If you love sports you are probably planning to watch the Super Bowl next month but if you have a basic Cable TV Package you most likely don’t get HD Channels. Even if you do have an HD Package from your Cable Provider or on a Dish Subscription that HD provided over their network is normally not full 1080p HD. It may be called 1080p but the compression that they use to get the signal to you degrades the quality so much its almost as if you are scaling regular quality video and not something you can really enjoy.
Well heres something you need to consider and now is probably the best time to make a move if you have been thinking about cutting the cord or reducing your tv subscription from your current provider.
Over The Air or antenna based Television is free for everyone and the best thing about it is if you live relatively close to a decent sized city you can get these channels without much effort.
If you live a little farther out in the edges of the suburbs or where people might call a rural area you can still get good reception if you are within about 40 to 60 miles from the actual broadcast towers.
And one thing that you might not know is even if you live in actual rural areas there are often repeater television towers that take the signal from the city and rebroadcast it to people in distant rural towns. You can’t count on this in every rural area but many states set this up because of lower populations in farming states that really need a bit of help to get better signals. If you live in rural Vermont probably not but if you live in Iowa or Montana these rebroadcasting towers can increase your reception even if you are very distant from a major city.
So what is really needed by people in all of these locations to get Free HD Television?
The first thing you want to do is visit a website like www.TVFool.com and put in your address or better yet use google maps and find your home then click on its location and the information box will show your coordinates that can pinpoint your exact location.
Enter your location in the online maps form and then search for signal that is available in your area.
There might be a few analog stations that are still showing up but just ignore them. Most of the time they are low power stations that are not available.
Look for the NMdB signal to your area and any station that is above zero could be available to you. In some circumstances even weaker signals can be obtained but that normally requires an antenna that is external to your home and placed on a high tower.
If you have a two story home with a chimney or even a single story home with not much obstruction in the area you can do well with either an external antenna or an antenna placed in your attic and the difference will be based on how much signal you can get to your home.
But if you live within 30 miles of the towers and not in a valley or behind a mountain or huge apartment building across the street then you can expect to get decent signal that can be captured with an antenna right on or behind your television.
So lets get to it What Antenna do you need?
Picking an antenna for local stations under 20 miles is pretty easy. You want to go online and search for models that attach directly to your television. Some are available in a Flat Panel that is unpowered and other require amplification and a power adapter.
For signal that is 20 to 40 miles away you will need a better antenna. I would suggest a 2 bay antenna for up to 30 miles and a 4 bay antenna for for signal that is up to 40 miles away.
If you are in a distant area I would suggest that you look at an 8 bay antenna or a Yaggi directional antenna that is rated for extreme fringe.
I strongly suggest that when you look at antennas you pick one that is unamplified and larger than you need.
Amplification of signal may be necessary and it might even be right if you are connecting a small antenna directly to your tv for local broadcast areas but it is ALWAYS better to get your signal from an unamplified antenna because amplifying bad signal will only make things worse.
If you have close and distant tv towers and you use an amplifier you will over amplify the local stations to the point they can’t be used and they will bleed across the frequencies and take out adjacent stations.
Additionally antennas that require an amplifier will go dark if the power supply or amplifier dies.
If you have an antenna that is sized larger you can receive most of your signals and then remove the add on amp that you install.
Ok so what have we learned?
Find out what signal you have and then look for an antenna rated to pickup signal within that distance. Some antennas are also color coded and your TVFool report will suggest a color rating of the signal of each station.
Buy an antenna that is larger than you need. If you are within 20 miles get a strong antenna that can be directly hooked to your tv. If you are between 20 and 40 miles you will need something larger like a 2 bay antenna. If you are over 40 miles you will need an 8bay antenna or a deep fringe yaggi antenna.
If you are farther than 50 miles you will need a tower and the biggest fricken antenna you can get.. along with a preamp amplifier.
If you have obstructions.. if the tvfool report says the station is not LOS Line of Sight or a direct path to you then you have an obstruction and need a bigger antenna.
Ask your neighbors what they use.. or drive around your area and look on rooftops and see what others have installed. You are likely to see some older yaggi antennas but if they worked 20 years ago to get UHF then they work today to get UHF HD Digital.
Also don’t always expect the antenna in the store to work. I live in a fringe area and the stores here sell antennas that are only good for 15 miles. People buy them then return them or they sit on shelves. And don’t expect anyone at a big box store to be helpful. If you want local help find a place that sells dishes and antennas they might be able to give you a good idea of what you need.
Just remember bigger is better if you can afford it and install it easily.
Here are some sample antenna choices to get you started
Under 20 Miles with LOS and over 30DB
AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna – 25 Mile Range
Up to 30 Miles with LOS and 20DB
Eagle Aspen EASDTV2BUHF Directv Approved 2-Bay UHF Outdoor Antenna
30 to 60 miles LOS Edge1 Edge2 15DB
Antennas Direct, inc DB8e Extreme Range Multi-Directional Bowtie UHF Antenna
Anything more difficult 60 miles or more.
Channel Master CM 3020 UHF / VHF / FM HDTV Antenna – 100 Mile Range (CM3020)
As a Last Resort Amplify your Antenna