Tips for Better TV Reception with Your Indoor Antenna

Mohu Leaf antenna in window

Getting the ideal reception using your indoor digital TV antenna can be a challenging task. It can be like playing “whack-a-mole”: when you have the antenna in one position, you get certain channels; move it to another position and different channels come in and the original ones you had are now gone.

The best location for your antenna is outside as high up as possible, such as on your roof, but many people are not able to put an antenna on their roofs.

Here are my hints and tips to help you get the most channels with your indoor antenna.

1. Experiment with Different Locations in Your Home

More than any other factor (including type of antenna, presence of amplifier, etc.), the location of your indoor antenna in the room has the biggest impact on the number of channels you can receive.

The best locations to put a flat antenna like the Mohu Leaf are often against windows or outwardly facing walls. Start with these locations and run a baseline channel scan on your TV.  I like to use adhesive tape to temporarily position the antenna during my scans.

To help determine which direction the TV signals are coming from, go to my Station Finder and enter your zip code or address.  When the results appear, click on the stations’ call letters in the left column to see what direction the signals are coming from:

station_finder

So, if there is a particular channel you are having trouble with, move the antenna to the wall of your room that is facing that transmitter tower.

2. Use a Longer Cable To Reach That Window

Technically, extending the antenna cable will slightly reduce the signal level that gets to your TV, but if the longer length allows you to reach window that is facing the transmitter tower, it could be worth it.

Just be sure to use “RG6” coax cable (see below).

If you have a long cable, you can even try moving your antenna outside temporarily, to see if an outdoor antenna would be beneficial. Do not use an unnecessarily long a cable though, as that will reduce your signal level!

3. Face it in the Right Direction

I’ve found that the angle at which your antenna is mounted can make a big difference. Consider this map of Los Angeles:

Los Angeles Stations

All of the transmitter towers for Los Angeles are in one place: Mount Wilson near Pasadena. I had trouble receiving CBS when I placed my antenna against my north-facing wall (my East-facing wall doesn’t face outside).  When I angled my antenna towards the northeast, I could get CBS with no problem.

Check out the Station Finder and click on each station’s call letters to see where to point your antenna.  You want the antenna’s signals to have as much surface area to land on as possible when they reach your antenna (assuming you are using a flat antenna like the Mohu Leaf).

This might require some fancy mounting, but it could allow you to start receiving your favorite channel!

4. Lay Your Antenna Flat Horizontally

I know this sounds crazy, but many so many readers have confirmed this, so it’s worth trying.

One day at my previous third-floor apartment, I had my Mohu Leaf antenna taped to the wall and it fell down to the floor.  To my amazement, it got better reception on the floor than vertically on the wall!  So, try laying your flat antenna horizontally and see if it helps, even if it’s on the floor!

I have a friend (and several readers) who get the best reception with the Leaf antenna taped to their ceiling!  So, try the logical positions first (near windows and outer walls), but also trying laying it flat horizontally, especially if you live near mountains, tall trees, or tall buildings. These obstacles can deflect the TV signal into entering your home in weird, non-obvious, directions.

5. Move it Higher Up – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

I get 50% more channels with my Mohu Leaf antenna on the second floor vs. the first floor. Place your antenna as high up as possible, preferably with a line a sight to the transmitters.

6. Put it in a Skylight – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Do you have a skylight? I moved my Mohu Leaf to my skylight and got even more channels!  It’s the closest thing to having an outdoor antenna using an indoor antenna!

Mohu Leaf antenna in skylight
Mohu Leaf antenna in skylight

Since the cable run from my skylight to my TV would be very long, I attached it to a Tablo and watch live TV using  browser or the Tablo app.

7. Use a Better Cable – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Mohu Leaf (and perhaps the antenna you are using) comes with “RG59” cable. It’s printed right on the cable:

Mohu Leaf RG59 cable
The Mohu Leaf comes with RG59 cable.

Many users have reported that they get better reception (more channels) when they swap this cable out for the more beefy “RG6” cable:

RG6 coax cable
RG6 cable is better quality, and can get you more channels! (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Folks have told me that Mohu customer service even recommends using RG6 cable!  It makes sense, since RG6 has a thicker conductor, better insulation, and better shielding than RG59 and is designed for higher frequencies.

If you care to, read more about RG59 and RG6 cables here.  You’ll see why RG59 is so bad and RG6 is awesome!!

So, if you have a Mohu Leaf or any other antenna with crappy RG59 cable, swap it out with RG6! Here are some examples on Amazon:

Note that the cable used by the cable company is often RG6, but is not always labeled. Give it a try and see if it helps.

DISCLOSURE: This is a professional review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer when you purchase through the affiliate links such as the ones on this page. I test and/or research each product or service thoroughly before endorsing it. This site is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

8. Eliminate Electronic Interference

Nearby electric equipment could be interfering with your TV reception.  As a test, unplug all nearby computers, VCRs, DVD players, set-top boxes, stereo equipment, Wi-Fi routers, and anything else electronic or electric.  Fluorescent lights can cause problems. (One reader said that electric hair clippers caused his TV signal to go out!) Unplug all connections to your TV except for power and the antenna.  Then, re-test.  If you see an improvement, turn on the other equipment one at a time to isolate the source of the interference.

This really works! Here’s what one reader told me:

Thank you thank you!!!! I suddenly could only get two out of about 15 stations I had been able to get with an old indoor antenna. But because of your article, I realized that the old VCR I had turned on a few days ago was still on!!! As soon as I turned it off, all my stations came back… thank you again.

How about this one:

We figured it out… The ‘new appliance’ was the new motorized recliner! Unplugged, the channels come in fine. How ’bout that?!?

If you have a lot of electronic equipment near your TV, it might be helpful to use a longer cord for your antenna to move it away and even into a different room to isolate it from the interference from the equipment.  Wi-Fi routers can be especially troublesome.

Sometimes plugging the offending piece of equipment into the same power strip can help. Sometimes plugging it into a different power outlet can help.  If the offending piece of equipment is connected to your TV via HDMI, for example, you can get an HDMI cable with ferrite cores (or add them separately) to try to block the interference.

9. Try Removing the Amplifier (if there is one)

If you’re using an antenna setup with a powered amplifier (also known as a booster), try removing it.

An amplifier can make the situation worse if you have some strong stations. The amp can cause the strong station to swamp out the weak ones and your reception could be worse.  If your antenna came with an amplifier (i.e., if you plug it into the wall for power), then try removing the amplifier and seeing if your reception improves.  Many readers have told me that their antennas actually get more channels without the amp! So, if you have an amp, try removing it and connect your antenna directly to your TV.

10. Add an Amplifier

Conversely, if you live very far from stations (over 20 miles), then an amplifier can indeed help. An amp works best if all of your stations on the Station Finder are yellow or red, or if all of your stations are flaky.  I recommend the Channel Master line of amplifiers.

An amp won’t work well if you have a bunch of strong stations and want to get a few more weak ones. In that case, it might do more harm than good.

11. Use a Reflector

If all of your TV signals come from one direction (as is the case in the Los Angeles area), a reflector behind your antenna might help.  I’ve tried using pie tins and metal baking sheets behind my Mohu Leaf to improve reception and it does help in some situations.  The tricky thing is figuring out how to mount it all in a stable fashion though.

Antenna reflector
I placed this pie ten next to my Mohu Leaf antenna to give better reception for a few pesky channels.

12. Use Two Antennas with a Coupler

This approach can work well if you have strong signals coming from two different directions. It will not help if your signals from all directions are weak.

If you have two different “sweet spots”, you can use a coupler to attach two antennas to your TV and point them in different directions to get both sets of signals. Of course, this requires you to buy another antenna, plus a coupler to combine the signals, plus some more coax cable. I used this technique for a while with my rabbit-ear antenna.

Antenna Coupler

Note that you must use a “coupler”, not a “splitter”. A splitter is used to send the signal from one antenna to several TVs. A coupler is used to combine the signal from multiple antennas to one TV.

The Winegard CC-7870 is a coupler that has good reviews on Amazon:

13. Get a Better Tuner

The part of your TV that receives the TV signal is called a “tuner”.  Some TV’s have good tuners, some not so good.  I’ve heard that LG and Vizio tuners are the best, with Sony and Hitachi very good. Steer clear of no-name brand TVs if you want the best tuner quality.

I don’t recommend going out and getting a new TV just for the tuner, but if you were going to get a new TV for other reasons, consider getting a name-brand to get a good broadcast TV tuner.

If your TV’s tuner is bad, and you want recording capability, then maybe you can kill two birds with one stone by purchasing a DVR+, which has a built-in tuner, or a Tablo TV, which also has a built-in tuner but broadcasts the signal to your Roku.

14. Move it Outside – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

You’ll get the most channels and best reception with a rooftop antenna vs. an indoor antenna. The difference can be amazing. This is pretty much a fact.

But, it also turns out that in general, anywhere outside is usually better than inside.

As a test, put your antenna outside facing the transmitter towers and see if your reception improves. For this test, it can be just outside your front door, an open window, or patio. I get dramatically more channels with my antenna on my patio than I do when it’s indoors.  Maybe you can’t keep it there permanently right now, but it will help you decide whether an outdoor antenna would be worthwhile for you. Even a small outdoor patio antenna can give big improvement.

15. Get a VHF Antenna – The Nuclear Option

About 90% or more of the TV stations out there broadcast on the UHF band.  Therefore, most indoor antennas like the Leaf are optimized for UHF, but will work with VHF/Hi-V if the station is not too far away.  If there is a particular station that you want which is flaky, check the Station Finder to see if it is a VHF or Hi-V station (the last column shows whether it is UHF or VHF).  If it is VHF or Hi-V station, it may be worth getting an antenna better optimized for VHF.  Unfortunately, these are pretty big and expensive, which is why I don’t recommend them for most people.  Here they are:

Yes, these are big, bulky, and expensive, but less than the cost of two months of cable for most people.

What Hasn’t Worked for Me

So far I’ve listed things that have helped me get more channels. However, I want to list a few things that haven’t really helped me, in order to save you some time and money.

As I mentioned above, I only recommend powered (amplified) antennas for those who live really far away from transmitters.  But, if you live in a big city with strong stations, don’t get a powered antenna!  They can perform worse than non-powered antennas when strong signals are present.  If you don’t believe me, read the reviews online.  The people who got no improvement (or worse performance) were probably too close to the transmitters.  Save your money.

Also, please avoid purchasing a whole bunch of different antennas in an attempt to get better reception. In my testing, once you spend $40 on an indoor antenna, the performance doesn’t vary that much. Yes, $10 rabbit-ear antennas are not so good. Personally, I found flat antennas like the Mohu Leaf and HD Frequency Cable Cutter perform better indoors than bulky metal antennas.  Flat antennas can be placed in a wider variety of locations than bulky metal antennas, which gives you more flexibility in positioning, and can result in better reception.  Save your money – no need to try ten different antennas. They will all work similarly as long as they are not cheap rabbit ear antennas.

If none of these tips solve your reception problems, then consider an outdoor antenna.

I hope this article has helped you with your antenna positioning. For me, part of the fun is remembering that you are getting completely FREE TV that other people pay up to a thousand dollars per year or more for. Ain’t that worth a little hassle of positioning an antenna?

Please respond with your antenna positioning tips and tricks below! Thanks, Brian

  • John

    Was having issues with reception on my indoor antenna (I had to move it between 2 locations to get all of the channels and couldn’t find a good location that gave me all of them. I tried the back-reflector suggestion and it worked like a charm. Thanks for the idea!

    • Hi John,

      Awesome, glad it worked for you!

      Best,
      Brian

  • Roger

    Brian-
    I have a Mohu Leaf. I think I’ll try the coupler idea together with a better cable.. Its a drag in my situation; the transmission is coming from the south in the city (I’m north up in the burbs) and no windows in my place face south. (Just easterly windows) and in an apt. building I’ve got to try capturing signals through several other apartments. I did notice it was greatly improved when I left it dangling out the window. But forget that on windy days. Tough to mount.
    Aaarrrgh!!

    • Hi Roger,

      I had a similar situation; my signals come from the East but my windows face North. I also found massively improve reception if I placed my antenna just outside my window.

      One idea would be to use a small outdoor antenna like this one:
      http://disablemycable.com/blog/improve-tv-reception-with-patio-antenna/

      In the end, I was able to get my desired reception by placing my antenna on my door, which was further out on my building, and perhaps had less metal content than my window, allowing more signal to be received:
      http://disablemycable.com/blog/my-tv-antenna-setup/

      Best,
      Brian

      • Roger

        Ahhh. A *small outdoor* antenna. Never considered that. I went & ordered the Channel Master Stealthtenna 50. Thanks, man! Fingers crossed!

      • Roger

        Hello again, Brian
        Ok, so go the antenna. It works. Still getting some pixely drops though. :( Not a *ton* like the Mohu, but I was surprised it happened at all. Even got the good rg6 cable. *Maybe* it’s because I mounted it on a metal railing?

        • Hi Roger,

          Yeah, if the metal of the antenna is touching the metal railing, that could impair reception.

          Try a variety of positions and directions. It took me a long time to get the optimal position of my antenna.

          Best,
          Brian

      • Roger

        photos

  • Dee

    Pretty basic question here. I’ve been using a Fire stick which works well for it’s intended purpose. In order to use an antenna for digital TV…do I physically remove the fire stick? Have not read anything telling me I need to do that, but I can’t seem to get the TV out of fire stick mode, enough to even select “antenna” in settings. Help please.

    • Hi Dee,

      You shouldn’t have to remove the Fire Stick to use your antenna. Your TV should have an input select option in the menu somewhere. If you don’t have the manual, you can often download it from the Internet.

      Best,
      Brian

  • Louise Johnson

    Hi Brian,

    In your article, you mentioned you had trouble getting CBS until you angled your antenna northeast towards the tower in Pasadena. I’m confused because you said the Mohu Leaf, the antenna you recommended, is multi-directional so why does it matter how the antenna is angled? Help?

    • Hi Louise,

      “Multidirectional” means it can receive signals from more than one direction.

      “Omnidirectional” means it can receive signals from all directions.

      The Mohu Leaf is “multidirectional”, but it is not “omnidirectional”.

      The Leaf is pretty good at getting signals from two directions (front and back), but not as good at getting signals that come in from the side.

      Their website says “no pointing needed”, but that’s not entirely true in actual practice.

      Best,
      Brian

  • Therese Lang

    Hi Brian,
    I just moved into a new apartment and I get all local channels with a Mohu Leaf – except one – the CBS affiliate. I think it is because the tower is located behind the building and I do not have a window on that side of the apartment. I am not allowed to affix anything to the building. I have noticed that when I go to that channel, it says, “13 air” while the other stations that I receive with no problem say, “DTV Air” – what does this mean and could this be a clue?
    thank you
    TL

    • Hi Therese,

      I’m not sure what that means (it’s specific to that TV brand),

      You can try the tips on this page, or watch shows on the cbs.com website. I watch Big Bang Theory there.

      Best,
      Brian

  • Roxanne

    Hi there!

    I’m thinking about purchasing an antenna coupler. I have a Mohu Leaf 30 and a ClearStream Eclipse indoor antenna. I’ve never done this before and I’m a but nervous. Do you have any recommendations on which antenna coupler I should purchase? Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.