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To select a TV antenna



Setting up a TV antenna is one of the best steps to break your confidence in pay-TV and save hundreds of dollars a year. In most areas of the US, you can receive between 50 and 100 television channels for free.

As a bonus, you make your big screen TV to shine. Over-the-air TV signals tend to be less compressed than cable or satellite broadcasts, so that images appear either in the same quality or better.

All major broadcasting networks are now broadcasting in HD resolution and in some areas they are testing broadcasting. The new ATSC 3.0 standard is also underway. These transmissions could eventually mean 4K broadcasting.

So you can choose the right antenna for you.

  • Determine which channels are available where you live.
  • Select which channels you want to watch
  • The rules for the antenna installation you live in
  • Find out which antenna type you need
  • Select the antenna

What channels are available on an antenna?

The first step is to find out which channels are available where you live and what you want to see.

To do this, go to TV Fool. It combines the FCC broadcast TV database with topographic maps to get a pretty accurate assessment of what signals your house will reach and how strong they will be.

Enter your home address in the search box, press Enter and you & # 39; In return, I get something like this:

  tvfool Martyn Williams / IDG

A screenshot of the TV Fool website showing the television reception in San Francisco.

This graphic above looks pretty complicated, but it really is not. The strongest signals are above and weakest below. Leave this page open in a browser tab.

Which channels would I like to see?

The next step is to find out which stations you want to see. After all, it's useless to waste time looking for weak channels when all your favorite shows are strong.

You can use a TV program guide to see what's in your area, and make a list of stations you want to see. You will probably need to enter your zip code and be sure to select "Antenna" or "Over the Air" as the TV provider in the online program guide so you do not mix cable channels.

Once you have created your list, check the TV Fool results to find the channels you want. Write down the number in the second column, the "real channel", the penultimate column, the "true azimuth" and the color (green, yellow or red). The colors indicate whether an indoor antenna is sufficient or whether you need an attic or a roof model to feed it.

  TV channels Martyn Williams / IDG

TV channels

Wildcard! The National TV Repack

Over the next few years, some 1,000 television stations in the US will postpone their broadcasting channel as part of a massive restructuring to create space for mobile data networks.

The first phase began in September 2018 and Phase 10, the final step, is scheduled to end in July 2020.

So, if you choose which stations you want to receive, check if they move channels to ensure uninterrupted reception when they do. The Rabbit Ears website has a long list of all stations in the US and the locations they will be located after the repacking process is complete.

Find the stations that you want to receive in this database (the drop-down list of TV markets is the easiest way) and note the new channels.

Can I set up an antenna?

In almost all cases, the answer is yes, you can set up an antenna. With the FCC Over-the-Air (OTARD) Receiver, you have the right to install an antenna to receive over-the-air TV or satellite programs. It applies to both homeowners and tenants, and overrides the blockage of antenna deployments by the Home Owners Associations (HOAs).

The rule applies to antennas that are required for an "acceptable quality signal" on your property or when you rent. an area in which you are used exclusively. The FCC website contains all the details.

  171011 fcc otard Martyn Williams / IDG

The FCARD OTARD Rule.

Which antenna do I need?

TV Fool arranges the stations in the order of predicted signal power, with the easiest to get at the top. The green canals are likely to be received with a simple indoor antenna, yellows probably need a larger antenna in an attic or on the roof, and the red channels need a good roof antenna.

It is important to remember this as an indoor antenna will always be a compromise. With an outdoor antenna you will always achieve better results.

Room antennas, like our current favorite, the Clearstream Flex, are usually flat, so they can be easily placed simply by hanging them in a window on the side of the house facing the transmitter. Some look different, but the principle is the same: install them in a convenient location.

Indoor antennas are usually suitable for all strong local channels. However, if you want weaker or more distant channels, you may need to get bigger and place an antenna in your attic or on your roof.

There are several excellent options, including our current Top Pick device, the Winegard Elite 7550.

(For more information on these models and for testing, see our full TV Antennas Survey.)

When you install In the attic you are likely to get a little less signal than on the roof because it is a closed space. However, it is enough to get a stable TV reception. If you hate the look of an outdoor antenna, experiment. An antenna mounted in an attic is also easier to maintain.

The orientation of the television tower is also important. If you are using an indoor antenna, place it in a window pointing in that direction. If you use an outdoor antenna, it should point in that direction. When the signals get weaker and go from green to yellow to red, the direction becomes more important. If you want to set weaker transmitters from towers in different directions, you probably need a rotator. This motorized device will turn the antenna to redeem the weaker signals.

If you know the actual channel number, you can select an antenna. North American TV broadcasts are divided into three frequency bands: VHF low (channels 2 to 6), VHF high (channels 7 to 13), and UHF (channels 14 to 51). Due to the different frequencies used, antennas cover one, two or three bands. Not every antenna covers them all.

  20181031 100245 Martyn Williams / IDG

The Winegard Elite 7550

The actual channel number will help you figure this out. After the TV channels became digital, some channels have postponed, but announced the channel number that everyone knew. For example, in San Francisco, channel 5 actually transmits on channel 29. For this reason, the true channel is important for antenna selection.

Most antennas, especially for the indoor and roof area, are designed for FM high and UHF reception. Some outdoor antennas for roof mounting cover only a single band. TechHive's antenna ratings point that out. Antennas for FM low transmitters are harder to find, but these frequencies are generally used by smaller transmitters that may transmit at lower power.

Be prepared to accept a lot of marketing speech when checking out antennas. There is no "HD" antenna or "digital" antenna for the protocol – the format of the received signals does not matter – and these "miles" claims in the product specifications are salted. No manufacturer can guarantee that their antenna will pay for a certain number of kilometers of signal, since too much depends on the local topology, signal strength, interference, and other factors specific to your location] useful in evaluating Antennas of the same manufacturer. It's a good bet that an antenna with a range of 65 miles is generally more suitable for receiving over long distances than an antenna of the same company claiming to reach a range of 30 miles.

  20181029 142326 Martyn Williams / IDG [19659016] Some of these claims mean nothing.

Analyzing Your List

In the above example, a room antenna probably picks up all the green channels coming from the transmitter by 240 degrees, and probably the same antenna also works the third channel in the list, at 199 degrees from another Sender comes, but has a strong signal.

The last stop in the list requires a bit more work. A larger antenna is probably required, and because it is more than 100 degrees away from the others, you may need a second antenna or rotator.

However, before you spend too much money, try out an antenna and see if you can get in all six. If not, you have to decide if you want to buy extra equipment just for that station.

  20181031 123101 Martyn Williams / IDG

The Clearstream 4 Max Antenna

Do I need a signal amplifier or rotator?

If you can not receive distant TV channels due to low signal levels, consider using a signal amplifier. It is always best to collect as much signal as possible to the antenna, so do not use it sparingly on a small one and try to balance it with an amplifier.

But if a large antenna still does not enter the station Without interrupting the picture, a signal amplifier could help. You may also need one if you have an excessively long cable routing, eg. B. from a remote location on a piece of land to a house.

TechHive recommends one of Channel Master's models, such as CM-7777 Titan 2 . It is mounted on the antenna mast and is powered by the coaxial cable.

A rotator rotates the TV antenna with one click in any direction. This is useful if you want to receive weaker stations from different locations, although it is worth testing whether a fixed antenna will receive all stations before you invest in a rotator.

Many antennas work well for stations from different directions. especially when it comes to strong, local signals. If you need a rotator, the Channel Master CM-9521HD is an excellent choice.

  dsc 0018 Martyn Williams / IDG

A TV antenna with built-in rotator.

What cable type for a TV antenna?

Connecting your antenna to your TV is just as important as the antenna itself. You need a high-quality coaxial cable (coax for short). Coax has a center wire that transmits the signal and is surrounded by a plastic insulator. Then there is an outer braid that shields the center cable from interference and an outer shroud to protect the cable from the elements.

If you use a satellite receiver for wireless television, you can probably use the existing coaxial cable in the satellite dish, but if it does not work, be prepared to buy new Coax. Make the cable as soon as possible, because every time you connect shorter cables, a small signal is lost. The most common cable type for TV is called RG-6.

  171003 Coax Martyn Williams / IDG

A piece of coaxial cable ready to connect a connector.

A Final Word Advice

It's almost impossible to predict which antenna will surely work. The information collected by sites like TV Fool will give a strong indication of what should work, but there are other variables as well.

In some areas, especially in cities or areas with many hills, signals are displayed, can bounce off obstacles such as buildings and cause disturbances, trees can grow leaves in spring, and stations that you have rigged in winter, and atmospheric conditions can affect the way in which signals reach your home.

An antenna moving little sideways or up and down a window can greatly affect reception. If you set up an external antenna, one side of your roof will not work, while the other side will provide perfect reception.

Be prepared for an experiment.


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