The most important element of a TV antenna system is the antenna and a close second is the signal distribution system. The distribution system transports the TV signal from the antenna to the TV. This includes the coax cable, signal amplifiers, signal splitters, etc… Anything that’s in line between the TV antenna and the TV is considered to be part of the antenna distribution system.
It doesn't matter if you install the best antenna available and the TV antenna is doing its job receiving all of the channels if the distribution system doesn’t effectively deliver the signal from the antenna to the TV.
Always use high grade solid copper wire coax cable. Many of the coax cables offered on the market have a copper clad center wire. Copper clad is a steel wire coated with copper and it's not as efficient as a solid copper wire. You can determine if wire is solid copper or copper clad by placing a magnet onto the the end of the wire. If the wire is attracted to the magnet it’s copper clad. If the wire isn’t attracted to the magnet it’s solid copper.
There are three basics sizes of coax cable in use for TV reception. The smallest and least efficient is RG 59 a better choice is RG 6 and the ultimate is RG 11. Frankly, RG 11 is very hard to work with, it’s stiff, expensive and the benefits are minimal over RG 6 cable. All in all RG 6 solid copper coax cable is likely the best choice for most applications.
No matter what coax cable is in use there will be signal loss as the TV signal travels the coax cable to the TV. A quality solid copper cable keeps this loss minimal but signal amplification may still be necessary to offset the cable resistance. The amount of signal amplification required is in direct relationship to the length of the coax cable from the antenna to the TV and if a signal splitter (divider) will be in line. At this point I suggest you visit the article titled “TV Antenna Preamplifiers and Distribution Amplifiers“. At this link you can learn when to use a preamplifier or distribution amplifier. You will also find a chart that will help determine which amplifier is best for your particular TV antenna system. In many cases if the antenna will supply a single TV without the use of a signal splitter with a coax cable length from the antenna to the TV of 50 feet or less signal amplification will usually not be needed. However, in weak signal areas using a preamplifier is almost always a benefit.
Multiple TV’s From One Antenna
Many times there is more than one TV in the household that will be connected to the TV antenna. To distribute the signal to multiple locations requires the use of a signal splitter. A signal splitter is a device with one coax cable input and multiple coax cable outputs. You will find available 2 way, 3 way, 4 way, 6 way and 8 way signal splitters. The number determines the amount of coax cable outputs the splitter will have. In the picture to the left is a 3 way signal splitter. The 3 way splitter consist of one input and three outputs.
When using a signal splitter you will like need a signal amplifier. The system should be kept balanced. In other words, if you have six locations where you want TV signals to be available don’t install a 2 way splitter and run one output of that 2 way splitter to another 2 way splitter and so on. Never daisy chain signal splitters. It is best to install home run coax cable lines from one signal splitter to each TV. This method may be a little more work but it will pay off in performance.
Use quality solid copper RG 6 coax cable
Never daisy chain signal splitters
Use the proper signal amplifier when an amplifier is necessary.
Cliff's Distribution System
Cliff our customer and friend from Kentucky shows us how he set up his distribution system.