Speaking of cables, the lifeblood of our OTA systems.
Many years ago I was either updating or changing or adding RG6 cable to my house. After I was finished my signal got worse. First of all I got all the tools and skills and (I thought) knowledge for making my own cables. So what went wrong? After days or weeks (I don’t recall how long it took or how I diagnosed it) I found a single teeny tiny thread of the braided shielding wrapped around the core conductor of one of the cables. Instead of being cut by the stripping tool you spin around the end of the cable it somehow got wrapped around the core wire while still connected to the shielding where it came from. A short in other words. I could not even see that tiny thread with my naked (older) eyes. To see it clearly I got out an old Radio Shack 30x lighted hand held microscope we got for our kids as presents like 30 years ago. I used a little picking tool to remove it and everything was back to normal again. I now use that little microscope every time I strip the end of a cable. I also have since purchased a cable testing tool.
I’ll post some photos directly from my phone after I answer these questions on the desktop.
So it seems that there need not be a second, separate cable run for power to the pre-amp? If that’s the case, then I don’t know why he didn’t install it at the antenna itself. I assumed he was minimizing the visibility of cables outside, since we’d just moved into the neighborhood and (still to this day) haven’t spotted a single other antenna anywhere near us. The amp he installed is just a few feet inside the basement with a short run of coax to the AC adapter plugged into the outlet less than 10 feet away. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m comfortable attempting to do it myself given the antenna’s location. I recall even once he got onto my garage roof, he had a second ladder balanced pretty precariously across the garage ridge to reach the antenna. That said, if it turns out to be necessary, I won’t hesitate to call him (or somebody) to move it there.
After taking a look this morning, I’m guessing it’s closer to 50 feet of coax between the antenna and a junction box where it enters the basement. Putting the amp in or near that junction box would only move it roughly 5 feet upstream from where it is now.
Before he texted me to say everything he uses is RG6, the white one was the one I had the most confidence in, as among its markings is “Series 6”.
Yes, there is plenty of electrical wiring in proximity to the coax. The electrical panel is right by where the coax enters the basement, so the OTA and Internet coax run parallel to it and just a few inches from it at some points. Depending on how close is too close, I’d think that would be hard to avoid that without really increasing the run by zig-zagging it around the basement. Heating is via gas furnace.
One thing I just thought of while taking pictures in the basement is the fluorescent lighting down there. We have one large 4-bulb fixture that stays on all the time, even at night, for our cat who sleeps down there. The coax runs right by it. You’ll see it in a photo.
This is something I was pondering myself last night. I can certainly take the Tablo downstairs, but it would have to connect to the router via WiFi (unless I bought a 100-foot run of Ethernet to run up the stairs for testing).
Yes, it’s grounded inside the junction box.
That’s new terminology to me. I’ll have to google it. I trust that it’s nothing that will trip me up.
I’m not one for drawing, but hopefully a thorough description combined with the photos to follow will give you the whole picture. From the antenna, the coax is run to the back of the house, behind the garage, where the junction box is located. There is the connection to the black coax, and that connection is wired to the grounding rod nearby. The cable company’s coax is also in there – it’s the orange cable that connects to a second black cable. Both cables enter the basement next to the electrical panel. The OTA cable reaches the amplifier within a few feet. The output of the amp then runs straight across to the other side of the basement, beneath the living room (which is beneath the upstairs office where the Tablo is located). This is where the splitter is located, with the black split going directly to the living room TV, and the white split continuing the rest of the way to the basement wall where it exits and runs up the siding (tucked behind a downspout) to the office. Once in the office, it runs roughly 15 feet to the Tablo.
If installing the correct amplifier inside doesn’t fix the problem, as I’ve said before, I’m fine with the second most easy step to be bypassing the splitter, since a properly functioning Tablo makes having the direct connection to the living room TV moot. If that also doesn’t help, then I would be inclined to moving the amp, and/or trying to shorten the cable run. Maybe it should never enter the basement and just be tucked/hidden beneath the gutter on the back of the house and reach the office that way.
Both cables run past this fluorescent light. OTA cable is on the left, nearest the light. In the distance you can see a white cable again – that’s where the splitter is located, and that white cable is going to the outside wall to run up to the office.
@BlueCalcite Fluorescent lighting emits RF radiation and will interfere with devices and cables. How close is your Tablo\cables to the light? Perhaps a candle lit every night (or gas lamp) would help instead - ye olde lamplighter of long, long ago…
You mentioned an alternate way of sending the white cable to the Tablo? That may be preferable just to avoid the florescent lighting in the basement. Then send the white cable to the RCA preamp through this alternate direction.
BTW I have experience with such lighting affecting my reception. Whenever I would turn on one of these lamps, I would notice a frizzy pattern across my TV from the antenna for a moment.
I would try to move the cables back away from the electric panel. They look like they’re laying against the house feed and touching or very nearly touching the wiring runs to the panel. Looks like you have enough slack there to just pull them away about a foot.
And in regards to your new amp, if it’s anything like mine, cable goes from antenna to amp. Cable exits the amp and at some point before the splitter, there is another part that the cable joins to. It almost looks like a beefy barrel connector with a little power wire going to it and that power wire is the power supply for the amp. That’s the power inserter. It can go after the splitter, but the splitter needs to be the correct type to pass power upstream to the antenna. It would be pretty clearly labeled as such normally.
I hear you about extra cables for this and that. I bought a spool of RG6 Quad shield when I wired my house and a spool of cat5 cable so I’m kinda spoiled in that regard as if I need a cable I just make one.
Moving a coax a foot away won’t do anything. RF radiation from the florescent lamp and electrical panel can travel for many feet. One of my florescent lamps was 30 feet away from my antenna and flicking it on disrupted reception. @BlueCalcite would be best to reroute the OTA coaxes through a different conduit to the office.
Also newer preamps such as the RCA or Winegards do not have good shielding to protect them from RF radiation. Best to house them as far away as possible from any EMI in the vicinity. No use buying new equipment only to compromise it with interference…
Something dawned on me as I was just downstairs contemplating what it would take to reroute the coax around everything that radiates anything. That fluorescent lamp – I know that it has 4 bulbs in it because sometime last year, many months after moving into this place, my wife reported that “her light” above the washer and dryer had gone from marginally-lit to poorly-lit. I finally got around to climbing up on a chair and investigating to find that only one of the four bulbs was working. A second was flickering. Presumably, the best we had seen since moving in was just those two bulbs working, certainly not more than that. It always looked unevenly lit. So I fixed that – I replaced three of the four bulbs and it’s been shining bright ever since. I wish I could remember when I did that, but it feels like it was sometime in the fall, and it was sometime in the fall when we first started having problems with the Tablo. And that light has been on virtually 24/7 since then.
Rather than the the light off right now, I used some of that slack that somebody recognized near the amplifier and was able to bulge the OTA coax quite a bit further away from the light. It was about 14 to 16 inches away. Now it’s a full 5 feet away. The first time we have a problem, I’ll turn the light off completely and see what happens. It’s probably wishful thinking, but wishful thinking is all I have right now.
I would suggest that @BlueCalcite do BOTH the OTA equipment change AND the move away from the interference. The RCA preamp does not have good shielding (made from plastic whereas the older preamps such as the CM were made from metal) so moving the OTA equipment outside the circle of EMI would be best.
@BlueCalcite The RCA also has overload protection which the Antronix doesn’t have to equalize strong and weak signals.
You could even enclose the coax inside more shielding to protect it even more. There was a portion of my coax I needed better protection so I wrapped some soft aluminum (making a pipe-like conduit) shielding around three feet of the coax.
I also made a semi-box from aluminum to put around my RCA preamp to shield it from EMI. The RCA preamp does not have good shielding (made from plastic whereas the older preamps such as the CM were made from metal).
Why not replace them with LED lights or just install new LED bulbs in the old fixtures. I did that about 3 yrs ago and it cleaned a lot of electrical interference up - and the covers do not yellow. Or Costco has the ready mades for a good price.
Seeing the pictures of your setup I’d agree with the others and say that there needs to be a lot of cleanup and potential re-routing of the RG6. With all of the modern electronics in homes now there is a lot of opportunity for conducted and radiated noise to be feedback on the power lines.
Here are the items I’d check beyond the changes already mentioned in the splitter and amp as mentioned above:
Reroute your RG6 as far away from any power cables as possible. You are so close to the main breaker box on your entrance that this might be difficult. If you have to cross any power lines try and do so at 90 degrees. The biggest problems with noise occur when cables are ran in parallel within a fairly close proximity.
Check that you have proper grounding at the home. I’ve seen a number of instances where noise can get fedback into the home due to poor grounding. You home looks like a new enough residence I doubt this would be an issue but…
The ferrites mentioned above will suppress any conducted emissions from the florescent light back into the power line but won’t fix anything if it is radiating some nasty stuff.
You mentioned that this past fall is when you started to having issues. It might not be the leaves but could be something like your furnace or another appliance giving you fits. I don’t know if you can try and turn on and off a few major items to see if they are what is causing interference like recommended for the florescent lights. I know that newer furnaces include electronic spark ignition control and EC motors which can both can create conducted emissions if not designed properly.
Good luck as you are much more patient that I would be in the situation.
I mentioned that I nudged the OTA coax away from that fluorescent light by about 5 feet. During the little bit of time I watched TV early last evening, I observed one short buffer. A little after 9 p.m. we sat down to watch the Dateline episode that had recorded from 8-9 p.m. Normally, we struggle to get through one of these episodes, and often give up. Other times we have spent closer to 2 hours getting through the 1 hour episode. This time it played flawlessly. We were able to fast-forward through the commercials without any delay. Perfection. When we finished that episode, we started watching the second of back-to-back episodes that had been recorded last night. Perfection again. I was starting to get excited, but refrained from telling my wife what I’d done. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, let alone hers. After those two recordings, we watched live TV for close to an hour and I observed one short buffer again. I tried to explain it away in my head as being weather related – it’d been rainy all day, and by that time it was snowing really hard. I went to bed and started watching Saturday Night Live while my wife stayed downstairs watching the same. I eventually fell asleep, and didn’t observe any problems, and my wife indicated that it played perfectly for her until she came to bed around 2 a.m. Great!
Then this morning came. We were simply trying to watch a re-run of something on a 480-resolution subchannel of one of the major networks and it was freezing/buffering for a few seconds every couple of minutes, and eventually we got the “an unknown error occurred” message. By this time I had told her the reason for my optimism, so we were both deflated by this.
The mailman brought the new pre-amp (the RCA TVPRAMP1Z) and OTA splitter. First I swapped out the splitter, making sure to snug the connections with a quarter turn of a wrench. The pre-amp required me to get creative, since I’m working with pre-determined lengths of coax, and the power inserter wasn’t going to nicely reach/fit into any of the existing connection points. I have a compression tool, but currently have no fittings, so I’m not able to start hacking things right now. I ended up having to use the extra length of coax that powered the old amp to make it reach. So it’s now installed, but there’s about 10 feet more of cable length in there that’s currently just hanging in a coil by the outlet that the power inserter is plugged into. It’s certainly not how I would leave it, but it’s all I could do with what I had on hand.
I went back upstairs and did a rescan on the Tablo, not knowing whether to expect an improvement with the proper OTA equipment or a drop in signal due to the extra cable length. What I got was a distinct degradation in signal, at least on the few fringe channels. I routinely pick up 54 channels, with all but 3 of those being 5 green dots. Those 3 (68.1, 68.2, 68.3) have always been 3 dots. Now they’re one dot. In addition, two other channels (19.1, 19.2) went from 5 dots to 3 dots. However, these are Akron-area repeater signals for Cleveland channels that I get fine. So this isn’t a big deal, other than it telling me that things have gotten worse. I started watching some TV and was getting frequent buffering on a 480-resolution subchannel. I haven’t watched much, as it’s clear to me I haven’t improved things. I’m just not sure whether to start hacking the cables apart and tidying them up (after getting some fittings), or if the plastic housing of the pre-amp is introducing more interference.
To try to get the cable further from the electrical wiring, I did mount the new pre-amp several feet inside the house, away from the breaker box. I’ve made a really crude sketch that shows how it was previously run through the old amp, and how it’s now running through the new one. I’ll attach it below.
Blue ink is the old cable run. Amp immediately inside basement, virtually above breaker box, then a straight run across the basement before turning 90 degrees to the splitter, then going up to the living room TV and the second split reversing course and going out of the basement and up to the second floor office. New setup is in red. New RCA amp probably 5 feet inside basement, then runs along some gas and water pipes, turns 90 degrees at the furnace over to the outlet where the power inserter is plugged in, does a few loops, then runs about 5 feet from the fluorescent light before mimicking the rest of the pathway through the new splitter and beyond.
Several people have mentioned the furnace – I’ll see if I can talk my wife into turning that off for the night. If not today, then it should definitely be easily done in a day or two when it’s supposed to warm up into the 50s.
I’m also pondering whether I’d be better off tying the antenna into one of the unused cables that goes to most of the other rooms of the house. When we moved in, the cable company removed their splitter and tied their Internet connection into just the cable going to the office. There are several other cables dangling there, now. Would I be better off using my multimeter to find the cable that goes to one of the other bedrooms upstairs, putting the Tablo in there, and connecting it to the router via my strong WiFi?