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TV Antennas

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by velvetfoot, Oct 24, 2007.

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  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Any advice? It seems to be a dying art here with the proliferation of cable and satellite.
    I get fairly good reception (this is over the air hdtv) with amplified rabbit ears.
    The little woman has noted the unattractiveness of said ears so I relocated them to the basement.
    There is still surprisingly good reception down there, channeling the signal through the coax wiring that came with the house.
    A couple of channels are sketchy, and the upstairs TV is sketchy on maybe one more.
    Did I mention I can't get cable even if I wanted to?
    To put an antenna on the top of my metal-roofed house on the chimney (pipe chase), just seems quite tedious to install, dangerous, unsightly, lightning attractor (on a hill), etc.
    I've hooked up an exterior antenna along with an in-line amplifier, in the basement and it seems to be better-I will reconnect and see how that works upstairs tonight.
    A small uni-directional uhf antenna is probably out since, according to www.antennaweb.org , two of my digital stations use vhf.
    We're up on a hill, so we get pretty good line of sight to 6 stations that are 26 miles away (yellow zone on above web site.), all at the same compass heading.
    An attic installation is possible, but there is the metal roof and then the routing of the wiring.
    Maybe I'll just go back to two amplified rabbit ears.
    Any general tips, suggestions, new stuff, etc?
    Thanks.

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  2. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Velvet -

    I have looked into this myself, but have determined that I am too far away (43 miles) to ensure a strong signal. Plus, for all of the reasons you mentioned (hill, unsightly, wind, etc), I have decided to put this idea away for a while. I was just looking to do it to save money!
  3. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    We are pretty content with just the free stations, especially since they come over in digital and HD.
    It'd be nice if we could get broadband though (no dsl and 2-way satellite not that good).
    Might be able to get verizon wireless broadband though I'm not sure how good that is and it's not cheap either.
  4. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    Vel....

    Whatever you decide to do...don't spend too much $$$...because:

    ....In January (10th I believe is the 'scheduled date') 2008... The "signal is going 'dark'..."

    Post 9/11 decisions were made at the "federal level" to set a date (January 2008) to allocate the broadcast frequency 'spectrum' for emergency communications... So in a few months "broadcast TV" is ...well...'History'....
  5. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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  6. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Both my tv's receive digital hd over the air signals.
    Great picture, and for free, by the way.

    I was wondering why that long length of coax didn't bring in a signal-I thought it was the length.
    I used a multimeter on it and disovered no continuity in the shield wire-duh.
    I used a twist-on connector rather than crimp.
    Bought a crimp tool last night and will try again.
    The Radio Shack in-line amplifier seems to work okay.
    I have an outdoor antenna with amplifier in the basement and it pulls in all the digital stations.
    I think I'll try mounting the antenna under the deck outside.
    The attic is tempting, but it's yucky up there with all the fiberglass and I can't think of a way to stealthfully snake a wire down to the first floor from there.
  7. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    Basically, the higher the antenna is, the better your chances are of picking up a strong signal. You need to get that thing out of the basement and up into your attic or mounted on your roof. The orientation of the antenna plays a major role as well. Those cross sections aren't different lengths and spaced the way they are because it looks neat...its to help optimize the interception of the signals at the varying points in the broadcast spectrum that is used by television...the length of the rods is intended to allow the accumulation of a precise wavelength, but it only works best when the antenna is oriented properly. Do a bit of googleing on how to properly orient your antenna to maximize the signal intercept, you may be surprised at the results you get.

    In line signal boosters are great, but only when you have captured enough signal to bother boosting...otherwise you're jsut boosting the static.
  8. kwburn

    kwburn New Member

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    I'm not going to write a book here but I used to own a satellite tv business and to combat the fact that we did not have our locals in HD on satellite i've installed quite a few off air antenna's to get HD (digital broadcasts) for people. Most people still have no clue they can get their HD network programming for free with just an antenna as long as your new HDTV has a digital tuner built into it. The picture is as good or better than any HD channel you will pay for and the sound is digital too, normally full Dolby Digital, so if you have a receiver that supports it the sound is as good as any DVD you can buy.

    The antenna advice above is accurate about getting them as far up and outside the house as you can if you really want the best possible reception. Unless you live in an urban environment with your channels broadcasting from 10 miles or less away then you should really get it outside. My brother lives in Boston and can get everything with a cheap set of rabbit ears behind his tv. But just because they are close by, a cheap antenna can actually struggle with too much signal and he does get an occasional dropout.

    Most people struggle with antennas because 90% of those sold in stores at the retail level are pure garbage. The only thing I can compare to in wood stoves is think of if stores only sold Voglezang stoves and you had no idea what else was on the market. People think thats all there is and when they buy it and it doesnt work they get frustrated and give up. You NEED to buy a quality antenna people. Pony up and spend $75-100 depending on your needs and you will be rewarded with years of great reception. Winegard & Channel Master make good antennas. Except for a couple exceptions, Radio Shack antennas aren't great (better than anything you will find at Walmart though).

    Here's my personal milage breakdown:
    0-10 miles to transmitters: you can probably get away with a quality set of rabbit ears but using a 10-20 mile antenna outside is better
    10-20 miles: this Winegard antenna (get the amplified version) works GREAT, is small, and easy to install. it picks up both UHF and VHF. you can buy it online.
    http://www.winegard.com/offair/sensar.htm
    20-40 miles: you should really get a full sized antenna like the old fashioned ones. OR if you need to pick up mostly UHF in the same general direction you can get a UHF bay antenna which is more like a flat panel.

    All my channels are about 35 miles away from me. I am able to get every major network but I needed to use this antenna to do it. Luckily this antenna is able to pick up a little VHF as well so I'm able to grab my local ABC which is the only VHF channel in my area with it as well.
    http://www.pctinternational.com/channelmaster/0612/4228.html

    I'm not an expert, but if anyone has any questions feel free to PM me and I'd be glad to help.
    I love helping people get the most out of their tv!
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Thanks guys.
    It's working pretty much okay under the deck.
    It's a full size antenna with the amplifier.
    I did read some more about channel master and wineguard, but I'm trying to make this work.
    The one tv I have has a built in signal meter which helps.
    Crimping on those connectors isn't a piece of cake either for me anyway.
    I think it's because of all the mylar/foil or whatever layers inside the cable, which seem to act as an insulator.
    The crimper I got was less than satisfying.

    I'm lucky because all of the digital channels are on or near the same broadcasting antenna, I'm on a hill, and about 25 miles away.
    However, a couple of the digital stations are vhf, and I've read they may switch to the analog vhf stations that will be available when analog goes away.
    I might try tweaking it some more, but now there are no rabbit ears (which worked pretty well), like adding another amplifier before or instead of all the splitters in the basement that go to the different rooms, and tvs in other rooms can now be plugged into the wall.

    I moved the old tv out of the upstairs bedroom over the weekend-man was that heavy and bulky, and it was only a 27".
    I wonder if the new lcd sets will last as long though.
  10. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Keyman -

    If I understand that article correctly, as long as you have a digital tuner, you'll still be able to receive over the air signals. Well, don't (virtually) all TV's manufactured this century have digital tuners built in?
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    No. It's a newer phenomenon.
  12. kwburn

    kwburn New Member

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    by this century you mean since 2000? definitely not. just the last few years and for a while manufacturers left them out all together to cut costs i'm sure. you'll notice now when you look at tv's say on Amazon that there is an obvious disclaimer on anything without a digital tuner. even DVD recorders have the same warning because very few have them and people just assume they can pump any kind of signal into them like you could with a VCR.
  13. ilmbg

    ilmbg New Member

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    If your tv is too old- just get a 'box'- it will let you get air signals. Can you put your antennae in the attic? It does't have to stand up- it can lay down. That way it is not ugly! I did that in two other houses- worked great.
  14. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    For me, the roof is metal and probably wouldn't help with the signals.
    Plus, getting the wire from the attic to the basement is not that easy for me.
  15. tradergordo

    tradergordo Minister of Fire

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    I've been receiving digital/HDTV signals over the air since 1999 (can't believe its been almost 10 years). Back then, I found a traditional, big old roof mount antenna collecting dust (literally) in some back corner of a home depot store. Same type of thing you see on a lot of old houses (most not being used anymore I'm sure). I also bought a cheap signal amplifier from radio shack. It worked perfectly, I was thrilled with high def from the very beginning. But there was one signal that was spotty, so at some point I decided to try a different antenna. I believe I bought one recommended on http://www.antennaweb.org/ or some similar site, I already forgot what model it is, but its up on my roof now, I believe it is a channel master. It works great.

    All of my local digital signals are UHF, so the funny thing is that even with my big old boomer antenna, the only part of the antenna really being used was the very end, small, V-shapped piece. You should look up what stations are available in your area and if you can get away with a UHF only design, BUT you should be aware that after the analog signals dissappear, some stations might stop broadcasting on UHF and move to the VHF frequencies they were using for analog. I haven't looked too much into this really.

    For what its worth, I am 100% satisfied with FREE digital TV and don't miss the content from or payments to the cable/satellite companies at all! I get 26 digital channels!
  16. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    What's interesting is that the same "station" is adding more channels. For instance the, the local pbs station has three digital channels with one being all HD. HD is great.
  17. tradergordo

    tradergordo Minister of Fire

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    Yea, and ABC/NBC both have a 24/7 weather channel, which is kind of nice to just flip to at any time any get a local weather report whenever you want it. ABC also has a subchannel that replays their local news - so you can basically watch it whenever you want if you wanted to see it. Another network (formerly WB) just added a 24/7 sports subchannel - its mostly oddball stuff like dirt bike racing or xtreme sports but kind of interesting. With PBS the subchannels are a particularly good idea because they have such different viewerships - you can now have Elmo/Sesame Street on at the same time as Nova or the Antique Road Show or Wired Science for example. Or maybe a spanish sesame street on at the same time as an english one, etc.
  18. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'd also like to note that more and more programming is in HD, and HD is great.
    We got another one recently to placate Mrs. VF.
    The prices have dropped considerably, and apparently they're gonna drop a lot more.
    All I see now have built in tuners.
  19. ilmbg

    ilmbg New Member

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    Guess I am not too picky- if the picture is crisp/clear with an antennae, I sure won't pay to watch tv! Even though I only get 5 stations, I am not paying. (guess I'm a cheap-o!).
  20. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    The whole point is you don't have to pay monthly for great digital and HD picture. Sure, it's still just the network, but even a football in HD is much better. Those 5 stations will look a lot better with a new TV. You gotta try it.
  21. tradergordo

    tradergordo Minister of Fire

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    The other thing some people don't understand is that using an antenna for digital reception does not give you a snowy or ghosting or crappy picture say compared to cable or satellite. You generally get a rock solid, perfect, flawless digital picture (assuming you can recieve the signal to begin with) that is in many cases superior to what the cable or satellite companies offer (because they sometimes compress the picture which slightly hurts its quality). The over the air picture has no additional compression so you get the best possible picture.
  22. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    We sound like tv salesmen, but it's the best thing to happen to over the air tv ever.
    Now, if I only wouldn't need a dish to get the Mets games.
  23. tradergordo

    tradergordo Minister of Fire

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    Hah, yea, and we haven't even mentioned SOUND yet! You will get the best possible audio with over the air digital. Many programs are now broadcast in full Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, but the same shows or sports events are usually only broadcast in 2-channel audio when they come from the cable or satellite company (again they do this to save on bandwidth). I remember my Dad came to visit me and we were watching a game, and he remarked about how neat it was to hear things like crowd noise (cheering) coming from the side (surround) speaker. He was wondering why he didn't get separate channel audio like that at his house. I told him that it was because his cable company was only sending 2-channel audio (I know that for a fact), but I am getting 5.1 audio. The surround experience can really be a big improvement even if its sometimes pretty subtle.
  24. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    That is a very good point re: sound.
    I will put that on my wish list.
    Does it cost much to get into a basic setup?
    edit: I believe my tv process the sound (not sure though)-can I just get an amp and speakers?
  25. tradergordo

    tradergordo Minister of Fire

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    I haven't kept up with what is out there or prices, but I know there are TONS of options to choose from, probably best to do some searching on the net to figure out the best quality for the budget you have. It doesn't have to cost much though, generally you will need a receiver, 5 speakers, and a subwoofer, sometimes these are all packaged together to keep it simple. You can get speaker wire from any hardware store. The receiver gets its input either directly from a TV (or DVD player) or from your separate tuner box if you are using one. I would think most TVs with a built in digital tuner also have an audio out jack for an audio receiver.
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