How To Get FREE Digital (OTA) Over The Air HD TV And Choose The Best Antenna

July 14th, 2012 by Craig Mullins

Since we are living in a rural area, we don’t have access to normal TV choices like Comcast or AT&T. Our only real option is a satellite service like Direct TV or Dish Network. We don’t watch much TV (we work all the time), so decided on just setting up an Antenna and having one less thing to pay for and be done with it.

1. TV. If it’s an older model TV it’s most likely analog, and won’t be able to decode the new digital signals that television stations are outputting over the air now. So you need to get a digital tuner box. Channel Master makes quite a few affordable ones. Some options to think about when buying a digital video decoder box – if you want to receive channels in HD and/or have a DVR – Digital Video Recorder.

2. Antenna. The signals TV stations broadcast over are split into 2 different ranges; VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). The VHF channel range is channel 2-13, which is further divided into low-band VHF channels 2-6 and high-band VHF channels 7-13. The UHF channel range is 14-69. Their is also HD service, so you may potentially need 3 different types of antennas. Good news is many have all 3 built into one unit.

vhf uhf antenna

Antennas are further broken down as uni-directional or omni-directional. Antennas described as “uni-directional” or “directional” are designed to receive signals from one direction really well. “Multi-directional” or “omnidirectional” antennas are able to receive signals from all directions. Why choose one or the other? A uni-directional antenna will be able to pull in a station from really far much better then the other type and it also will filter noise and interference much better. The downside to that is you won’t be able to pick up other stations that are in opposite directions as well so you’ll also have to get an antenna rotator to point that antenna at the other station or have multiple antennas on your roof; pointed in the direction of the TV station signal.

If you have a lot of TV’s in your house your probably going to need a signal amplifer so all the TV’s in the house get a strong enough signal. If you are using a long cable you’ll need an amp as well; wire runs over 100 feet lose as much as 1/3 of the signal.

Always use Dual or Quad RG-6 75-ohm coax cable to connect everything up. That what most houses use now and have for quite some time.

People living in neighborhoods with homeowner’s associations may wonder if association covenants can restrict antenna use. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits restrictions that impair the installation or use of antennas to receive video programming. It covers digital satellite dishes, TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas.

One of our TV’s was digital ready, so we just plugged in some rabbit ears and that actually worked pretty well. We are in the Burson, CA (Valley Springs) area by Lake Comanche. We tried one of those small 3 antenna indoor HD/UHF/VHF amplified antennas and it didn’t work much better than plain old rabbit ears. It didn’t get us any more channels but did make the signal a tad better for the channels we did get.

Next we wanted to get a little more technical so we went to the site Antenna Web. Put in your zip code or better yet your address. It will tell you where are the TV station antenna are located, compass heading, how far they are from you, what type of antenna you need to pull in every channel possible, etc.

antenna web antenna locations

I tried Antenna Point as well:

antenna point antenna locator

Check the “Heading” and if all of your desired stations are transmitting from the same area or within 20° of each other you can use a uni-directional antenna. If the transmitters are positioned more than 20° apart, it is best to use a multi-directional antenna.

If possible, mount the antenna at least 10 feet higher then the top of your roof line. If you have trees where you need to point the antenna you may want to raise the antenna over the trees for best results.

Good luck on getting cable TV for free. 🙂

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