I have created a Free Do It Yourself guide on how to pick a TV antenna, install a TV antenna, and point a TV antenna. Whether you are intending to install an indoor TV antenna, install an attic TV antenna, or install an outdoor TV antenna, my website is geared to help you get better TV antenna reception. My hope is to help you pick the proper VHF UHF TV antenna system, and if needed, the proper accessories such as TV antenna signal boosters, cables, and filters.
With all of the free programming going over the air, there is certainly motivation to use an over the air TV antenna. Other people are mounting TV antenna systems to get HDTV. HDTV actually has a better picture traveling over the air than through the cable or satellite. This is due to the fact that the HDTV is severely 'squeezed' going through cable. Picking and installing a VHF TV antenna and a UHF TV antenna is a daunting task. How do you know what antenna will give you the best antenna TV reception? What are the advantages and disadvantages to placing the TV antenna system in various locations? I attempt to simply answer these questions and get the do-it-yourself installer pointed in the right direction with my website.
Proceed at your own risk! Installing a home TV antenna can be dangerous! I will accept no responsibility for any injuries or damage that may occur as a result of you installing an antenna. People are killed every year installing TV antennas by falling off of roofs, touching power lines, getting hit by lightning, or other ways. Use common sense! If the task seems over your head, then call in the professionals. Call your local TV store and they will have someone they can recommend.
Picking an appropriate Antenna
First things are first. We need to pick out an appropriate VHF TV antenna and an appropriate UHF TV antenna before we can install a TV antenna! We will go to the convenient Consumer Electronics Associations antenna aid website to find out what types of TV antenna systems will due. Just type in your zipcode, play with the map as necessary, and up will come a list of different television stations on a colored map complete with compass locations for the transmitting towers. Just locate the TV stations you want and note the color. Now when you pick a tv antenna and a tv antenna mast, just note the CEA color code on the box, and you are set. If you are not sure whether or not to purchase a bigger, better antenna (to get in your violet station for instance), it is best to rule in favor of the bigger antenna. Most stores will not let you return a used antenna for a full refund!
Be sure to note that not all of the analog TV providers will be going to UHF for their HDTV broadcasts. For instance, the TV station I work for is still going to use the same VHF frequency for its HDTV broadcast! Also note, if you are planning to install an attic TV antenna, buy the longer range TV antenna (red goes to blue, light green goes to red), as you are going to lose up to 1/2 of your TV antenna reception because the TV signal has to penetrate your roof. You also may need to add a TV antenna signal booster.
I have had better luck with the Yagi or Log-Periodic TV antenna systems (spikey looking antennas) than I have had with the round omni directional TV antennas. There is probably a good reason for this. First of all, each spike acts as a tuned dipole antenna optimized for certain frequencies. In english, the antenna has individual parts designed to specifically tune in your favorite stations. Also, the TV antenna systems are less susceptible to 'ghosting' (those nasty double images on your tv screen) and are somewhat omni directional TV antennas themselves (they have a tuned response spread of up to 120 degrees). Here is a really good picture from an antenna website so you can see what the TV antenna system signal gain looks like for these types of TV antennas. You can see the TV antenna reception is the strongest in the direction the TV antenna system is facing (the big bulge). With these types of TV antenna systems, if 1 TV station tower is at 150 degrees south and the other is at 240 degrees west, you should be able to get resonably good TV antenna reception because they are within 120 degrees of each other. The TV antenna reception on these antennas is a relatively flat response, so you will have to pitch the antenna a little bit to get the best TV antenna reception. Finally, there is no difference in an HDTV antenna or a non HDTV antenna. What you care about is frequency, direction, and gain.
If you are far way from the TV station transmitting towers and they are more than 120 degrees apart (example 2 TV stations south and 1 TV station to the northwest), you will need either need an antenna rotor to help you point a TV antenna mast or 2 TV antennas to get good TV antenna reception. There just is no way around it!
I prefer the 2 antenna route due to the fact that turning the TV antenna mast every time you want to change TV channels is a pain in the rear. However, a 2 antenna installation also becomes more complicated. First identify all of the station numbers you are trying to tune in (and example would be channels 2, 8, and 11). Take the lowest channel number (in this example it is 2), and find out the actual TV channel frequency. Punch in your channel number (ie. 2) and out will pop a low number in the box corresponding to the frequency in megahertz for the TV channel (ie. 54 MHz). Disregarding the MHz, divide 300 by this number (ie. 300/54) and you will get a result for the wavelength in meters (ie 5.56 meters) for the TV station. This is the approximate distance that the TV antennas need to be kept apart from each other! Why 300 you may ask? It has to do with the speed of light. Putting the TV antenna systems closer together will cause you to get problems with your TV antenna reception on each TV antenna. Use equal lengths of cable to each antenna from a centrally located combiner and you should get good results. If you end up with ghosting problems (due to the fact that each TV antenna system is picking up delayed signals meant for the other TV antenna system), you will need to buy a bandpass/bandgap filter box. Lets say the northwest facing TV antenna system is meant to pick up channel 8 but is also picking up weak channels 2 and 11. These channels will show up a ghosts on the TV screen. Visa versa, let's say the south facing antenna is meant for channels 2 and 11, but is picking up a weak channel 8. The same problem will appear. You then need to order a box to bandpass/ bandgap channel 8. Now place the bandgap (the cut out) for channel 8 in line with the channels 2 and 11 TV antenna system and the bandpass (pass only 8) on the northwest facing channel 8 TV antenna system. Problem solved!
As far as accessories go, purchase RG6 cable (RG59 if you can't find RG6), a cable tv splitter (if you have more than 1 TV to source with your antenna), a TV antenna mast, a ground block, possibly an antenna rotor, and a TV antenna amplifier if you have a long antenna TV cable run or a cable splitter.
Before we continue, I need to mention solutions to any TV reception interference problems. My TV station is exactly twice the frequency of a local FM radio station. This leads to people having the radio station audio signal leak into their TV audio. They are watching my TV station yet they are hearing the radio station on their TVs. Oops!
There is 2 ways to solve the problem. The first method is to purchase a filter to take out the unwanted TV antenna signal or signals. The other way is the do it yourself method of creating your own interference filter (this is very easy to do).
The do it yourself method is very easy to implement and broadcast engineers and ham radio guys use it all of the time! You will need about 3 feet of coax cable, a metric ruler, a cable splitter, a screw on coax cable end, and 15 minutes of your time.
If you are getting interference from a TV station, go back to the tv channel frequency website and determine its frequency. Now divide 300 by the value you get back (ie. lets say channel 6 is interfering with your signal we would divide 300 by 82 giving us 3.66) and note it for later.
If you are getting interference from an unwanted radio station, look on the dial for its frequency. Now divide 3x10^8 (the speed of light) by the frequency and note the result for later (ie. lets say the radio station is 95 FM the frequency is 95x10^6, so we would divide 3X10^8 by 95x10^6 giving us 3.16).
Now we will take the result of your previous calculations divide it by 4 and then multiply it by 0.66 (ie. the 3.16 value would be multiplied by 0.66 and then divided by 4 yielding a value of .52). The result is how long you need to cut your coax in meters (ie. .52 meters or 52 centimeters). Get out your ruler, measure out the coax cable to the calculated length, and snip it off. Now, strip back the insulation on one end and screw on the cable end.
Take your splitter and screw on your cable to the splitter output on one side and plug the splitter into your antenna cable line. Voila! Instant TV antenna cable filter for the interfering station.
Outdoor TV Antenna Installation
A VHF UHF TV antenna installed outdoors is generally the preferred way to receive off-air TV and HDTV signals. When you install an attic TV antenna or an indoor TV antenna, you cut your TV antenna reception strength by approximately 1/2. However, that being said, some home owners just don't like the looks of a TV antenna system mounted on their house or condominium, or their homeowner's association diapproves of the look. If this is the case, your next best option is an attic TV antenna followed by an indoor TV antenna.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows anyone to install an outdoor TV antenna and an outdoor TV mast within reason. See the 1996 Telecommunications Act and a synopsis. Basically, as long as you are not impeding on safety or historic preservation and your TV antenna mast is not above 12 feet above your roofline for a house, and you are on your property (patio or deck for an apartment dweller), you are legally allowed to have an outdoor TV antenna for free TV antenna reception.
The common rule of thumb is this, the higher the antenna is off of the ground, the better, Basically, the higher up the TV antenna mast reaches with your TV antenna system, the less the chances are that you are receiving degraded tv signals bounced off of walls and the more direct the signal reaches you. Every TV transmitter tower generates signals in what are called Fresnel waves (scroll down this link to see the pictures of the wave patterns). Kind of like the waves you get when you drop a stone in a pool of calm water. What we want to do is tune our outdoor TV antenna onto the main waves coming from the tower. If you live down in a valley, canyon, or a bunch a big buildings, you may have a problem getting reception because the 'wave ripples' will pass right over your outdoor TV antenna. Also, if your antenna is down too low you may be getting 'waves' bouncing off of buildings or canyon walls. These will give you 'ghosting' problems caused by lots of delayed signals hitting your TV antenna at the same frequencies.
Most people mount an outdoor TV antenna to their roof. This is generally the easiest way to get the TV antenna system up high. Others, buy a tall TV antenna mast and mount both their VHF TV antenna and UHF TV antenna on the mast. Whatever you do, be careful mounting your outdoor TV antenna. Use common sense. If you hit a power line, fall off the roof, get hit by lightening, ecetera, you will not be able to enjoy your new TV antenna system anyway!
What we need to do first is decide where we get the best reception. Survey your area. Taking into account both ascetics and limitations to your installation (such as walls, neighbors, your apartment landlord, ect.), what areas look to be the best for installation? Do you have a tall hill behind your house? Is your roof up high? Do you have a good line of sight to the transmitter towers on one side of your home? Make a mental note. Now using your possible antenna spots, lets find the best place for your antenna. We will need a small portable color television and a length of coax cable for this exercise (a color TV works better because when a TV signal is weak, the TV will not display color). Install the cable onto you antenna and plug it into the television. Now walk over to your likely spots while a friend watches the TV on the channels you are trying to receive. Try raising a lowering the television antenna. Try rotating the antenna in each spot. Try pivoting the antenna side to side. You will quickly find the best positiions for the antenna install. Mark your best spot, direction, and pivot angle. You will install the antenna here.
I generally recommend RG6 type outdoor TV antenna cable for outdoor TV antenna installations, as this is generally a relatively low loss cable. Any hardware store should carry this type of cable as it is necessary for home satellite TV installations. If you are unable to get ahold of RG6, you generally can get away with RG59. If you have either a long run to your tuner, or you have alot of 'splits' to various TVs, you probably need to install a TV antenna booster to your TV antenna system. There are models that mount right to the TV antenna mast . Mounting the TV antenna signal amplifier to the TV antenna mast is the best way of amplifying, since you are not boosting the signal after it has had a chance of picking up noise and losing signal strength running through your TV antenna cable and splitters. Finally, you need to install that ground block so you are following FCC regulations.
After installing the antenna, you will need to point the antenna in the most optimum way to get reception from the tower. If you have an analog TV just turn the antenna until to get the best signal possible. If you are using an HDTV, the TV should have an onboard signal strength meter to aid you in getting the strongest TV antenna reception.
Attic TV Antenna Installation
The main reason that people install an attic TV antenna is to maintain the looks of their home. Bear in mind, though, that the antenna performance is severly downgraded. You can lose up to 1/2 of your signal strength just because you are forcing the radio waves to penetrate the roof, taking miles off of your receiving range.
I have heard of people using fishing line and twine to install their attic antennas. I would recommend against it. Hanging the antenna this way makes pointing the antenna very difficult. You are better served by buying a short piece of 5/4" conduit (PVC is obviously easier to work with) or taking a hacksaw to a tv antenna mast that you can buy at the local hardware store and then bolting it up to the rafters.
When you are installing the antenna, be sure to stay away from metal surfaces. Metal blocks the TV signals. Also, stay away from electrical conduit and phone and especially computer lines. They will add their own noise to your signals. If you have to cross over these lines, do so at right angles. That way they will introduce the least amount of noise to your TV signals.
You may want to invest in a TV antenna signal amplifier that mounts on the antenna. That way the TV antenna booster is closest to the signal that it needs to boost. This helps the TV signal to get less degradation do to noise and cable loss than if you put the amplifier down in the house. Basically, the signal goes right into the TV antenna amplifier and then any noise and loss added to the signal has less effect. Also, try to use RG6 type TV antenna cable. You can get this type of cable at just about any hardware store since it is used for home satellite television installations. If you can't get RG6, you can generally get away with RG59. Finally, install that ground block!
Indoor TV antenna
There really isn't much to report here. They really are just fancy rabbit ears (Remember Fred Flintstone tuning the rabbit's ears on top of his stone TV?). However, that being said, I have had the best luck with the round loop in the middle with the rabbit ears on the outside. It is probably best to get an amplified indoor tv antenna also.
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