A friend of mine was asking me about helping his daughter get Over The Air TV at her home because she needs to save money on her cable bill which is over $100 now.
He told me that she will be canceling her TV subscription and going with just basic Internet and would like to see if she can get some local stations to supplement her Netflix account.
The first thing I told him was that she needs to be very careful when cutting off her cable and resorting to an online provider like Netflix because you get a Lack of TV Shock and end up purchasing content that results in a higher bill than you might have had if you only had basic cable.
It is a good idea that he wants to help her get her local stations as this will provide a number of TV shows she can watch along with the News.
How do you find out what Local Antenna TV is available to your home?
The first thing you want to do is find the cheapo antenna that came with your tv. Normally this is a small expandable antenna that hooks into your coax input on the back of your TV.
If you don’t have one or lost it you can try to test for signal by using the internal antenna but don’t expect good results.
Go into your Menu and select the Antenna Station Scan.
The TV will search analog and digital signals for TV Reception automatically. This normally takes about 5 minutes. If your menu has an option you can skip the analog stations because no one broadcasts on analog anymore.
Write down the stations you get and their sub channels. Many networks now broadcast more than one network signal on the same TV Channel so you may have Channel 4 FOX which is Channel 4.1 and then sub channels 4.2 4.3 that might show movies, weather or other content. Sub Channels will normally have the same power as the main channel so if you get one you get the whole group.
If you are happy with what you get then you can stop there but if you know there are other stations in your area or if you want to find out if there are some then you can visit www.tvfool.com and insert your location and see what you might be missing. I suggest that you open Google Maps and click right on your house and you will see a small popup that shows your Longitude & Latitude numbers. Put that in the search box and see what you get.
The results will come back with the signal power to your home, the miles from your home and a C in a small red box at the front of the channel will tell you if there are conflicts.
You should have at least 30 Db to your home to get signal with a standard good quality (not the stick one they give you free) TV antenna however anything higher will mean better signal and better reception when its cloudy, raining or snowing.
If you have weaker signals you really should not expect to receive stations that are under about 15 Db without a large antenna and an amplifier.
If the stations are over 40 miles from your home you will need a large rooftop or attic antenna. I would not expect to receive signals that are farther than 75 miles away even if you use a large antenna on your roof with an amplifier. You may get them but they won’t be very strong or reliable.
How does the Time of Day effect your TV Signal
There are a few reasons that your signal quality can change during the course of the day. Normally at sun up and sun down you will have problems receiving signal because the Sun is lower in the horizon. Additionally broadcasters will change their signal strength during the day which may mean as much as 10DB of improvement or your ability to receive the station or not.
As stated above weather can effect the quality and normally storms are at sun up and down unless they are very large then they can be at any time of the day. Overnight rain is more common because the water vapor in the clouds turns to rain as it cools.
There are a number of things that can effect your reception but if you live in the city, suburbs or in an area that has a reasonable size population you can expect to get at least a few stations with moderate intervention .. meaning different size antennas.
The FCC likes to have coverage in most areas but distant rural areas normally have problems once they are more than 60 miles from a broadcaster tower.
In some States the broadcaster will use a repeater tower to extend the range of their broadcast.
Doing an initial scan will allow you to understand what you can and can not get in your area.
If you get no stations be ready for selecting a strong antenna.
If you get a few stations then you can probably improve your reception of weaker ones with a better antenna.
Even if your scan just returns TV Station Names and Channels but no signal or signal that drops out really bad you at least know you have signal to your area.
If you can pickup the station numbers and names then you more than likely can get that tv station if you are willing to install a better antenna.
That may mean a small antenna at the TV.
A stronger antenna that you place at your window or need to point towards the broadcast towers.
Or it may mean something as much as a 25 foot tower in your backyard and a very large 10 foot antenna with an amplifier.