Life Hack – One Antenna, Multiple TV’s

Are you tired of paying for TV channels that you never watch?  Do you really need 250 channels?  Actually, are you just plain tired of paying for TV; in particular, cable TV?  Well, how about doing away with cable and going with an antenna?  Do you think that you will only get a couple of fuzzy channels with an antenna?  Guess what, technology has changed; antennas are stronger, stations are putting out digital signals that blow away the old analog, and there are a lot more channels than you would think.

Step One, the antenna:  We went with a Mohu Leaf 50 Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna; this is the only antenna I tried, and I am quite happy with it.  This antenna looks like a thick piece of paper, about the same size, and you actually attach it to the wall with thumbtacks; the coaxial comes out of one edge, and is boosted by a USB plug (wall or TV powered).

So you may ask, how is putting an antenna on my TV a hack; grandma did that 50 years ago.  The hack is this:  by using one antenna, your existing home coaxial cabling, and a wired room that doesn’t have a TV in it, you can use ONE antenna to supply all of your other TV outlets.  Now do I have your attention?

Step Two:  You need to find where your cable feeds into your house from the cable company; this is where you look for what is called a coax splitter – mine looks like this.


Step Three:  We need to map your splitter.  Grab some paper and a pencil and draw a rendition of the splitter, get some masking tape and pen (or something to mark each cable), and mark the center cable “Cable Company In”.  Now, if you still have cable TV coming to the house and you have not turned off your service, go to Technique A; if you do not have cable service, go to Technique B.

Technique A:  Turn on a TV in one of the rooms of your home – either loud enough for you to hear it outside, or have someone in the house available to tell you when it loses its reception.   Leaving the “Cable Company In” attached, unscrew and disconnect the first cable from the splitter; it doesn’t matter which one, just pick one and that will be the first – listen for the TV to lose reception and go to the snow screen.  If the TV does not lose reception, reattach that cable and go to the next.  Unscrew the next cable, disconnect, and listen.  Continue this until you lose reception on the TV in the house; once you lose reception, mark on your paper which room that connection goes to, and mark on the masking tape which room it is and place that piece of tape on the cable you just unhooked – the key is knowing which cable goes where.  Now that you have one room marked, you need to find the next room.  If you have a room with another TV hooked up, turn it on just as you did the first one.  Go back to the splitter, and disconnect one of the cables marked out and proceed the same way you just did for the first room.  Once you find the cable that goes to that room, map it on the paper and mark it with the masking tape.  You will need to continue this process for all of the TV connections in your house – you will probably need to unhook and move a TV from room to room to check connections.  Once all connections have been marked, go to step Four.

Technique B:  If you do not have cable service feeding your home anymore, you will need to get a little tricky.  You will need the antenna, paper, pencil, masking tape and pen, and an extension cord.  Unhook the cable you just marked “Cable Company In”, and attach your antenna coax to this connection; pin the antenna on the wall (temporary), and plug the antenna in.  Now, go inside to a TV and go through the channel auto programming for an antenna – this is one moment of truth, all you need to grab is one channel right now.  Once the TV has found a channel, you can now proceed as in Technique A mapping the house – bear in mind that you will need to program each TV in the house to catch the signal, OR, move the first TV room to room until all rooms and cables are mapped.

Step Four:  Now that you have mapped each cable to a room, you need to decide which room you want to use as your antenna room – this room will be without a TV (maybe – it might be possible to use a splitter in the room with the antenna so as to feed a TV and the main system, I haven’t tried it yet).  Attach the Mohu coax to the wall coaxial connection, attach it with the end that is marked “To TV” feeding into the wall coaxial connection; plug the USB cord into a wall outlet.  Attach the other end of the coaxial to the Leaf antenna, and attach it to the wall of the room.  The main key here is that the Mohu connection that says”To TV” is attached to the wall – in essence, it is going to each TV in this fashion.

Wall Connection

Step Five:  Go back outside to the coaxial splitter and your map, and unhook the connection for the room you just placed the antenna in, disconnect the “Cable Company In” connection from the cable in spot, attach the antenna room cable to the cable in spot, and place the “Cable Company In” coaxial onto the old splitter spot for the antenna room.  What you have just done is turned your new “Antenna Room” into the main feeder for all of the other rooms.  One quick note – the “Cable Company In” line doesn’t do anything now, it is just keeping the splitter connection clean by being attached back to the splitter.

Step Six:  Turn on a TV in a room, switch to antenna TV, and go through the auto programming.  Write down where the antenna is, and go move it a few feet and check reception again by going through the auto program process – be sure to auto program after each move of the antenna since your reception will change (I saw a one foot move go from 8 channels received to 24 channels).  When placing the antenna, the supplied 16 foot coax might not be long enough, but any coax length should work.  Check all of your TV’s, and they should all be getting the same channels.

Now let us break this all down, what did we gain, what did it cost:

  • Lost about 250 channels – we figured we only watched two or three of them whenever we did watch TV. Cable TV for my area costs around $20 – $90 per month depending on the ‘package’, and we had the big package so that we could pick up some of the better channels, so that is an immediate $90 savings.  We now have 24 channels, including some of the good oldie channels, CW, and local news and weather.  I did have to kick-up the internet speed for the house so that we can stream movies – this is a $30 additional cost, but will be reduced to only $10 additional once I pick up our own high speed router.
  • Mohu Leaf antenna – $70 (I missed the sale by a day) – one-time cost that will be recouped in one months’ time.
  • Time and labor – I was working for myself while jamming to Moody Radio, great pay for a satisfying job.
  • Bottom line for me: I will be looking at a one year savings of about $700, and I have 24 channels in each room; not a bad hack.

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