I get a lot of questions from folks who want to get free broadcast TV using an antenna, but who have multiple TVs. There are several ways I know of to get an antenna signal to all of the TVs in your home. I cover them below.
Method #1: A Separate Antenna for Each TV
The easiest thing to do is to just have a separate indoor antenna (like the Mohu Leaf) for each TV. The problem with this is that some of your TVs might be on the side of the house that is away from the TV stations. Perhaps one of your TVs is in the basement, where reception might be bad. If you have strong signals in your area (enter your zip code into the Station Finder to see), you still might be able to get all of the channels you want everywhere in your home, so maybe it won’t matter. But chances are, some of your TVs will get worse reception than others due to the location in your home.
So, don’t go out and buy a whole bunch of antennas. Just get one, and confirm that it works with all of your TVs before getting an antenna for each TV. I recommend the Mohu Leaf.
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Method #2: One Antenna Using Your Home’s Existing Cable TV Wiring
This is the most elegant solution. If you’ve ever had cable or satellite TV, your home has the wiring it needs to distribute free broadcast TV signals from an antenna! If you can find out where it connects to the cable company’s line and disconnect it, you can connect your antenna to this cable and use it to distribute free TV throughout your home!
This will require a little detective work. Look in your garage, basement, and outside of your home to see where the cable company’s cable connects to your home. There should be a junction box where it connects. If you had satellite, look where the cable from the satellite dish comes into your home. Note, you might need special tools to disconnect it, and it might be a violation of the cable / satellite company rules to mess with their equipment, just be aware.
If you are able to disconnect the signal from the cable company, you can now connect your antenna anywhere you see a cable TV outlet in your home. Probably the best place would be at an upper story, i.e., the highest point in your home.
Also, if you do this, I would recommend adding an amplifier (see below).
Note, you cannot use this method if you are using your coax cabling for Internet access. The cable has to be completely disconnected from any satellite or cable, whether it is for TV or Internet.
Method #3: One Antenna to Many TVs Using New Cabling
If your home does not already have coax cable running through it, you’ll have to cable it up yourself. If you only have one TV, and your cable run is short (say, 30 feet or less), you can get away with connecting your antenna cable directly to your TV.
If you have multiple TVs, and your cable run is short, you can use a splitter like this one:
But, most of the time you’ll want to add an amplifier, and so you’ll want to use a distribution amplifier to split your signal to all of your TVs:
The distribution amplifier should be close to the antenna, so that the signal is amplified as soon as possible:
If you have a lot of cabling to run, you might want to invest in a spool of cable and a special kit that enables you to cut custom lengths and attach connectors at each end. Here is my set of tools and supplies for doing this:
Starting from the upper left, we have a cable stripper, cable crimper, and spool of cable. In the second row from the left we have an all-in-one tool that cuts, strips, and attaches the connectors, and finally the splitter.
This might cost less than buying pre-cut cable, and you’ll be able to make the lengths perfectly right instead of having a lot of slack (which is ugly and degrades the signal). Just be sure to get “RG6” cable! Cheaper cable will degrade your TV signal.
If you are going through all of this trouble, you should consider just going with a rooftop or attic antenna, if that is possible in your dwelling. A rooftop or attic antenna will get you the best signal quality and the most channels. An outdoor or attic antenna will be better than an indoor antenna.
Before doing any of this, I recommend buying a single antenna and trying it out at each TV location.
Here are my recommended tools and supplies if you want to run your own cable:
Method #4: One Antenna with Tablo – Wireless!
Since originally writing this article, I’ve discovered another way to use a single antenna with all of your TVs: a product called Tablo.
Basically, you hook up your one antenna to Tablo and it streams the signal to all of the Roku boxes in your home. Now, this requires that you have a Roku box or stick or each TV, which you may or may not want to do. Check out this video which explains it:
But, the bonus is that Tablo TV offers recording to a hard disk drive that you attach to it. So, if you want recording capability, Tablo may be for you.
To Sum Up
Which solution you choose depends on your situation. The simplest thing to do is to get a separate antenna for each TV. But, each TV may not get equally good reception. If you have existing cable TV cabling in your home, you might be able to use that and just have one antenna. Finally, if you want recording ability, consider Tablo TV with one antenna.
Hope this helps! – Brian