I need TV antenna help. And a bit of wiring.
March 23, 2014 2:59 PM   Subscribe

I live in a very modern highrise that has energy efficient windows. Basically, these windows reflect things like UV rays, etc, but they also kill my TV reception. My apartment has a small balcony. If I open the balcony door (which is mostly glass), I can get tons of channels with a plain old rabbit-ear antenna. When I close the door, I can barely get any reception at all, even when using a monoprice power antenna. So, the solution seems obvious: I need a small all-weather antenna I can put out on the balcony, and I need about 15 feet of flexible wire that can fit through the crease of a swinging/hinged door and then be snaked against the wall to reach the TV. Right? Recommendations?

I'm really hoping for some sort of wire that is more flexible and less ugly than a typical big fat black cable since it'll be visible along the corner of the wall.
posted by 2oh1 to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should be able to get 75 ohm coax in white, and you should be able to get a short flat piece that at least may be able to get through the door.

I will be interested to see if anybody has more for you than that.
posted by wotsac at 3:57 PM on March 23, 2014

Is it not possible to place your indoor antenna so that it gets a signal through the walls rather than through the windows?
posted by beagle at 3:58 PM on March 23, 2014

Beagle: That was my obvious first choice and I've tried everything. Basically, I can get a channel or two, but they sometimes drop out. And the antenna needs to be positioned differently for each channel. By simply opening the balcony door, reception booms in crystal clear. I've been fighting with this for months and have finally decided to see if I can just put an antenna on the balcony instead of constantly fighting with it indoors.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:04 PM on March 23, 2014

Interesting. From what I'm finding elsewhere, not only low-E coatings on windows but also steel construction, and other metal building components can block or reduce TV and cell phone signals.
posted by beagle at 4:09 PM on March 23, 2014

Running 300 ohm twin-lead for the transition was my thought: you wouldn't want to run extended lengths as it's more susceptible to interference and generally less weatherproof than coax, so you'd need a short run outside with a balun once you're inside, or something along those lines.

Radio Shack was the best supplier for twin-lead 300 ohm, but it's out of stock at the moment (though there's a reseller on Amazon). You could conceivably finagle a short length from an old antenna.
posted by holgate at 4:23 PM on March 23, 2014

I'm going to assume you have a UHF antenna for picking up over-the-air HDTV broadcasts.

If you are going through a door, normal 75-ohm RG6 coax cable (your typical 'cable TV' cable) is probably going to be problematic unless you have some really flexible weather stripping on the bottom, which probably isn't the case given the other efficiencies in your building. You'll need a good quarter-inch opening for the cable. Coax isn't really designed to be too flexible.

If this is designed to be semi-permanent and not something where you open the door and throw the antenna on the balcony whenever you want to watch TV, your best bet is to pick up a short length of 300-ohm twin-lead (example) which, being flat, will not require nearly as much of a gap in your door - you might even be table to close it completely depending on the trim and weather stripping. The flat cable would also be easy to push under your trim if you have carpeted floors. Then you'll need an adapter to go from the 300-ohm to the standard 75-ohm cable end where you'd then have a short cable run to your TV. (If your antenna only has a standard coax output and not two leads that you could hook the twin-lead wire to, you'll need an extra transformer on that end as well.)
posted by SquidLips at 4:27 PM on March 23, 2014

holgate beat me to it. If you're also looking for the antenna itself, here's an option. Relatively inexpensive and more aesthetic than your typical outdoor directional UHF/HDTV antenna.
posted by SquidLips at 4:40 PM on March 23, 2014

If the wire can't be thin enough to run through the crease of the door, then this isn't going to work. My goal is to find a solution that is more or less permanent for as long as I'm going to be in this apartment, which will probably be a long time. My hope is to set a small antenna on the balcony, run the wire in and then leave it.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:59 PM on March 23, 2014

Flat coax should work for getting out the door.
posted by Max Camber at 5:32 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are the windows coated, or is the problem in the glass itself? If the former, I am thinking through-glass connectors like those used in car mobile phone antennas, perhaps using a low-stick adhesive to keep the super happy. This might also entail a careful scraping away of the coating between the two connectors if the concentrated signal still can't get through the coating. If this is a problem, use the glass on the door and agree to replace the door when you leave. If you are going to be there for a long time, and it appears you value this form of TV, it would be worth the cost and trouble of doing it properly (IMHO, and without knowing just what sort of 'trouble' might be involved).

If this is to be unapproved, and landlord inspections are a concern, I would be looking for a really well concealed permanent installation, possibly setting up a dummy black lead through the doorway for inspection days. Alternatively, I would look for ways to unobtrusively relieve/enlarge/create an opening around the weatherstripping of the door, again possibly using a dummy feed for inspection days.

I presume that the ceiling space (if any) is not an option?

What are other people in the building doing?
posted by GeeEmm at 6:12 PM on March 23, 2014

I would look into drilling a hole through the door frame down low and running normal coax behind the skirting boards or under the carpet. Since you're going to be in the apartment for quite a while and this is likely to be a problem for everyone that lives in the apartment I would spend some time and do it right. Get a nice outdoor antenna and mount it in an out of the way place that still gets good reception and then run the cable along the wall and into the house through a small drilled hole in the door frame or wall. Seal the hole with good silicone sealent and run the cable in a hidden place until it is where you want it. Ideally I would put in a faceplate for connecting to the antenna and sink the cable going to the faceplate in the wall and plaster over it. Total materials cost for this is not that big (especially if you were getting the cable anyways) and the results are a much more professional job that the landlord wouldn't even notice you had done anything. I bet if you ask permission you would get it.
posted by koolkat at 2:52 AM on March 24, 2014

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