Sunday, July 3, 2016

Confessions of a Cord Cutter, Part II

Someone recently asked for an update on the living-without-cable situation, so I thought I would take a minute to review the technical details of how we picked an antenna, how we decided where to put our antenna, and how we used the house's existing wiring to hook everything up. Be warned, this is a long post!

What type of antenna should I buy?

If you are considering cutting the cord, the first thing you need to know is how close (or far) you are from the broadcast towers, and what type of signal they're putting out, because that will dictate what type of antenna you need. There is a website called TV Fool that allows you to plug in your exact street address, and it will give you a pretty good idea of what type of antenna you'll need.

I'll use my TV Fool report as an example to walk you through what to pay attention to. The first thing to look at is the list of channels:

Example of channels that are available over the air with an antenna

I get roughly 25 channels that come in easily with an indoor antenna, but I've just snipped this list to make it easier to read. Right away, I can see most of these channels are pulling in from a broadcast tower about 10 miles away. It also tells me which direction the tower is located relative to my house, so if I wanted to aim the antenna, I know to point it in a southwest direction (or 249°, on a compass).
example of TV Fool report VHF-UHF section

If you scroll down towards the bottom of the TV Fool report, you can also see which channels are broadcast over UHF and VHF (snippet above). This is important, because this will determine whether you need to get an antenna that picks up both of those signals. (Most do, but it's something to pay attention to.)

So, now I have two key pieces of information for buying an antenna: it has to cover more than ten miles, and for me, it has to get both UHF-VHF signals.

Where should I put the antenna?

This really varies depending on where you live. There are plenty of folks who are able to pull in good reception with the antenna hidden behind the TV. A good rule of thumb is that you are going to get the best reception a) outside, and b) high up.

I didn't want mine on our balcony for aesthetic reasons, so we currently have it slapped up inside against a window we don't look out of much (in a walk-in closet).

Over the air digital antenna from Amazon

As a townhouse owner, I should add in that it's illegal for an HOA to prevent you you installing an antenna. The most they can do is ask for reasonable concealment of it, which cannot itself become a burden to installation. If you are unlucky to have a restrictive HOA, you can read more about that FCC regulation here.

How to use pre-existing wiring to connect the antenna to your TV.

If you choose to mount your antenna somewhere other than right behind your TV, the last piece you'll need to think about is how to get the antenna signal from wherever you put it (outside, in the attic, in your closet) and distribute that to however many TVs you have.

If you have a house or apartment that was built fairly recently, you probably have coaxial cable running throughout, which is convenient because that's exactly what you need to transmit the antenna signal. I said earlier that I placed my antenna in a closet window located in the master bedroom, so my goal was to transmit the signal from the master bedroom to our TV in the living room.

My cable splitter happens to be in the garage, right next to the breaker box. Each splitter looks a bit different, but on mine, the input designated as the "source" was located in the middle. I labeled all my cable with some washi tape just so I could tell them apart more easily. In the picture below, the cable with the turquoise tape is the input, and the ones behind it are distributing the signal to different rooms in the house.

Since my antenna was placed inside the house, I needed to change the input signal. So, I unscrewed the original cable that was there, and moved the cable from the master bedroom to the source location. The turquoise cable is sending the antenna signal from the master bedroom to every single room in the house (except the master bedroom). Here's what the splitter looks like now:

Ok, so that's it! If you have questions about the setup, or purchasing an antenna, leave me a comment and I'm happy to help if I can.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Looks like an antenna won't work for us. It ranges from 30 miles to 100 for closest tower :( and most require attic or roof antenna.