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.
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 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:
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.
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!
I've found that the angle at which your antenna is mounted can make a big difference. Consider this map of Los Angeles:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
The Mohu Leaf (and perhaps the antenna you are using) comes with "RG59" cable. It's printed right on the cable:
Many users have reported that they get better reception (more channels) when they swap this cable out for the beefier "RG6" cable:
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.
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Aerowave 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!
You can try this with wire or other metallic objects.
When I started using an antenna, I noticed that after a few months, I would sometimes get new channels when I did a new channel scan. TV stations periodically change locations, channels, or transmitter power. So, it's a good idea to re-scan every so often. You might get some channels you didn't have before!
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.
If you're using an antenna with a reflector grid like the Antennas Direct DB4 antenna below, try using it without the reflector portion.
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!
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).
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.
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.
I haven't tried this myself yet, but this reader on Facebook used cheap copper tape to turn his entire attic into a gigantic antenna:
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...)
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 Channel Master Stream+ DVR which has a built-in tuner, or a Tablo, which also has a built-in tuner but broadcasts the signal to your Roku.
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 a improvement in reception.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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?