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:
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:
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!
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:
Many users have reported that they get better reception (more channels) when they swap this cable out for the more beefy “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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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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
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:
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
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.
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 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?
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If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. I try to reply to all comments. I hope this article was helpful to you. - Brian