hometrix

Free HDTV Service Plucked Straight from the Air

You do not need a cable or satellite service in order to get High Definition Television. And it’s FREE… a fact that is not overly advertised.

It's truly amazing the advances in technology. You can watch amazing 1080i resolution broadcasts over the air for free and in fact, the quality is often better than the same channels received through a paid digital cable TV subscription. All you need is a high definition TV set with a built-in HDTV tuner and a HDTV antenna.

Antennas

First let's dispel a myth, there really isn't anything special about a HD antenna. Over-the-Air HDTV can be received by using an ordinary TV antenna. There is nothing that makes an antenna HD, the key is getting the right antenna optimized for the frequency of the transimission. of your local HD broadcast stations.

Where possible an outdoor antenna should be chosen over an indoor version. However, if you live an area that has good broadcast coverage, an indoor antenna is sufficient. The typical cost of a high quality outdoor directional antenna is around $50-$100. There are some developments that frown on the use of outdoor antennas, and go as far as to include it in the devlopment's deed restrictions. However, it pays to know your right. Per an FCC ruling, it is illegal to prohibit the use of an outdoor antenna.

Approximately 90% of HDTV broadcasts are on the UHF band, and UHF antennas are a lot smaller VHF ones, so it may not be worth the hassle getting a VHF antenna, A point worth noting is that while combination VHF/UHF antennas are available, they are generally a compromise. You will be sacrificing function in both bands.

Finally, when choosing an antenna another consideration in directionality. Choose a Directional antenna (one that focuses in a single direction) in remote areas where the signal is weak. If the signals are coming from multiple directions, the ideal solution is multiple antennas (yep, also unsightly), or an antenna rotator. In areas where the signal is strong an Omni-Directional antenna can be used. Use this tool to check the signal strength in your area.

antenna legend

CEA Zones Help You Decide Antenna

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has adopted a color coding scheme for classifying regions with different TV reception conditions. These colors can help you decide the type of antenna. Look for the CTA-certified antenna mark on outdoor antennas, based on the colors of the stations you want to receive.

    Yellow - Best reception, requires small omni-directional antenna

    Green - Slightly weaker signal, medium omni-directional antenna

    Light Green - Amplified rooftop mounted. Large omni-directional antenna

    Red - Areas of high reflectivity. Medium directional antenna

    Blue - Weak signals or ghosting caused by nearby structures. Medium directional with pre-amplifier

    Violet - Weak signals. Large directional antenna, high rooftop installation, professional installation recommended.

    Pink - Even higher rooftop installation. Large directional antenna with power pre-amplifier, professional installation recommended.

Tips for Improved Reception

Flowchart source: FCC.gov. antenna legend
  • Digital TV reception can often be improved just by changing the location of your antenna by as little as a few inches. Moving it away from other objects, for example, or placing it higher or lower can often improve reception. Be sure to move the antenna slowly as digital TV tuners need a little time to properly detect the signal. You need to rescan for available signals if you are missing channels.
  • Antennas typically need to be oriented or "aimed" to get the best signal from the desired station. While adjusting your antenna, it may be helpful to use the "signal strength meter" on your digital-to-analog converter box or digital television to determine whether your adjustments are improving the signal strength. The signal strength meter is usually accessed through the menu feature on your remote control. Refer to the owner’s manual of your device for detailed instructions on how to access its signal strength meter. Remember to do another channel scan after you have adjusted your antenna. For outdoor antennas, a rotor that re-orients the antenna can improve performance, particularly when trying to receive stations that transmit from different locations.
  • If you are unable to get satisfactory reception with your current indoor antenna, you may wish to add a clip-on bow-tie element (an additional "wire loop" or "bowtie" antenna) or obtain a combination indoor antenna that includes features for reception of both VHF and UHF signals and/or an amplifier to boost the received signal.
  • Generally, an outdoor antenna will get better reception than an indoor antenna.
  • If you are near a station’s broadcast tower, reception of that station, as well as other stations, can be impeded by strong signal "overload."
  • If you decide to replace or upgrade your outdoor antenna, websites such as www.antennaweb.org provide information on the locations of broadcast transmitters and the types of outdoor antennas appropriate for the stations you wish to receive. If you need assistance with upgrading your antenna system, check with a local antenna retailer or antenna installer.
  • If you are not receiving certain digital TV stations, this does not necessarily mean there is a problem with your antenna or receiver. Check with the TV station to find out whether they are planning changes that will improve reception.
  • To check for the DTV signals that are available at your location, use the DTV Reception Maps.

Other related articles: OTA (Over the Air) DVRs | Convert your old television to receive Digital TV | Cable TV Cord Cutting - the alternatives | High Definition Television Buying Guide
Note: An Over-the-Air DVR is a good complement to an HD antenna... read more here