. It really depends a great deal on where the tv stations antenna is located and again atmospheric conditions and other factors as well.
 
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