Tips for Running Your Own Cable

Installing cables to carry TV signals around a house isn’t that different from stringing wires for electricity: You drill a hole at the beginning and at the end of the run, and pull the cable through. But there are a few factors to keep in mind to ensure optimal performance:

• USE A “HOME RUN” SYSTEM. Every outlet in the house should be individually connected to the home base—that’s the multi switch in satellite systems, the splitter in cable setups. An old-fashioned “daisy chain,” where the cabling starts at a central point and then jumps from outlet to outlet in series, robs a signal of strength.

• KEEP CABLE RUNS TO LESS THAN 125 FEET. For cable systems, the distance is measured from the outlet to the splitter. With satellites, the  run Is calculated from the multi switch. For best results, a multi switch
should be installed in a central location, roughly the same distance from each of its outlets. If a run exceeds 125 feet, an amplifier may be needed to make sure the signal reaches its destination.

• USE THE RIGHT TOOLS. For stripping cable ends and crimping connections, a pocket knife and a pair of pliers won’t do. Even the old hexagonal crimpers for RG-59 cable may distort the wire’s shape and impede its ability to carry signals. Instead, use a stripper and crimper specially designed for RG-6, which together sell for about $30 at home centers or electronics supply stores.

• AVOID DISTORTING THE CABLE. For a clear signal, avoid sharp bends in the wire. Also, hold the cable in place with plastic cable clips rather than staples, which can crush the cable jacket.

• LET VERTICAL RUNS HANG FREE. This reduces the chance of damage later from screws or nails coming through the wallboard.

A typical multi switch or splitter serves four TVs, although some can connect as many as 16. Just remember: The more TVs you add, the greater the chance of weakening the signal; an amplifier may be needed to boost the incoming feed.