Television & Radio Hardware - Cable
Cable and installation kits can be bought from many places, and the first place the DIY installer will tend to look is a store such as Argos who offer simple install kits that come with a variety of items such as splitters, cable clips, and connectors. Do not buy these!
There is a reason that these kits are relatively cheap and it is because they are of very poor quality.
Cheap kits typically include low-loss co-axial cable which does not include any screening to prevent interference. In strong signal areas, this isn’t necessarily a problem though aerial installations can often work for sometime before problems begin. Many older houses are often installed with brown low-loss co-axial which should be replaced when the opportunity presents itself.
RG6 is the most commonly installed cable and typically not much more expensive than low-loss, though includes better shielding. Many installers will install RG6 by default as it is lower cost.
The best cable and one you should install is WF100 (or its variants TX100/HD100) which includes a foam filling, and extra shielding. This cable type is very good at withstanding interference and offers good future-proofing of the install. It is also typically used in Satellite or Cable television installations which have lower tolerances for interferences.
If multiple cables are to be installed to a single point, it may be preferable to install shotgun cable, which is effectively two cables joined together. Again, this should be of good quality.
In some situations, thinner cable may be preferred. WF65 is a suitable alternative which has slightly higher losses than WF100 and its equivalents, but will work for the majority of installs.
Also available is WF125 which is suitable for extra long runs greater than forty metres, though it is much more costly than WF100 and requires special connectors due to the extra thickness of the cable.
More information can be found about the differences in construction.
The colour of the cable generally isn’t too important, though it is recommended to choose one which doesn’t stand out. For example, running a white cable across a grey tile roof is going to stand out.
For cables on caravans and boats connecting the aerial, or locations close to the sea, it may be preferable to choose a black cable as white (or another lighter colour) will probably show up dirt fairly quickly.
Although black and white are the most common colours, brown is usually also available and is useful for locations with wood. Red, green, and yellow cables are usually also available and are ideal for identifying the purpose of the cable in larger installations. If using colour to aid identification, ensure the cabling colours are labelled up and used consistently.
The fly lead is the cable connecting the surface plate to the tuner on the television or set-top box. This should also be made of good quality cable (WF65 or preferably WF100) and connectors to reduce the risk of interference.
Good quality connectors are required on self-made cables to ensure they do not come loose or pull out.
Where possible, it is recommended to have a single run of cable with as few joints as possible. However, in some cases a joint may be required. This should be completed using a jointing kit which typically consists of two male thread connected for each end of the join, a double-ended female connected that the males screw into, and a roll of self-amalgamating tape to waterproof the joint.
Cable being plastic coated will not last forever when exposed to the weather. Minimising exposure to ultraviolet from the Sun is important to protect the outer insulation, however in many installs only so much can be done. A common suggestion is to paint the exposed parts to provide an additional layer of protection.
Chimney or roof installs are particularly prone to problems, as the roof is the most exposed part of any building. Sunlight being a problem, water, wind, and debris landing on the roof can further erode the insulation. It is preferable to run a cable over a north facing roof to reduce exposure to sunlight.
Metal cable ties which hook under the roof tiles should also be used to prevent the cable rubbing against the roof in wind. Failure to prevent this will quickly cause the insulation to fail, allowing water to enter the cable and run down to whatever is connected – possibly causing significant damage.