Last fall we faced the fact that we weren’t tithing like we knew we should – so we made some changes.
The biggest change for me was the decision to get rid of our satellite dish service, a cost of over $75 a month!
But one thing that helped ease that sacrifice was the realization that by using an over-the-air antenna, I could get almost all of the live local network TV stations in uncompressed HD with Dolby Digital audio. Yeah – ABC, CBS, FOX, etc…
In fact, depending on your distance from a signal’s originating source tower, you may be able to receive dozens of channels! And they look gorgeous!
AND – you can make this same antenna by yourself for under $20. Perhaps as low as under $10 depending on what parts you already have lying around.
(And yeah, it’s ugly as all get out, and therefore usually dwells out of sight behind a dresser. Sacrifices, people…)
I found all the instructions needed on this Web site: www.tvantennaplans.com
In fact, at the end of this post, I’ll again direct you to that site for the step-by-step instructions. BUT… first some of my findings, as well as a clarified list of items needed:
First, some important things to remember:
- DIGITAL: As of 2009, all over-the-air television signals are digital (no longer analog). Therefore you must have a TV with a digital tuner. Most recent flat screen HDTV TVs have this feature, where most older tube TVs do not. If you have an older TV, you may need to purchase a digital converter from an electronics store (Fry’s, Best Buy) for about $50-80.
The homemade antenna works with our living room flat screen TV, but not with our bedroom’s 12 year old tube set. So if anyone want to come get a 19″ tube TV, it’s yours…
- DISTANCE: Obviously the closer you are to a signal’s source, the stronger it is. I live about 50 MILES from downtown Atlanta, the site of most of our area’s source towers. I can receive most of their signals, but not all. And I’m only able to receive them because of height.
- HEIGHT: If you are beyond 20 miles from a source tower, you will start having to manipulate the antenna’s location in order to compensate for the source’s loss of signal, and battle geographic and structural obstacles. Valleys and buildings will hamper your success, while height and an unobstructed line-of-site will help. Even placing the antenna near a window with a good line-of-sight helps.
I can not receive any signal when the antenna is in my living room, so I have it in our upstairs bedroom, and feed the signal down the existing coaxial cable line which terminates outside the house. It is then linked via a female-to-female adapter to the coaxial line which feeds the living room.
I tried putting it in the attic (and that’s where I’d suggest you try putting it!), but my home has a metallic-based TechShield insulation shield lining the roof, which unfortunately turns the attic into a Faraday Cage – no signal in or out! But hey, it makes for a great electric bill in the Summer…
- DIRECTION: Because of my distance from the source towers, I just point my antenna South, and it’s a done deal. But if you are much closer to the towers, then you may find a need to alter the antenna’s direction for a more direct line-of-sight.
For a location map of your local towers, visit http://www.antennaweb.org and enter your Zip Code.
- UHF vs. VHF: This antenna is excellent for UHF signals, which is fortunately the frequency band that most local stations broadcast on. Some, however, may broadcast on a VHF frequency. For example, my local NBC affiliate is VHF, and this model antenna is only capable of receiving that VHF signal within a 20 miles radius, and even then the antenna might only get the signal when located above the ground floor.
Again, your results will vary depending on distance and height.
SHOPPING LIST & TOOLS NEEDED:
- Piece of 2×4 wood, minimum 3.5′ in height. (Many types of boards will suffice – 2×4, 2×6, etc.)
- 10 wire coat hangers
- 16 Large-head 1″ screws (Pan-head self-tapping screw) 10 will be used on front, 6 on back to attach cardboard pieces.
- 16 Large-diameter washers (appropriate size to match screw)
- Electrical Tape
- 2 pieces of cardboard, approx. 14″x18″ each
- enough tinfoil to cover cardboard pieces
- 75 ohm-to-300 ohm matching transformer ($6 at Radio Shack)
- Measuring Tape
- Wire Cutters
Alright, now that you have your tools and parts assembled, head over to www.tvantennaplans.com and launch in to Step #1…
Here’s a look at the antenna:
(Before cardboard & tinfoil, using metal music stand as reflector)
There you go. Good luck!