Does a multiswitch need power?

If you’re still using a traditional (non-SWM multiswitch) for your satellite TV system, I have to give you respect at this point. You’re part of a very small fraternity by now.

Chances are you’re still using this legacy technology because you think it’s better. I guess we’ll agree to disagree, because I feel really strongly that there’s never been a better time to leave that technology behind. DIRECTV SWM is very mature and all of the company’s future products will require this new multiswitch technology. In fact only the HR24 and H24 still use legacy technology. That has more to do with the fact that they haven’t changed since 2010. Still, if you’re trying to keep an older system going, you might be tempted to stay with a traditional multiswitch like the one in the picture above.

Powered or unpowered

In the past, you saw a lot of these that were powered and an equal number that were not. This particular model uses an optional power supply. So what’s the deal? Is a power supply needed or isn’t it?

When you’re talking about a traditional multiswitch, you do not need a power supply as long as your system is set up properly. Power is supplied by the receivers. A lot of people bought a powered switch thinking it was needed and honestly, it never was. There are only two situations when you really “need” a power supply:

If all the runs are really long.

Our product page says that you need a power supply for runs over 100 feet, but that’s very conservative. Really you just need a power supply for runs over about 200 feet, and every run needs to be that long before you really have a problem.

If you are using cable that doesn’t have a solid copper center conductor.

Cheaper cables use a copper-coated steel center conductor that won’t carry power from the receivers.

If you do need a powered multiswitch, there are a few options: This one will give you eight outputs and will work well for most people. If you want something more reliable, you should look at this 8-port or this 16-port multiswitch. They occupy the market where Spaun multiswitches used to live. Spaun is no more, though. Something to think about: if you’re going to spend that kind of money, you really ought to be considering upgrading to SWM.

Speaking of SWM multiswitches

By the way, SWM multiswitches do always need power. Not only that they also require runs under 250′ (150′ if you want to share programs). With SWM, at least one line must have a solid copper center conductor. Unfortunately if your setup doesn’t meet that criteria, your options aren’t as robust. In fact it’s getting harder and harder to recommend options that don’t include a large amount of rewiring.

If you’re replacing a powered multiswitch, there’s a natural course of action. You would tend to replace it with another powered multiswitch. But, if your cable runs are short and your cable is up to par, you really shouldn’t worry about it.

No matter which multiswitch you need, no matter which service it’s for, you’ll find the best selection of multiswitches when you shop at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.