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How to Connect an Old TV Antenna to Your Digital TV

In the age of digital streaming, many of us have moved away from traditional television. However, there are times when you might miss your local channels or need them for emergency news and notifications. If you live in a rural area or a crowded urban area where rabbit-ears just don’t cut it, you might have an old TV antenna installed in your attic or on the roof. But the question is, will your old antenna work with modern, digital TV? The answer is yes, and this guide will walk you through the process of connecting an old TV antenna to your digital TV.

Understanding Antennas

Before we dive into the process, it’s essential to understand what a TV antenna is and how it works. You might’ve heard of “HDTV” or “digital” TV antennas. In reality, though antennas can be designed for better reception, there’s no such thing as a digital TV antenna. TV antennas don’t differentiate between analog and digital signals – they’re just collections of metal rods that pick up UHF and VHF transmissions at certain frequencies. The antenna doesn’t care what it’s picking up; it just passes signals along to the tuner, which decodes them into a format that can be displayed on your TV.

Types of Antennas

There are several types of antennas available:

  • Flat Antennas: These are the most recent rendition of antennas. They require very little fine-tuning after being plugged in next to the TV and have superior range and reception in relation to other more traditional antennas.
  • “Rabbit Ears”: A set of two telescoping antennas, the “rabbit ears” antenna set is one of the most common types used in households. These usually go behind the TV and are fine if you’re close to a broadcast station.
  • Whip Antennas: These are similar to “rabbit ears” antennas in function and placement. They consist of one telescoping antenna.
  • Outdoor (UHF) Antennas: These are large, multi-element antennas that are usually mounted on the roof or in the attic. They are ideal for making long-range connections if you live in a remote location.

What You’ll Need

To connect your old TV antenna to your digital TV, you’ll need the following:

  • A balun (or “impedance matching transformer”)
  • A length of RG6 coaxial cable
  • Hand tools (depending on your house’s structure and other factors)

Connecting the Antenna to the TV

The first step in connecting the antenna to the TV is getting to the antenna. If yours is roof-mounted, you’ll need to exercise some caution. Attic-mounted antennas are considerably easier to get at, but if your attic doesn’t have floorboards, walking over to the antenna can be a delicate maneuver.

Once you’ve reached your antenna, you’ll need to connect the balun. This device converts between an unbalanced signal and a balanced one. For TV wiring, it converts old 300-ohm twin-lead wire to new 75-ohm coaxial wire. If you have existing twin-lead wiring (in good condition) run to your TV, you can just use a balun where the twin-lead ends and a short length of coax to connect it to the TV. Otherwise, coaxial generally holds up better.

Routing the Cable

Routing the cable down to the TV can be tricky and will vary from home to home. In some cases, the cable can run down the chimney remnant in the attic and out through a vent in the chimney down in the basement. From there, it may need to run through the ceiling of the basement, around a cold air return vent, and out into the crawlspace. At the very end of the crawlspace, a hole can be drilled behind the TV for the cable to run up through.

Scanning for Channels

Once the antenna is connected, you’ll need to scan for channels. This process will vary from TV to TV, so consult your TV’s manual or online instructions for how to do this. In general, setting your TV’s input to “TV” and flipping through channels should do the trick. If you know your local channels’ exact numbers, try navigating to one of them with your TV’s input set to “TV”.

Adjusting the Antenna

If you have a directional antenna, such as a “rabbit ears” set or a roof-mounted antenna, you’ll want to point it toward the nearest broadcast station. You may also need to move items in your home out of the way of the antenna’s connection path. Adjusting your antenna is a trial-and-error experience, so don’t worry about getting it right on the first try.


Connecting an old TV antenna to your digital TV is a straightforward process that can save you money and allow you to enjoy local programming. With the right tools and a bit of patience, you can get your old antenna up and running with your digital TV in no time.

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