You’re not ready to completely “cut the cord” of your cable connection, but you wonder—is there anything you can do to save money on your cable bill? Maybe you’ve ditched the premium channels and tried to negotiate your bill with your cable provider already and are still staring at an expensive monthly bill.
The problem could be in those pesky cable boxes, you know, the ones the installer convinced you to get two or more of. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in 2016, the average pay-TV subscriber was coughing up $231 a year to lease these set-top boxes from their cable service provider. Collectively, that number was an astonishing $20 billion a year. An investigation into these set-top boxes to see how much they really cost the providers to manufacture conducted by the Los Angeles Times led to dead ends and unanswered questions. A scam? Possibly. Regardless, there’s a way you can dance around having to break the bank for multiple boxes.
What’s a Cable Splitter?
It’s all in its name. A cable splitter delivers what it promises: it’s a device that splits your cable. With this handy tool, you can avoid paying out the big bucks for another cable subscription just so you can watch TV elsewhere in your house—all for just under $10.
To install cable services in your house for your phone, television, or Internet, cable companies run signals through coaxial cables. Your provider might install multiple outlets for your Internet router and cable boxes, but in some cases, you could wind up with not enough cable outlets. Thus, the need for a cable splitter introduces additional ports without adding on more boxes.
You can find cable splitters just about anywhere: online, electronic stores, and even home improvement stores. You’ll want to do a little research before buying one because some types and brands are better than others, offering noise reduction and higher quality signal strength.
Types of Cable Splitters
Before you dive in headfirst in a do-it-yourself cable-splitting project, you must learn about the different types of cable splitters that exist so you don’t end up with the wrong one. If you buy the wrong type of cable splitter, you could end up with a lost, weak, or unbalanced signal, or you might make an incorrect purchase and buy a splitter meant for satellite.
- Balanced cable splitter: this splitter type has an even number of outputs, which allows the strength to balance among the output ports. The result is that all of the output ports have the same amount of signal loss, so one is not weaker than the other.
- Unbalanced cable splitter: alternatively, there’s the unbalanced splitter, which has an odd number of output ports, making the signal strength weaker for some ports than in others.
- High/Low-frequency splitters: you’ll want to get a high-frequency splitter for your cable TV as digital cable signals use a 5-1000 MHz band versus the 2-2300 MHz band that satellite TV signals use. The range for your cable TV signal is extensive, and the high-frequency splitter can be used for nearly all cable signals.
- Resistor cable splitter: this type of splitter is cheap, and it’s because it divides your cable signal by half amongst your output ports. The other half is simply lost. It’s better to invest in a different type of cable splitter, even if they’re a little more, because at least you won’t completely lose 50% of your signal strength.
- Transformer cable splitter: a straightforward splitter that divides the cable signal equally among the output ports.
How to Install a Cable Splitter
You’ll want to install your new cable splitter where the cable line enters the area. First, measure to determine how long you’ll need your lengths of coaxial cable to be to link the splitter to the devices you want to connect. It should be mentioned that shorter cables are more successful in a cable splitting project because they’re easier to work with and carry less noise on the line. As far as your splitter goes, the fewer the outlets, the better. You’ll avoid signal problems this way.
Ready to install? Disconnect the cable line from the devices it’s attached to. Once the cable line is disconnected, attach it to the input end of the splitter. Then, attach your coaxial cable to the output ends of the splitter and the devices you want to connect.
Tighten your connections with your hands or, if needed, pliers or a wrench (be careful not to get too rough, or you’ll cause damage). Now, reboot all of the devices to check if they’re receiving the signal. If you run into trouble when it’s all said and done, you can call your cable service provider for help, and they can walk you through the cable splitter installation to troubleshoot the problem.
Amplifiers and Wireless Signal Boosters
If your signal is suffering, you may want to try out an amplifier, an important cable splitter accessory. Amplifiers can help prevent signal loss. The signal strength originally provided by your cable service provider can support two to three HDTVs. When you use a cable splitter, you’re diluting that signal strength, literally splitting it up and dividing it out, and in many cases, that signal is lost or weakened.
An amplifier can be useful if you find your signal is struggling, weakened, or lost. If you’re running coaxial cables around walls or long enough distances to where the signal is lost along the way, a wireless signal booster can aid in getting the signal to the devices you’re trying to connect.
Never Pay Full Price on Cable
Cable splitters are a cheap and easy way to get your cable on the devices you want without having to pay for another cable box and the installation that goes with it. You can do the project yourself in a matter of minutes, or if you’re running long cables, an hour at most.
You also might be able to utilize modern wireless technology instead of a cable splitter. With devices like the Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, and even gaming systems like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you can download your favorite channels on app form or via streaming service, all without the need of a cable box. But if you’re without these devices and already have cable, a $5 cable splitter is your cheapest option.
If your cable bill is still looking a little too hefty for its own good and you’ve cut down on those questionable cable boxes and begun using a cable splitter, try these solutions to lower it:
- Say goodbye to subscription channels: you could save about $15 for every premium channel you cancel, like HBO or Showtime.
- Bundle your plans: don’t get talked into a bundle that you don’t need, but instead look to see what you do need, what you’ll use, and see if you can get a better deal by pairing services like Internet and cable.
- Ditch the DVR: do you really need to record shows? Ask yourself how often you use your DVR and its features because it might not be worth what you’re getting charged.