After years of paying gradually, and sometimes not so gradually, increasing costs simply to bring TV into my home it was time to cut the cord. With the move into our new home in Firethorne, we had outfitted every bedroom, several extra rooms, and a bathroom with coax drops, and subsequently with flat-screen TVs. And as you know, with cable or satellite, that means a converter box at each location, at additional expense.
We’d had enough. We were paying the better part of $200 per month to outfit all the TV’s with 200 channels, when in all reality, we only watched maybe 10 of them and even then only on some of the TVs. The rest were hooked up simply so the kids and grandkids could watch them when they visited. It’s insanity. And that’s when I went looking for a better solution.
What I discovered was that for less than the cost of two months DirectTV service, I could have a suitable replacement with NO ongoing monthly expenses. And even then, it was only that expensive because I wanted a DVR box to record my favorite shows. If that doesn’t matter to you, you could do it for less than $200 total.
So here’s a basic look at what this looks like:
Antenna Direct 8-Port TV Distribution Amplifier (for up to 8 TVs) – $54.65 or…
Antenna Direct 4-Port TV Distribution Amplifier (for up to 4 TVs) – $45.49
F-Type Termination Caps – $6.49
Rubber Booted Co-Ax Cable (varying lengths)
TIVO Roamio OTA DVR – $299.00
The antenna I’ve linked to above is rated at a 60 mile range, which in the Katy, Texas area should be sufficient for the large majority of over-the-air channels available in the Houston area. Antennas Direct provides a fantastic tool on their website that allows you to enter your zip code to discover what channels are available and what range your antenna needs to cover to pick up those channels.
The amplifier is optional if you’re only interested in providing service to one TV in your household. If you’re planning on providing antenna service to multiple TVs, you’ll need to purchase a distribution amplifier with enough outputs for those TV’s. I’ve linked to both 4 port and 8 port amplifiers for servicing up to 8 TV’s.
What you need to understand about these distribution amplifiers though is that unused ports ‘leak’ signal strength, so if you don’t use all of the ports on your amplifier, you need to cap them with F terminators, which I’ve linked as well.
The antennas from Antennas Direct typically do not include CoAx cable. You’ll need enough cable to run from the exterior of your home (where it’s mounted on your roof) to the service access point of your home. In my step by step guide below, I’ll be reusing portions of coax cable that are already instead in my home as part of the previous DirectTV installation.
Again, only needed if you want DVR service in your home. If you do not record shows, this device is entirely optional.
The first step to cutting the cord is determining which antenna you need, how many TV’s you want the antenna to service, and whether or not you want DVR service. In our step by step guide, we’re going to assume the 60 mile range, distributing to 8 TV’s, and installing a DVR box on the main, living room television.
1. Install the Antenna
Find a place on your roof or fence that has the best line of sight view towards the Stafford area (this is where MOST of the transmitters are located in the Houston area). Usually, the higher you can mount the antenna, the better. Download and use the Antenna Point App to best position your antenna. Once you’ve pinpointed the position, secure your antenna installation.
2. Route the coax cabling
In many cases, you’ll need to pierce the soffet area under your roof to run the coax cabling into your home and finally to the distribution cabinet in your home. If your home lacks a distribution cabinet, you’ll need to connect the coax from the antenna to the access point of your home (usually from prior cable installation).
In our case, we had a previous Direct TV installation, so we disconnected one of the coax cables from the dish and connected it to the coax cable from our new antenna. This effectively took our connection into the attic without having to make a new penetration into the attic. If this is not an option for you, simply drill a hole in the soffet large enough to run the cable through and from the attic, pull it through.
3. Disconnect Direct TV Tuner
Since our coax coming into the attic previously was attached to our Dish, we needed to make sure we removed the DirectTV tuner from the other end of the cable. So we removed the coax from the tuner, then used a two port splitter to connect it to the outbound coax that runs down the walls and into our distribution cabinet. Make sure you install a terminator on any unused ports.
If you are not re-purposing a DirectTV coax connection, simply run the new coax cable (that you installed from the new antenna) down into the distribution cabinet.
4. Install the Distribution Amplifier
Once your antenna coax feed is into the distribution cabinet, it’s time to install the amplifier. If your cable cabinet already has a distribution block, remove it and replace it with your new powered distribution amplifier. The distribution blocks that come in homes are usually not powered and split the signal strength, making for poor connections.
In this picture, the eight cables on the right are the cables that were previously connected to the built-in distribution block that I removed. The cable on the top left is the input cable coming from my roof-mounted antenna, the cable on the lower left connects to a power source. If I weren’t using all 8 ports, the unused ports would be terminated.
If your home does not have a cable cabinet and distribution block, there is almost certainly a co-ax access point somewhere on the exterior of your home where your prior cable or satellite tv service enters your home. In this case, you’ll connect the coax cable from your antenna to this access point. You’ll also need to trace down where that supply cable is split in your attic so you can replace the splitter with a distribution amplifier… UNLESS your antenna is only going to service one TV.
5. Connect Your TV’s
At this point, all of your coax ports in your home should have access to the antenna. You’ll need to access the channel search feature on your TV’s to discover all of the available channels that your new antenna can find. Smart TV’s come in especially handy for running these searches, but all TV’s built in the last 20 years have a channel search feature. This is also the point where you’ll connect your DVR device if you chose to install one.
In the event you’re not getting all the channels you expected, slight adjustments to the antenna positioning may help. In my experience, check to make sure you’re not getting the channels on all TV’s before doing any adjustments. Some TV’s have a signal strength meter function that you can utilize to pinpoint the best antenna position as well.
This is a very rudimentary summary of how we went from a nearly $200 / month DirectTV bill to paying nothing for our TV services. That being said, we do pay for a Netflix subscription, but that’s really it. I’ve tried the cheaper HD antennas (like at Walmart) and we originally tried to install our antenna IN the attic, but found the reception and the sheer volume of available channels really only shined when installed externally.
One last note, after doing some pretty substantial research, I learned that the HD signal that these antennas pick up is actually a HIGHER quality signal because cable and satellite providers compress their signals to save bandwidth.
I hope you’ve enjoying our writeup and that you find it helpful.