** This primer will help you to choose the correct HDTV Antenna for your particular situation, along with installation tips.
Over-the-Air (OTA) High-Definition (HD) digital broadcasts are free to receive, as are current analog stations. However, full-power analog stations ceased broadcasting at midnight on June 12th, 2009 (formerly scheduled for February 17th, 2009) and then all television programming became digital in the United States. Digital broadcasts provide movie-quality picture and sound with higher resolution programming in a widescreen format, in addition to interactive capabilities. OTA antennas provide the best possible High-Definition picture, because OTA signals don't require signal compression to arrive at your home.
What Type of Antenna:
Start by visiting one or all of the 3 sites listed below, to find your local station information:
Gather Information (from the above 3 sites):
Use the station(s) distance, direction and frequency bands to determine the type of antenna needed...
1. Determine the transmitter compass orientation... so you know if you need a multi or uni-directional antenna (view "Compass Orientation" column).
If all the stations are within 20 degrees of separation, then go with a uni-directional antenna (i.e. directional). For channel separation greater that 20 degrees, a multi-directional antenna may be your best choice. If stations are generally 180 degrees apart, you may also consider 2 uni-directional antennas and an A-B switch or antenna cable combiner so you only have one down lead. If stations are greater than 20 degrees of separation, then a uni-directional antenna with an antenna rotator is another choice.
NOTE: Compass orientations start at 0 degrees magnetic North and increase in a clockwise direction.
2. Determine the frequency bands in your area... so you know if you need UHF, VHF or a combo antenna (view "Antenna Type" column).
Most HD stations broadcast on the UHF band (channels 14-69), but a few broadcast on the VHF band (channels 2-13). VHF stations towards the higher end of the VHF spectrum (with a high Digital Frequency Assignment) may be picked up by a UHF antenna, but you won't know for sure until you try. Typically a UHF antenna can pull in the double-digit VHF channels (10-13) and sometimes VHF channels 7-9. If you need the ability to receive the low-end VHF stations (channels 2-6), then you could use a low-band VHF antenna such as the V4 VHF Antenna in addition to a HDTV UHF antenna, and use a UHF/VHF channel combiner. Combo UHF/VHF uni-directional broadband antennas (good on channels 2-69) are also available. These are typically traditional directional VHF antennas that can pick up UHF stations in addition to VHF stations. VHF antennas can also receive FM radio broadcasts which are located between TV channels 6 and 7.
3. Determine the distance to the stations... so you know how powerful an antenna you will need (view "Miles From" column).
CEA-certified antenna mark color codes zones are as follows:
Yellow = Small Multi-directional (amplifiers not recommended)
Green = Medium Multi-directional
Light Green = Large Multi-directional or Small Directional with pre-amp
Red = Medium Directional
Blue = Medium Directional with pre-amp
Violet = Large Directional with pre-amp
Range of Antenna Types:
Indoor = 0-15 miles
Short = 0-25 miles
Medium = 10-55 miles
Long = 50-70+ miles
NOTE: If your average station distance is between 2 antenna types... choose the more powerful antenna to help pull in the more distant stations. For example, if your stations average 24 miles from your location, you could use a short or medium range antenna, but a medium range antenna is recommended.
Fringe Areas: Any distance greater than 70 miles from the transmitting tower will be difficult if not impossible to pick up as TV signals travel via line-of-site and do not follow the curvature of the earth. Therefore, placing your external antenna as high as possible on an extremely tall mast can help overcome the curvature issue. These long distance weak signals are in an area known as "deep fringe". The lower band signals can generally travel further than the higher band signals.
4. Choose your antenna:
Below is a list of Terrestrial Digital UHF Antennas for HDTV and how they correspond to the various CEA color codes:
Yellow = DB2 or ClearStream1 (C1) or ClearStream Convertible (C1C)
Green = DB2e or DB4 or ClearStream2 (C2) or ClearStream2-V (C2-J30-V) or Lacrosse
Light Green = DB4e or DB8 or ClearStream4 (C4) or SR8 / ClearStream5 (C5) = VHF (Ch. 7-13)
Red = SR15
Blue = 42XG
Violet = 43XG or 91XG
Being located high up on a mountain top will generally be beneficial in receiving distant signals. Signal transmission over a flat body of water provides near ideal conditions. Basically, you want to have unobstructed terrain between your location and the transmitting tower as TV signals travel in a straight line. If you are in a valley or have a large number of trees, hills or buildings between your location and the tower, you may receive little or no signal and the signal you do receive may have severe ghosting.
Compare the antenna gain ratings, to make sure your antenna is not under-powered. Also, if you have limited space, compare the physical size requirements. Most antennas are very lightweight, but some can be awkward in size. The uni-directional antennas typically lay horizontally, while the multi-directional antennas typically stand vertically. Generally, the further you are from the transmitting towers, the larger antenna you will need.
My Home Owners Association (HOA) and/or CC&R does not allow exterior TV antennas, what can I do?
According to the law (Section 207 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996), a HOA cannot prohibit you from putting up an antenna that meets specified size limitations, and is used to receive video programming. Furthermore, they cannon delay or prevent installation, maintenance, or use. Federal law will supersede any local law or CC&R, so if their rules violate federal rulings, then they cannot enforce them. You can download and print-out a copy of the FCC regulations here:http://www.fcc.gov/guides/over-air-reception-devices-rule
An antenna boom with lots of director elements (i.e. rods) will give you increased gain as the number of elements and their spacing helps determine the gain and directivity. The dipole or driven element is open in the center for connection directly to the coax cable feed-line. The other elements couple via the local electromagnetic fields which induce currents in them. The gain of a dipole times the total number of elements equals the approximate maximum gain.
VHF: Longer elements will help bring in the low channels, so Channel 2 would have the longest rod.
UHF: Shorter elements bring in the high channels, and can be improved with a circle or bow-tie element.
An antenna with a good mixture of elements is helpful in acquiring a large spread of channel frequencies. Big uni-directional antennas typically offer a good mixture of elements including long elements that are more effective in receiving the longer wavelengths of the lower channels.
Channel vs. Frequency Assignment:
High-Def digital broadcasts on the UHF band have higher frequency assignments. For example, ABC may have a UHF frequency assignment of 39, but it displays as Channel 2.1 as it is re-mapped to that lower channel number.
What is a DTV Converter Box:
This is box that can convert the digital television signals to analog signals (DAC). It is primarily used on older, analog video equipment, such as an analog television or an analog VCR. The converter will allow your old analog video tuners to receive the new digital television transmissions.
What is the Difference between RG59 and RG6 Coax Cables?
The main differences between the two cables are the bandwidth capabilities and the signal loss per foot (primarily due to shielding differences). However, if you have a strong signal, and short cable runs, you would most likely not see any difference. The type of cable is usually marked on the cable or on the end connectors. Just remember that a cable cannot improve the signal, but depending on the cable quality, it can have a negative impact on the signal.
RG59 = Thin coax cable (about .233-in Dia.) that is more flexible and easier to bend. This lower-grade coax cable has a small center conductor (22AWG), small insulating dielectric and a single outer copper shield that is good at blocking noise at base-band frequencies. This lower-bandwidth cable delivers acceptable performance for analog cable television (CATV), analog video connections and subwoofers (generally any base-band video application at frequencies below 50 MHz).
RG6 = Thick coax cable (about ..274-inch Dia.) that is more stiff/rigid and therefore a bit harder to work with. This higher-grade coax cable has a larger center conductor (18 AWG), a dual or quad aluminum shield, and a larger insulating dielectric. RG6 provides less Radio Frequency Interference (i.e. RFI noise) for frequencies above 50 MHz, lower attenuation per foot, and greater (i.e. higher/wider) bandwidth (up to 1.5 GHz). Best for satellite dish, Digital TV (DTV), and coaxial digital audio applications.
What is the Difference between Twin-lead and Coax Cable?
Twin-lead (a.k.a. twin-line) is 300-ohm nearly "lossless" flat cable with 2 leads. It is not shielded and therefore can pick up signal noise. When installing this cable outside, be careful not to let it touch any metal such as the antenna mast, rain gutters, etc. Place standoff insulators every few feet. However, it is best to only use this cable for short interior runs, such as to a set of rabbit ears on top of your television. On old televisions and FM stereo receivers you may find a 2-screw input for the twin-lead cable. New televisions use a 75-ohm (F connector) coaxial connector. Coax cable also uses a 75-ohm connector on each end, and the cables are braided and shielded. For long cable runs and for picking up Digital Television (DTV) signals, it is recommended to use RG6 coax cable. If your antenna has the old-stye twinlead cable attached, replace the flat cable with coax and use a Balun Box or Matching Transformer to convert the 75-ohm coax cable to the 300-ohm antenna output... see below.
What is a Balun?
A balun is a device that can transition from a balanced circuit or line to an unbalanced circuit or line by affecting the impedance ratio. You need a balun to get balanced positive and negative voltage into and out of unbalanced coax cable. A balun will match 75-ohm unbalanced coaxial cable to the 300-ohm balanced output of an antenna (4-to-1 balun), or to a 75-ohm balanced antenna output (1-to-1 balun). Baluns are used at the terminals of a balanced antenna feed point where an unbalanced coax cable attaches to the dipole. A balun can be as simple as a coiled coax choke at the antenna terminals, or as complex as a sophisticated integrated circuit board within the balun box. The balun box is also known as a Matching Transformer... just make sure it is designed for exterior use. Be careful not to overtighten the coax connector to the balun box, as you do not want to damage any internal circuits. To weatherproof the coax connection, either use a rubber coax boot, or apply a ring of clear, exterior silicone sealant to the coax connection.
What are Pre-Amplifiers?
Weak signals can also be amplified with the addition of an external antenna pre-amp, but they will not increase the signal range. Pre-amps help overcome signal loss from long cable runs, multiple splitters, and boost weak signals that are just above the signal noise level. However, If there are any buildings, hills, thick forests, etc. between your location and the station, you may have some or all of the stations blocked. A potential drawback of an amplifier is that it can amplify noise along with the signal, and strong signals can overdrive the amp, which can make reception even worse. Therefore, depending on your particular situation, an amplifier may have a positive effect, a negative effect or no effect at all. The pre-amp should be mounted as close to the antenna as possible, so as not to amplify any additional signal interference over the coax line. Power for the pre-amp is supplied over the coax line from an indoor power inserter/injector. Keep the power inserter plugged into a surge suppressor.
Should I use a Splitter?
It is always advisable to avoid using splitters whenever possible as they introduce noise and deteriorate the signal quality. If you must use a splitter, use as few as possible. If you are using a pre-amplifier or external antenna rotator, then make sure you purchase a splitter with a DC pass-thru port, as these devices send power through the coax line via the power-inserter or control box.
When to choose a Disk-shaped or Flat Panel Antenna:
Flat panel antennas, such as the Lacrosse or SquareShooter are very compact and offer a more modern-day, stylish housing. If you have strict home owners association rules, this may be the best type of antenna for you. They are available in standard or amplified/high-gain versions, but they do not offer the same level of directionality as a traditional uni-directional antenna.
What is a Yagi Antenna?
A Yagi-style antenna concentrates signal pick-up in one direction and has corner reflectors to help block reception from the backside which will help reduce ghosting. Yagi antennas make a great choice when you need a powerful uni-directional antenna. Directional antennas generally have less issues with ghosting compared to multi-directional antennas.
What is an Attenuator?
An attenuator can help reduce problems such as multiple images and ghosting caused by multi-path interference. Reflected signals and local signals that are strong enough to bounce off nearby buildings and other objects can create this distortion. The attenuator will help you to dial down the signal gain to eliminate or reduce the distortion.
When should I perform a Channel Scan?
You should scan for channels (i.e. auto-tune) when any of the following events occur (accessible from the Menu or Setup button on your device):
When should I perform a Double-Rescan?
Your DTV tuner remembers the stations from its prior scan. If any of your local stations move to a new digital frequency, you will need to clear the saved channels from memory and rescan. Here are the steps to perform a double-rescanning:
Indoor Antenna Placement:
Outdoor Antenna Placement and Wiring:
(i.e. Make sure your current Antenna is set up for optimal signal acquisition and integrity)
Special Antenna Installation location considerations:
Many people prefer to keep an antenna mounted in an attic for protection from the weather and to keep the outside of their homes uncluttered. The drawback is that building materials can greatly affect performance and may cut as much as 50 percent of the signal. For example, if you have any kind of aluminum or sheet metal in or under your roof or siding (including foil-backed insulation), then many of the signals would be reflected and blocked from your antenna. An antenna pre-ampllifier may help in some of these situations. To mount an antenna in an attic, you can attach a roof-type mast pole to a cross-brace that's attached to your rafters. Attach the antenna to the bottom of the mast pole, but make sure the antenna still remains in its normal right-side-up position. Alternately, you can suspend the antenna from the rafters with nylon rope or guy wires. If using guy wires, make sure they do not contact the antenna elements or they will cause a short. Also, make sure the antenna does not touch the floor.
Replacing Satellite Dish with Antenna:
If you are planning to discontinue your satellite dish service, you may be able to use your existing satellite dish antenna mast. Just make sure it is on the side of your house facing the transmitting towers. If you are trying to pick-up signals on both sides of your house, you will probably need to move the mast up near the roofline, or attach your antenna to the side of your chimney. If you move your satellite dish mast, make sure you fill-in the old holes with roof tar or sealant. An advantage of using an existing satellite dish mount, is that it already has the coax cable running to it, and the other end should already go to a grounding block. If not, you will need to ground the antenna yourself... see Antenna Grounding below.
Reception and Signal Loss:
Antennas need to be properly aimed in the direction of the desired transmitting towers for proper reception. Using 2-way radios or walkie-talkies can greatly help during installation. Have one person on the roof adjusting the antenna, while the other person checks the signal strength meter (if available), or picture quality on the television. Signal loss may be caused by being too low in a valley; blockage from trees, buildings, hills; or long cable runs and/or splitters.
Signal Strength Meters:
Some DTV Converter Boxes and some Digital TVs come with a built-in signal-strength meter located through the devices Menu. Optionally, a handheld Signal Finder/Meter, such as the SM100, can be used to help locate the direction of the strongest signal.
Can Moving Vehicles affect my Reception?
Yes, if you live near a train-track, airport, or busy road, then signal reflections from these vehicles may cause signal break-up or complete picture loss. An attenuator (see above) may be able to help in some of these instances.
Can the Weather affect my Reception?
Yes, storms and high wind can cause signal drop-out or picture break-up (i.e. blocks). Make sure an outdoor antenna is securely fastened to prevent movement. Swaying trees and branches can also block or interrupt the signal transmission.
What is Rain Fade?
Heavy rains may cause an attenuation of the signal as the signal bounces off the water and is scattered. This is commonly referred to as "rain fade". This phenomenon is most common when there is a high concentration of water in the atmosphere and water on your antenna. However, normal rains should not affect your signal unless you are on the outermost fringe of the signal.
Factors that may Cause Poor Signal Performance:
NOTE 1: When troubleshooting a TV antenna problem, first disconnect the coax from the TV or Converter Box input.
NOTE 2: After setting up or adjusting your antenna, be sure and perform a new Channel Scan (see above).
The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that every TV antenna installation be grounded. Some areas also have local antenna grounding codes to abide by. The purpose of grounding is to reduce the potential difference of static charge between your conductive antenna and the lightning cloud, by channeling the static charge into the ground and thereby reducing the possibility of a lightning strike.
For exterior antennas (especially rooftop), the antenna mast and coax both need to be properly grounded to prevent electrical surges from lightning strikes. HT MART recommends hiring a professional when installing and grounding a rooftop antenna.
Run the coax from your antenna's coax output to an antenna discharge unit (i.e. lightning arrestor or grounding block) to draw away any static electrical charges that may build in your antenna and coax line. If you don't already have a grounding block, attach one near the point where the coax enters your home. Attach a ground wire from the grounding block directly to the electrical service ground rod, or your central building ground. Alternately, but done less seldom, is to attach the ground wire to a cold-water pipe.
Next, run the coax cable as directly as possible from the antenna to the grounding block without any sharp bends. Leave a drip-loop in your coax cable near the grounding block to prevent moisture from entering the connections. The coax from inside the house will then attach to this grounding block. Grounding the coax will ground the active/driven element, but that is electrically isolated from the rest of the antenna, so you will also need to ground the antenna mast. It's also a good idea to have a surge suppressor with coax input/output inside your home, especially if, for whatever reason, you cannot attach your antenna's coax cable to a grounding block.
To ground the antenna mast, you can run an 8 or 10 AWG ground wire from your electrical service ground rod, or your central building ground directly to the mast. Use a single wire and keep it as straight as possible with no sharp bends and attach it to the mast with a ground clamp/strap or directly to one of the mounting bolts (first scrape off any paint, attach wire and seal). If your coax is grounded, there is an alternate way to ground the mast that is used by some people. Take a short piece of grounding wire and attach it to the mast via a grounding strap or grounding clamp. Then run the wire to the outer shell of the coax connector and attach with a grounding strap. However, this method does not conform to the NEC recommendations.
HD Equipment Needed:
If you want to receive free Over-The-Air (OTA) HD signals, then you will typically need a HD-Tuner and a HD Antenna. Note, that some satellite HD receiver boxes, now have an ATSC HD tuner built-in as do many late model HDTVs. HD-Ready sets usually require a HD-Tuner to be added. HD antennas simply plug into the HD-Tuner via coax cable and then you come out of the HD-Tuner with either component, DVI or HDMI cables to your HDTV input. If you have an internal HD-Tuner on your HDTV, you should be able to directly plug the coax cable from an antenna into your sets 75-ohm RF/Antenna-In port.
Satellite and Cable Company HD Broadcasts:
If you want to receive HD TV from your satellite provider, then you should get their HD Set-top-box (STB). Existing customers should contact them about upgrading your current box to their HD model. Even if you get HD via Satellite TV or Cable Company, most people still prefer to add-on an external HDTV antenna. There are 2 main reasons... the first is that some satellite providers only offer the main East (New York) and West (Los Angeles) coast HDTV feeds (no local news). The satellite providers that offer local HD stations may not include WB, UPN, PBS, and other stations. The 2nd reason is that High-Definition broadcasts transmitted via Satellite or Cable Company are typically of inferior quality compared to free over-the-air HD broadcasts. This is due to the fact that most satellite and cable companies must compress their HD signals so they do not require as much bandwidth when transmitting them to you. Of course, it's also great to get free local HD stations, even when your satellite reception or cable transmission might be out. And if you have 2 HD tuners, (i.e. another in a DVR), and/or a set with picture-in-picture, you can then watch and/or record 2 different HD shows... one from the local antenna and one from the satellite/cable company feed. If there are obstructions, such as trees, buildings or hills between your location and the HDTV transmitting tower, then satellite or cable may be your only choice.
A Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) tuner is used to receive digital cable signals. QAM tuners can be found in cable set-top boxes from your local cable television provider. Alternately, some HD-Tuners and some Digital TVs (DTV) now come with a QAM tuner built-in. A QAM tuner uses electronic tuning to receive unscrambled digital cable channels and pass them to your television.
If you purchase a digital television that is "digital cable ready", then it has a slot to hold an optional CableCARD module. A CableCARD is a removable PCMCIA Type II card provided by your local cable television provider. It is used to decrypt the encrypted digital cable television signals.
HD Tuners/ATSC Tuners:
The type of HD tuner to get, depends a bit on the connections on the back of your HD-Ready TV. For HD signals, it is best to use a digital connection such as DVI or HDMI. HDMI is preferred because it supports HDCP (copy protection) and can also transmit audio, whereas, DVI can only transmit video and is generally not HDCP-compliant. Look in your TV manual at the "Specifications page" to see if it has either of these connectors. If not, you will need to use the Component video connectors (Red, Green Blue). An ATSC tuner or HDTV tuner is simply a tuner that can pull-in the digital television (DTV) signals that are broadcast over-the-air (OTA) by television stations. These digital transmissions include high-definition broadcasts.
Let's say your HD satellite/cable box has DVI and your TV has HDMI, then you will need to get a DVI to HDMI adapter. Also, if you have your HD satellite/cable box plugged into the digital connector and later decide to add a separate OTA HD Tuner, then it will need to use the component connectors, unless you have 2 digital inputs on your TV or purchase a switch box.
For high-definition television recording, most people prefer to use a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) which is also known as a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and has a built-in Hard Disk Drive (HDD). The Diego, Inc. Moxi HD DVR has a 500 GB hard drive for 1080 HD recording, 3-tuners, is CableCARD-ready, and provides Internet Services. CableCard installation would be arranged from your cable company, but there are no monthly fees with this DVR. The downside is that the Moxi HD DVR does not offer Over-The-Air (OTA) antenna support. So, now that you are receiving free over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts, what is the best way to record HD signals? TiVo has their TiVo Premiere HD DVRs starting at $99 for the basic unit, and the required monthly service fees are about $19.99/month. But, HD OTA reception is all about receiving an excellent picture and sound without being tied to a monthly contract. Then the Dish Network DTVPal DVR (a.k.a. TR-50) or the Channel Master TV CM 7400 (or prior CM-7000PAL) might be the answer for you. There are no contract fees, no monthly fees, and no activation fees with these DVRs. The main downside, is that its on-screen Electronic Program Guide (EPG), Scheduling and Searching capabilities are not quite as good as the TiVo service. The DTVPal DVR uses the digital TV Guide On-Screen (TVGOS) free service.
Macrovision's TV Guide On-Screen (TVGOS) is a free service that provides on-screen program listings that you may navigate and schedule your favorite programs for viewing and recording. The service is paid for by ads on the guide. The program listings are received via a host-channel and can be sent via an OTA television signal, or via satellite TV, or cable TV. The original TVGOS service was analog in nature and used the hidden vertical blanking interval (VBI) of the host television station signal. The low bit-rate download typically takes 24-hours for the initial setup to complete and up to a week to see your full 8-day program listings. However, this has been superseded by the new digital TVGOS service that began in 2006. Many late-model HDTVs also have built-in support for TVGOS. A Digital TVGOS Service List is available... Click Here.
The Analog to Digital Switchover:
The United States federal government has established June 12th, 2009 (formerly February 17th, 2009) as the date television broadcasters must stop broadcasting analog signals and switch to digital-only broadcasts. Televisions built after March 1, 2007 will generally have a built-in ATSC digital tuner. If you have an older television with an NTSC tuner, such as a CRT, you have the option to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box. The United States government subsidized the purchase of up to two TV converter boxes per household in the form of two $40 coupons. Coupons were available from January 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009 or while supplies lasted. The coupon program has ended, but you may learn more about the Digital TV Transition here:http://dtv.gov/
Just remember that every situation is different, so there's not a single antenna that will work for everyone, as many variables are involved. Do your homework and research which antenna will work best for your particular situation. Once you have your antenna properly installed and are receiving free over-the-air high-definition television broadcasts, you will feel that it was worth all the time an energy you invested.
HT MART's complete line of HDTV Antennas, Amps, and Accessories can be found here: http://www.htmart.com/home.php?cat=7
HT MART's HDTV Antenna Guide © 2007 - 2014 HT MART (http://www.htmart.com)