Let’ Get Up And Running!
- You have located where your antenna farm or farms are located and printed off their locations and distances.
- Based on the information received above you have for the most part decided on the type of antenna you be purchasing.
- You also decided (hopefully) where you will be mounting the antenna.
To keep this section as short as possible we will not be dealing with antennas that will be mounted on full-size masts. If you decided this is what you need and will be constructing one in your backyard we wholeheartedly suggest that you have a professional perform this. We will not as well be dealing with the really large directional antennas if you have decided to mount one of those on your roof.
Okay so let’s get started.
Mounting the antenna
The first antenna we are going to set up is a large multidirectional antenna. Even though these antennas are called large they are smaller than the large unidirectional antennas. They are also very light and easy to handle as well as easy to mount, generally coming with clamps for mounting to a mast. When I mounted the antenna shown at the right I used only what I had on hand for the mast and its mounting structure. Like I said my goal is to get you in and out of here as cheaply as possible so use what you have available.
Here’s a list of items that I used to mount this antenna.
- A three-quarter inch piece of galvanized pipe that I had left over from a previous project.
- Pipe clamps for the 3/4 inch pipe that were left over from the same prior project.
- A 2 x 4 that was lying around the garage.
- (2) 5/4 pieces of 1 x 6 whiteboard trim that I pulled from the refuse box at my local lumberyard. Each one cut to about 18 inches long and screwed together using deck screws.
- (2) 1 ½ x 1 ½ inch galvanized corner angles leftover from a cabinet project.
- A cheap compass from the sporting-goods store (Ok so I had to go out and buy this one).
- In addition it would be a good idea to paint the wood a color similar to your home prior to mounting.
- If you’re going to be spending time on a ladder remember, above all be very careful it doesn’t take much for an accident to happen.
If you study the picture to the right you’ll see how I assembled the antenna support structure. When I made the decision to mount it from the eaves of my house the first thing I had to do was get the mast to slide by the overlap of the shingles from the edge of the roof. This was about 2 inches so using 2 deck screws I mounted the 2 pieces of 6 x 5/4 x 18 inch long whiteboard trim to the face of the fascia board.
Now because the fascia board was not stiff enough to keep the antenna from vibrating or moving during windy periods I cut a piece of 2 x 4 to fit between the side of the house and the whiteboard. I then attached the 2 x 4 using the 1 ½ x 1 ½ corner angles with galvanized screws. Once these two pieces are mounted you can measure to determine how long a mast you’re going to need for your antenna to clear the roof line plus reach the bottom of the mounting plate.
After cutting your mast it can then be mounted to the 5/4 whiteboard using the pipe clamps. Now that, that is mounted you can attach the antenna and point it in the direction of your antenna farm using a compass. Congratulations the antenna is mounted and pointed in the proper direction (hopefully). Now you’re ready to run your coax cable.
Before we run the coax cable though I will show you an attic installation of a large unidirectional antenna. This was the first antenna installed and it was a mistake that later turned out to be a good thing. It took a lot to get this big thing mounted up there but I liked installing it much more than I did the one hanging from the edge of the roof. Not that I’m afraid of heights, I would just rather not be up there.
The big thing about mounting inside and attic space is making sure that you have enough room up there for whatever you’re trying to accomplish, which means going up there and actually measuring your heights. Also you’ll want to take your compass up there ahead of time and verify that you can point the antenna in the proper direction and not encounter any obstruction that may be caused by the homes structure i.e. roof support structure. Once that’s done you will need to add some supporting structure between the rafters, on which you can mount your antenna mast.
For the most part you can use the same mast we used for mounting to the eaves of the house, just modify the wood supports to attach to the rafters (no painting required this time). If you did like I did and purchased a satellite dish mounting arm as your mast, then you will need to build a platform on top of the rafters so that you can screw the base of the arm down.
Study the picture to the right and I’m sure you’ll get some great ideas as to how you can utilize your attic space to mount your antenna. There are a lot of things that make this an attractive mounting location such as the lack of any weather, a shorter ladder is required and it will probably make it easier to find power for your amplifier. More on this later on.
Running your cable.
Okay the antenna is mounted, so stand back and admire your handiwork for a little while.
Now it’s time to get back to work running the coax cable. Before you start running cable we are going to have to determine how you’re going to want to accomplish it. Here are a few items you might want to consider.
- Will you be running directly to a single TV?
- Do you have multiple TVs that you’ll be hooking up? If this is the case you will need either a splitter coming off the antenna or your amplifier. More on this in a minute.
- Do a quick measurement and determine how much coax cable you’re going to need. Then make the trip to Home Depot and pick it up in the length rolls you’ll need.
- A lightening arrestor. Take a look up a your antenna you’ve just put up one heck of a lightning rod, so protect yourself from an inadvertent strike.
- Here is a big tip – If you have been using Dish or DirecTV then reuse the wire that they installed. Generally there will be a splitter with a number of connections going to the TVs you had hooked up, just unscrew the dish lead in and attach your coax to it. WaLa instant connections.
If you’re going to be hooking up to a single TV then the only thing you really have to worry about is running the antenna cable to the TV through the wall. All you need to do is attach the coax cable to the antenna and then, utilizing a bag of small nail in cable hangers, run the cable to the area where you want it to enter the house.
Before we start drilling though let’s talk about an amplifier for your antenna. I suggest that no matter how far away your antenna is from the broadcasters antenna farms always install an amplifier. These are a $35 item that are well worth the money and will make a world of difference in the image you receive on your television. Now you can either install the amplifier at some point after you’ve left the antenna and then split to go to your various TVs or you can buy one amplifier for each TV and just split the cable coming off the antenna and run it to each amplifier. I suggest running to the amplifier and then splitting to the TVs from there, if possible.
I also suggest keeping the amplifier has close to the antenna as you can get it. This is because signal degradation will compile the further away from the antenna you get. Once the antenna is plugged into the amplifier you can split it is much as you want and pretty much cover the entire house. The problem is that the amplifier will need power and this is usually easier to get if it is behind your television set. In my installation I chose to install the amplifier in the attic space and joined the two antennas together through a splitter into the amplifier and then on to the TVs. See the video below.
If you decide on mounting amplifier in the attic space with your antenna then your search for power for the amplifier might lie under the attic insulation. Generally a lot of wiring is run in the attic space and much of it is hot all the time, so it’s a simple matter of turning off the power cutting a wire and then adding a junction box and a receptacle box as shown on the right. Do not do this though unless you’re comfortable working with power or intend on having an electrician do it for you. Once again safety should rule.
Drilling through the walls.
Drilling through the walls of your home, or if you’re really brave your apartment, is probably one of the most gut wrenching parts of this installation. After all holes are hard to repair if done wrong and you would rather not have to do it. So here’s how I handle drilling for cable entry.
- You may have seen when the cable guy shows up and installs the cable he drills right through the wall starting with the sheet rock and exiting to the outside. He then installs a little wall plate with the cable attached to it. The plate then attaches to some little wall anchors. This type of installation to me is substandard and will not last, generally pulling out of your wall at some point in time.
- Here’s what you will need in the way of equipment.
- One electrical remodel or old work box.
- A wall faceplate that contains both a cable connector and an RJ-45 connector.
- Some light cardboard to make a template.
- A utility knife.
- A drill with a 3/8 drill bit at least 7 inches long.
- A pair of pliers to remove the knockouts in the back of the remodeled box.
- A Phillips head screwdriver.
- We will start on the inside of the house and have you locate the spot that where you want the cable to come through making sure that is between wall studs. You can usually determine this by tapping on the wall and listening for the sound the change when you come to a stud. Otherwise get a stud finder.
- Next I want you to make a rectangular template from some light cardboard that is 3 ¾ tall x 2 ¼ inches wide. This will be a template that we use to cut a hole for an electrical remodel box in the drywall. Simply lay the template on top of the wall about 12 inches above the floor, between the studs and then trace the outline on the wall. Take a utility knife and cut the outline you just made, knocking out the drywall.
- Remove two of the plugs in the back of the remodel box and then push it through the hole you made in the wall, it should fit perfectly. Do not tighten the screws up yet.
- Using a 3/8 inch drill bit that is at least 7 inches long drill a hole through the exterior wall directly behind one of the knockouts in the remodel box.
- Now pull the coax cable through the hole just drilled in the wall, into the remodel box and then attach it to the back of the cable faceplate.
- You can now tighten the screws on the electrical remodel box thereby securing it to the wall.
- Push any leftover coax cable back outside and secure the cable faceplate to the electrical remodel box.
- Go outside and coil any left over cable and secure it to the side of the house. If you are comfortable cutting the cable and putting a new end on it you can do that instead, prior to attaching it to the faceplate inside. Make sure that you form a drip loop where the cable exits the house so that any rainwater will be channeled away from the entry point.
- Put some high-quality caulk around the cable where it enters the house and you’re done you have run your cable.
I know it may seem like a lot of steps but it will produce a quality job that we can use later on when we get into streaming TV.
Now all we need to do is run two small lengths of coax cable from the faceplate to the amplifier and then from the amplifier into the antenna jack on the back of your television set. Once that’s done you can plug in the amplifier, turn on the television and enter your television’s set up menu in order to scan for new channels. This is usually as simple as setting the TV to receive from an exterior antenna and pressing OK.
So there you have it, you have set up your antenna, run your coax cable and scanned for new channels. If all is working correctly you should be able to receive somewhere around the amount of channels that you were shown to you back in step one. If this is not the case try adjusting your antennas direction.
If you have troubles with reception you may have undersized your antenna. You have two options here. Either take down the antenna and return it while you still can or install a second larger antenna. You can join the two antennas together with a splitter and the run it into the amplifier.
On to step four – Streaming TV