I had been paying about $35 (with local station fees) for about twelve
channels. I did some research, and thought I could do better with off
In upstate New York, about 70 miles from the TV station, you HAVE to
have a no compromise outdoor antenna. The indoor rabbit ear
replacements commonly shown in Radio Shack are OK for urban use only.
I get 30 channels for FREE now. If you are a dedicated DIY person, you
can do the same.
IMPORTANT - you MUST provide grounding and lightning protection. If you do not, it does not meet electrical code and can void your homeowner's insurance. More important, it can result in fire or loss of life or serious injury if you do not provide for this possibility. My installation instructions and photos here do not show that additional work. You should purchase grounding rods, wire for connections, and F type lightning arrestors for all lines before they enter the house. If possible, consult with a local installer or electrician friend to correctly install these items.
Most of the new digital HDTV channels are on UHF. The ONLY effective
antenna for this use is an "Eight Bay Bowtie". This is a
design that has been around for half a century. It is still popular,
and is still used by knowledgeable installers. It is mechanically
compact and superior in that way as well over the corner reflector
and director element UHF designs which are usually combined with a VHF
antenna you don't need, commonly offered to less technically
knowledgeable consumers. Do not let someone talk you into
one of these, unless you really need VHF in your area. Check out YOUR LOCALLY available channels. Combination antennas are a compromise,and overly bulky, putting stress on the mast and rotor in your installation. You may really NEED the 14 foot long Radio Shack monster if you are out on Long Island to get New York City, which still is on VHF. You will only need a rotor if all the channels you want to receive are in two different directions. Check the cost of a rotor. You may be ahead with TWO antennas, amplifiers, feedlines, and a switch. I solved this problem in Ithaca by doing this.
I DID need VHF, but it was from a different direction; rather than using a rotor, I optimized it and tightened the bolts.
See the pictures for my installation. If you use VHF, be sure to use the FM filter in most mast mounted amplifiers to avoid overload. It will break up the picture and sound as you advance the gain adjustment. Switching in the filter at that threshold will get the picture back, if that is your problem, and you can advance the gain more until overload happens again. Back it down a little bit, to allow for weather conditions.I made my VHF antenna from a combination unit by hacksawing the inferior UHF corner reflector off a combination antenna, leaving only the VHF part. This prevented "ghosts" or signal breakup from phase delays introduced by reception of the same channel from different directions. That is why I used a passive VHF-UHF combiner after the DC power packs in the basement to prevent any UHF from the other antenna from ruining the performance from the 8 bay bowtie. Alternatively, if your TV has two antenna connectors and a menu selection, you can run two feedlines to your TV.
Google the "Eight Bay Bowtie". I bought mine from an outfit in
Ohio for about $50. They also recommended a 30 dB mast mounted
UHF-ONLY amplifier. This is important, since it eliminates overload
from FM stations in the VHF spectrum and optimizes UHF performance.
The Radio Shack amplifier is a combination VHF-UHF unit, and only 20
dB. Get the good stuff so you don't have to do it over.
Do not re-use your old lead in wire. Order new 1000 MHz rated low loss
coax all the way.
If you are using an amplified splitter to drive multiple sets, make sure
it is a low distortion unit. Do not over drive it. Distortion will
ruin reception. Do all initial tests with no splitters or
complications to your best TV.
If you have an older non HDTV set like me, you will need a set top box
to convert from the new HDTV format to the old RF or direct video
inputs. There is a good one you can get on line which has S-VHS output, if your TV is capable of S-VHS. Most only have audio and composite video. Look at the back of your set before you buy.
I was able to get an Insignia unit (originally sold by Best Buy) used for $25. I like its channel
guide function better than the one Radio Shack sells new for about $60. I bought
the Radio Shack unit for about the same used for the bedroom set. The
performance for reception is about the same, so either one will work well. New TVs with HDTV capability are getting so inexpensive, you may find replacing the set is better than buying a set top box.
So here are some photos of my installation. The UHF 8 bay bowtie is
pointed at Syracuse. The "fishbone" VHF antenna is aimed
at Binghamton, at a 90 degree angle from the UHF antenna. It has its
own separate amplifier.
The photo of the mounting board in the basement shows the interior
distribution systems. The two signals are combined indoors using a
VHF-UHF passive combiner following their DC power packs. It is
followed up by a Radio Shack adjustable amplified 4 port splitter.
The splitter is set just below the level that the digital signal
begins to break up due to overload.
The third amplifier is a totally separate FM reception system for my
stereo systems. The antenna and mast amplifier for that one is inside the attic.
I used a galvanized 22 foot section of pipe instead of flimsy 5 foot
sections of standard TV mast that rust out instantly. Elevate the
bottom of the pipe and plug top and bottom. This prevents the water
from coming in the top and freezing and splitting the pipe. It also
prevents wasps and critters from nesting inside.