Why can’t you use existing wiring when installing DIRECTV?

Actually, it’s not necessarily the wires. Many a homeowner has been disappointed to find out that the home he bought that came “pre-wired for cable or satellite” still needs additional wiring outside the walls when it comes to the installation. It’s a real frustration for people who thought they had all the bases covered, especially if the installation requires drilling through floors and ceilings.

Don’t blame DIRECTV… blame the contractors who built the house and the installer for being safe not sorry. Most building contractors don’t understand that it’s necessary to use cable that’s been sweep tested to 3GHz and also use those blue-centered high-frequency barrels like the one you see above. It’s actually those barrels that are most often the problem, because a contractor will bury one deep in the wall when he runs out of a spool of cable. There it will sit causing havoc with your satellite system at the most inopportune time. Using the wrong barrel or cable that’s not rated right can be very frustrating because everything will work right when the installer leaves.

If the house is even older, then it’s possible it’s wired with RG59 cable with crimped ends. This can be a real problem for satellite systems because RG59 cable does not allow for the same long runs as RG6 when used with high-frequency systems. The crimped ends aren’t a problem if they’re done properly but a poorly made crimp can damage the dielectric foam inside the cable and cause problems as well.

DIRECTV installers have been trained not to use built-in cable because certifying that it’s going to work consistently takes a very expensive piece of equipment and hours of cable tracing, followed by the steps to fix any problems that are found. It is kind of annoying that DIRECTV structures their installations so that they can be done quickly as opposed to thoroughly but really, using new cable is the number one dependable way to get things done right.

If you’re doing the install yourself, of course, you have the choice. If you want to try to use the cable you have, try to find one of the barrel connectors that’s visible and see if it has that blue center. If it doesn’t, at least replace every barrel connector you find with one of these. You can also read the inkjetting on the side of the cable and do a Google search to get its specs. That will at least give you some clue as to whether the cable was properly designed for satellite TV use.

I know people who use 25-year-old RG59 for their satellite installs and it works fine. On the other hand I recently saw a 5-year-old home where silverfish had gotten to the cables and made them useless. The one thing I’ve yet to see in all my travels, though, is a general contractor who prewires a house properly for satellite TV use. Don’t believe them when they tell you it’s all prewired, because you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

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 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.