How To Get More Channels with Your Indoor Antenna

Jun 18, 2016

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, 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 the 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 map
Click the station call letters to see it on the map

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 a 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 cable though, as that will reduce your signal level!

3. Face it Towards the TV Transmitter Towers

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
Transmitter towers shown on the Station Finder

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! A few readers said this worked for them too! 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 of 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 a 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 beefier “RG6” cable:

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

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: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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 and LED lightbulbs can cause problems too. (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 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. Unplug Your Amazon Fire TV Stick

This is really a subset of the previous item, eliminating electronic interference, but this has happened to so many people that it deserves its own line item.

Apparently, some Amazon Fire TV Sticks emit a lot of electromagnetic interference. While the Stick is on, try tuning into a troublesome channel and remove the Stick or put it in sleep mode. If the interference goes away, the stick is to blame.

An amazingly effective solution confirmed by many folks online is to wrap the stick in tinfoil! Yes, it really works! No reports of problems using the remote or Wi-Fi after doing that, but if those things stop working you may need to leave a little gap in the foil. Or, plug the Stick on a 10-foot HDMI extender cable and move it far away from your antenna.

10. 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 connecting your antenna directly to your TV.

11. 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.

12. Add Some Metal

This won’t work for the Mohu Leaf, and other flat antennas encased in plastic, but if you have a metal antenna, try attaching another piece of metal or wire to it.

I was using the Cable Cutter Metro (this antenna is no longer produced) to watch the Olympics with my friends when it started cutting out. This was embarrassing because I’m supposed to be “the antenna guy”. I quickly ran to my closet and grabbed a wire hanger and hooked it onto my metal antenna.  Voila! The reception was solid again!

Wire hanger on my metal Cable Cutter Aerowave antenna
Wire hanger on my metal Cable Cutter Metro antenna

You can try this with wire or other metallic objects.

13. Try Adding 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.

14. Try Removing the Reflector

If you’re using an antenna with a reflector grid like the Antennas Direct DB4 antenna below, try using it without the reflector portion.

Antennas Direct DB4 antenna
Try your antenna without the reflector portion (shown on the left)

The reflector basically blocks all signals from the backside, so if your signals are coming from two different directions, removing the reflector might get you more channels!

15. Ground Your Shield

Reader Laisa recommends this:

Try grounding a part of the cable in soil. I put a plant in between the antenna and the TV. The moment the cable touches the soil, all interference stops. The moment I lift the cable off the soil, channels drop signal or freezes. Works like magic.

Believe it or not, this actually makes sense. It is possible that electronic noise is getting coupled onto your coax cable’s shield. By touching the outside metal part of the cable to a physical ground or any chunk of metal that goes to the ground (such as a pipe, light switch screw, etc.) you can quiet this noise and get better reception.

The shield is the metal part forming the “collar” of the cable connector (as opposed to the wire in the center).

16. Use Two Antennas with a Coupler

This approach works best to combine signals from a UHF antenna with a VHF antenna. That way, the combined signals won’t interfere with each other. These types of antennas are usually mounted outdoors or in an attic.

Practically speaking, however, I have had success combining two of the same type of indoor antenna when the TV signals are coming from different directions.

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.

Antenna Coupler
Two antennas connected to the same TV using a coupler. Note it’s best to use the same length of coax running to each antenna.

You’ll get the best results if you use a “coupler”, instead of a simple “splitter”. A splitter is used to split the signal from one antenna to several TVs. You might have a splitter laying around from a cable TV installation. A coupler is used to combine the signal from multiple antennas to one TV. You probably don’t have one of those unless you specifically bought one.

I recommend the JOINtenna coupler available at ChannelMaster (search for “join”).

There are some potential pitfalls with this method, namely multipath interference. More more details on using multiple antennas, check out this video from the Antenna Man.

17. Create a Huge Antenna with Copper Tape

I haven’t tried this myself yet, but a reader on Facebook used cheap copper tape to turn his entire attic into a gigantic antenna just by running the tape across the beams!

In theory, this could create an amazing antenna at an incredibly low cost! I plan to try this myself and give more details, but the basic idea is to create the arms of your antenna with copper tape adhered to the beams of your attic (or walls, or ceiling…)

18. 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. Newer TV’s made after 2015 tend to have better tuners. Big-name brands like Samsung, LG, Vizio, Sony, and Hitachi tend to have good tuners with Samsung being the best. Steer clear of no-name brand TVs if you want the best tuner quality.

If you don’t want to purchase a whole new TV just to see if you can get a better tuner, you could purchase a tuner separately, like the Ematic Digital TV Converter Box.

If you’re not happy with your TV’s tuner, and you want recording capability, then maybe you can kill two birds with one stone by purchasing a Tablo, which has a built-in tuner but broadcasts the signal to your Roku. The Amazon Fire TV Recast does the same thing if you prefer the Amazon ecosystem.

19. 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, open window, or patio door. 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 a improvement in reception.

20. Get a VHF Antenna

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 that 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.

Yes, these are big, bulky, and more 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.

Amplifiers Might Not Help

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, an amplified antenna might not help. 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.

Don’t Buy a Whole Bunch of Antennas

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.

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

The Bottom Line – Experiment with Antenna Position!

I hope this article has helped you with your antenna positioning. The key is to EXPERIMENT! Try different antenna locations and the tricks I’ve mentioned.

For me, part of the fun is knowing 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? – Brian

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Brian Shim

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michael korte
michael korte
6 months ago

Flat UHF TV Antenna mounted Vertically on SOUTH -facing window glass. Works fine, but by compass and maps TV Broadcast Towers are DUE WEST. Lots of hi-rise buildings made of cement and steel. Took 3 months of trial and error, to look for a solution that would work Portland Oregon

David Matejka
David Matejka
8 months ago

I haven’t seen this referenced anywhere else, so I thought I’d ask. Can a TV signal be affected by street traffic? I live in a nursing home on a large thorough fare in Skokie, just outside of Chicago. I have a metro mohu leaf which is a great antenna, but sometimes, when an especially loud truck goes by, I’ll get pixelation on the channel I’m watching for a couple of seconds.does this make ANY sense to you? Any help appreciated..

Ozzie
Ozzie
9 months ago

I used it without Amplifier was better

Antenna Experts
4 years ago

Yes, I agree with you, Amplifier antenna is the best option………

C La
C La
3 years ago

Howdy! I bought the Aerowave, Indoor Outdoor HD Digital TV Antenna (CC-17A) last year, set it up and it worked perfectly for 6 months. I live in Mill Valley just north of San Francisco and was able to get all the main channels I needed. I switched back to cable for a little while, but just got rid of it again. The antenna has not moved since I originally disconnected it, I have rescanned multiple times, and could get no signals. I then got the Tablo and hooked it up…multiple rescans and it says signal is too weak. When moving the antenna one of the connections broke. I used electrical tape and connected the bad connection but still getting weak signal. Do I need to get a new antenna or is there a way to fix this one? Or is there another possibility?

comment image

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  C La

Hi C La,

If you’re not getting any channels, it sounds like the connection is still not good. You’ll have to strip the wire and screw down the metal part of the wire under the nut. You might need to check with a friend or neighbor who can do that, if you don’t have wire strippers.

Best,
Brian

C La
C La
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I have wire cutters – I will try that!

Joe Odekerken
Joe Odekerken
3 years ago

I’ve found that the cheap, Onn brand rabbit ears sold at Walmart for $8.88 are better than the more expensive options if you live near your towers.

Stacey W
Stacey W
3 years ago

Quick question. I bought a Mohu Leaf and I live in a fourplex. When I first got it, I experimented and noticed that I had to change the position of the Mohu based on the season. Putting it in the window doesn’t work. I tried in one window, then in another. Switched cable lengths, but still no joy. It’s weird. I finally found a great position for the antenna where I could get all my favorite channels with no interruptions or sudden pixellations. Then someone moved into the upstairs apartment and my channels went haywire. So I moved it again and then again. I could get one or two stations fine, but have issues with the others. So I got an amplifier thinking it would boost the signals of those problem channels (I don’t want the shopping network channels, just to be able to watch my favorite shows all the way through). It worked for one night. Now I can hear my upstairs neighbor walking around and the TV channel is stopping and starting like Max Headroom. I’m wondering if part of the problem is that the amplifier is behind the TV? Would that affect the signal? Would it work if I arranged the original antenna connection (that the amplifier replaces) to be closer to the antenna? Sorry this is so long, but it’s been a year and I just want to watch MASH.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Stacey W

Stacey,

Thanks for the questions, and I’ve totally experienced this.

The best position for the amplifier is as close to the actual antenna as possible. So ideally, you’d have the antenna, then a short length of cable to connect to the amplifier, then a long piece of cable to go to the TV.

Having said that, sometimes an amplifier does not help.

You’re doing the right thing by experimenting!

Best,
Brian

Ed Wood
Ed Wood
3 years ago

Excellent tips. Never knew about a coupler, which should help in my situation since I get different channels depending on which way I position the antenna. Hopefully two antennas coupled together will solve the problem.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Ed Wood

Hi Ed,

Let me know how it goes, if you have a chance!

Best,
Brian

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