Setting up a digital TV antenna

Written by steve gross
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Setting up a digital TV antenna
AntennaWeb Report

Why are people who have been perfectly happy with their cable or satellite television service suddenly interested in "digital" TV antennas? The answer's simple. As more and more broadcast stations go digital, viewers have discovered that not only does "over the air" (OTA) high-definition TV provide better picture quality than either cable or satellite, but also---and of more importance---it's absolutely free.

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Choosing an Antenna

You will need both VHF and UHF TV antennas. Before purchasing an antenna, your first step should be to visit (see Resources, below). This site, co-sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CES) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), has a program that will determine for you the television stations you will able to receive, give you the magnetic heading from your location to the station's tower and assign a colour code for your particular location. The code is a function of your distance from the tower. When you purchase your antenna, all you have to do is buy one with the matching colour code on its box.

AntennaWeb Report
AntennaWeb Report

X Marks the Spot

Pick the spot where you would like to install the antenna. Standing on your spot, use a magnetic compass to make sure the antenna will have a clear shot in the direction of the TV tower. If not, try a new location and keep trying until you find a spot that works, or that has the fewest obstructions. Take a roll of RG6 cable, attach one end to the assembled antenna and run the other end through a window to your nearest TV (better yet, if you have a smaller TV, take it outside), hook it up, turn it on and set it on the channel you want to receive. If you're putting the antenna on the roof, have someone within hearing (use a cell phone if you need to) watch the TV for you. Take the antenna to your chosen spot, turn and twist it until your watcher says you have a good picture. Mark the spot with an X, and make note of the direction and angle. Get your tools and install the antenna according to the manufacturer's directions.

Antenna Boosters

You may require an "antenna booster" if you are located in a blue- or red-coded area, if you have split your cable several times, or if the signal just isn't strong enough. Don't hesitate to get one. They do work.

With Satellite TV

If you are adding an antenna to receive "blocked" local channels or free HDTV channels, you have an extra option. You can use a "dip-on" antenna that attaches to your satellite dish. This antenna has built-in "diplexers" that combine the satellite and antenna signals onto a single cable. A dip-on antenna is superior to an indoor antenna but not as good as a full-sized outdoor antenna.


Avoid power lines, do not go up on your roof if it's wet or icy, stay off your roof on windy days, don't climb up on the roof if you're alone, keep the antenna out from under trees and avoid chimney-mounting your antenna.

Also note that even though antenna marketers advertise "digital" TV antennas, the truth of the matter is that today's antennas are the same products folks have been installing on their roofs since the middle of the last century.

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