Installing an HDTV Antenna, Beat the High Cost of Cable or Satellite
Many people can remember when TV antennas were installed on roofs throughout the neighborhood and all television programming was free. Some viewers today are realizing there is an alternate way to receive FM radio and television programming other than cable or satellite and they do have the choice to watch TV for free with reception from an antenna without paying monthly subscription fees.
If I told my kids the stories about those days when installing the TV antenna was a family event I am sure they would laugh at me. If you are from the baby boomer generation, I’m sure you remember the rooftop TV antenna and you probably helped your father with the installation of the antenna and wiring. This family event has skipped a couple of generations as broadcasting technology advanced and the popular thing to do 30 years ago was to get cable TV service connected to your house which would eliminate the need for a rooftop antenna. As a result today 85% of TV viewers have either cable TV or satellite TV service and the old TV antennas are not part of the neighborhood landscape. But maybe rooftop antennas are making a comeback and the boomers- now grandparents, will see TV antennas on their roof again.
Many of you may be asking how this could have possibly been a family event. Well here is a typical scenario of what would take place when the TV antenna got installed at your house. Your parents would buy an antenna for a color TV planning for the future for when they would get a color television set as this would also work for their current black & white TV at the time. Your father would make a list of all the parts he needed for the installation like; antenna wire, a mast for the antenna, support brackets, a lightening rod and ground wire, and all mounting hardware.
On the day he would install the antenna he would put up the wood extension ladder against the house and get his tools like; an extension cord, electric drill, hammer, screwdrivers and misc items. First the old antenna had to be taken down if it hadn’t already fallen down from a wind storm. Next, your father would install the new mast and then mount the new antenna and install the flat 300ohm TV wire. The complete task would take a few hours. After the installation was complete and the antenna wire was connected to the TV the next step was to adjust the direction of the antenna to get the best signal for all 7 channels that were broadcasted.
This is when the antenna installation turns into a family event. Your father would explain to your mother that he was going to go up on the roof to adjust the direction of the antenna and it was her job to view the TV checking every channel and then yell to who was standing by the door if the signal was good or not. This is when the kids would get involved to make it a family event. Your mother would be in the parlor or TV room changing channels and you would stand by the door and listen for her to tell you when the picture was clear. You would relay this message to your brother or sister outside the door and they would relay the message to your father on the roof. It didn’t get any better than this- an activity for the whole family to be involved with, like it or not. This had the interest of everyone because it meant the TV would be working soon for all to watch the new improved TV picture.
The appearance of TV antennas have not changed much in the past 30 years although there are some dish type HDTV antennas available. HDTV signals are broadcasted from ground tower stations and the signal simulates line of sight from your antenna to the transmitting antenna. HDTV antennas need to be mounted as high as possible for best reception. The type of antenna required for your application depends on the distance from the broadcaster’s transmitter to your location. If you live in a city or metropolitan area an indoor HDTV antenna may work fine but the outdoor mounted will receive the best signal. To avoid going on the roof some homeowners mount the antenna in the attic but there is considerable loss from the attic insulation. If you are installing a new antenna remove the old 300ohm flat wire replace it with new 75ohm coax cable R6 quad-shield cable making the length as short as possible with no splices.
Many home owners associations discourage mounting an antenna outside the house and it may also be written in your agreement that they don’t allow antennas. The FCC has specific laws that override this and you have a legal right to receive the free programming.
HDTV antennas for home use are gaining popularity as consumers are learning that they can watch free HDTV programs just as their grandparents watched free TV fifty years ago. The picture quality is often better with an antenna compared to cable or satellite. Wouldn’t it be nice to kiss goodbye to your monthly cable TV or satellite bill.