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Free HDTV Channels Using a UHF Antenna

Why pay for High Definition channels when you can get them for free over the air?

Published Mar 22, 2007 by lobo235
Last updated on Jun 27, 2008

How do you get your High Definition channels for your HDTV? Do you pay your satellite or cable company an extra amount each month for HD channels? Did you know that you can get many High Definition channels for free over-the-air by placing a UHF antenna in your attic, on the side of your house, or on your roof? Many people are surprised when they find out that they can get free HDTV channels after spending a small amount on a UHF antenna. In this article we will explain how you can get free over-the-air HDTV channels and what the pros and cons are for doing so.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do is to find out where the digital TV antennas are located in your area. You will need to know how far away the antennas are and what direction they are in from your house. To do this, you can use the highly useful CEA antenna mapping website. Put in your street address, city, state, and zip code and the website will show you a list of stations you should be able to receive for your area. If you only care about the digital and HDTV channels you can click the radio button labeled 'Show Digital Stations Only' to filter out the analog stations/channels. You will see a bunch of information listed about each channel including the distance to the antennas and the compass bearing in degrees. If you do not have a compass you can get an idea of where to aim your antenna by clicking the 'View Street Level Map' button. This map will show some lines pointing out from the address you entered; these lines point to the broadcasting antennas and indicate the direction that your antenna will need to be pointed in.

Finding an Antenna

Now that you know where the broadcasting antennas are located you need to buy a UHF antenna to place in your house, on your roof, in your attic, or on the side of your house. There are different kinds and sizes of UHF antennas so you can't just buy any old antenna. You must make sure that the antenna will get good reception at your distance from the broadcasting antennas. Most antennas will have a range rating so you can make sure it will work for your location. Amazon.com has a large variety of HDTV antennas that can be used for different purposes. Most of the antennas that are made to be mounted on the roof or on the side of a house can be placed inside an attic instead but keep in mind that this will decrease the effective range of the antenna.

Other Details

You will most likely need a 75 to 300ohm transformer to connect the two UHF antenna terminals up to your home's coaxial cable system so make sure you have one of these handy (they are cheap at the link above at Amazon.com). Depending on where you mount the antenna you may need a long section of coaxial cable or 300-ohm flat twin-lead cable to run from the antenna to your home's coaxial cable system. Make sure that your antenna is mounted where there is a direct line of sight to the broadcasting antennas; if there are any obstructions you will not get a strong signal. You can buy antenna masts of varying heights if you need to place your antenna higher to avoid an obstruction.

Pros and Cons of Free Over-The-Air HD Channels

Pros:

  • It's Free!
  • Unlike Analog signals being broadcast over the air, Digital signals do not degrade in quality unless you have a really bad signal. This means that you will not see 'snow', lines, or ghosting while watching digital channels.
  • You can get all the prime time channels in high definition for free. This means that you will be able to watch all of the most popular shows in HD.

Cons:

  • You won't get High Definition channels like ESPN, HGTV, Discovery, or National Geographic over the air. Since these are premium channels you must pay for them through a cable or satellite company. If these channels are important to you then over the air HD is not for you.
  • Digital signals that are broadcast over the air are affected by atmospheric moisture such as snow, rain, and humidity. If the distance from your home to the broadcasting antennas is great you will be more affected by rain and snow. If you are fairly close to the antennas you probably won't notice any changes.
  • Some people do not like to have visible antennas on the exterior of their house. If you are close to the broadcasting antennas you can avoid this if you have an attic by placing the UHF antenna in the attic, otherwise you are left with an antenna on the exterior of your house. Having a satellite dish poses the same problem, however, so cable is the only option if you are concerned about the looks of a UHF antenna on your home.

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