Posts Tagged channel master
One thing that scares potential cable-cutters is the prospect of choosing an antenna for their home. Many wonder, “do I need to climb up on my roof and mess with grounding wires and guy lines?” Or sometimes they go out and buy the Terk HDTVa, thinking that its good reviews mean that it will work great on top of their TV.
Choosing the right antenna is crucial for you to enjoying your cable-free life. Now how exactly do you choose the right antenna? Simple—just worry about three things:
- TV Signal strength
- TV Signal direction
- TV Signal band
You may ask, “How do you get those figures and what do you do with them?” Follow along with me now and see.
Generate a TVFool.com TV Signal Locator Report for Your Home
I know just the place to get those figures: the TVFool.com TV Signal Locator.
Once there, you enter your address. The Title for the report and the Antenna Height are optional. I’d leave them both blank at first.
Push the “Find Local Channels” button and you’ll get something back like the image to the right.
The report looks overwhelming at first, but really it’s quite simple to interpret. You just need to remember to look at the Strength, Direction, and Band of the different stations in the area. Let me show you how to read those from the chart.
Making Sense of Signal Strength
In the column marked NM(db) we’ll read the values for signal strength. NM stands for Noise Margin and it is measured in decibels. Essentially a number above 0 means your TV can understand the TV signal. Below 0 and it can’t. Keep in mind, though, that lower noise margin stations are tougher to pull in because they are so sensitive to the fluctuations in signal strength due to the weather, trees, kung fu fighters, interference from other signals, you name it. The higher the noise margin, the less likely fluctuations in signal will affect you.
TV Fool color codes the report to give you visual indicator of how strong the signals are. The green stations are those with a signal so strong that you can use an indoor or set-top antenna to pull it. The yellow stations are signals that are a bit weaker—so they would require an attic antenna to pull it. The red stations are those that require a roof-mounted antenna. And finally, the gray signals, while they are accessible, you should seek the services of a professional antenna installer in order to pull them.
Making Sense of Signal Direction
This is the easiest part of the chart to understand. The TV towers are found in different directions. Ideally, almost all the towers will be clustered in the same direction and then you can point a strong directional antenna toward the cluster. An example of that can be seen in the image to the right, where 11 of the 12 red/yellow/green stations are all clustered in the Southwest of the radar image.
The TV Fool report shows the direction of the signal and represents stronger signals by showing a longer bar leading from the outside edge. Also shown is the channel’s real channel number—which represents what channel/frequency the channel is transmitted at, not what shows on the tuner. That’s the virtual number.
You may also see channels in purple (those are analog channels), and channels with a yellow border (those are VHF channels). We’ll worry about that later. For now let’s focus on the direction of the stations that you want to receive. Your chart will probably show one of the following scenarios:
Best Case Scenario: All your desired stations in one direction
If you live 20 miles or so from a major city, this is most likely the situation you’re in. An example of this is in the image above, which shows 11 of the 12 viewable stations to the Southwest.
This is great because you just need to point your antenna in one direction. You don’t have to mess around with antenna combiners or with antenna rotors. You just need to get a directional antenna. Directional antennas (antennas that are meant to “look” in one general direction) are also more sensitive than omnidirectional (antennas that are meant to look in all directions)—so you are able to pull in stations from farther away.
Good Case Scenario: Desired channels are scattered, but close by.
So maybe your stations are in different directions, but they are still pretty close. In this case you can still get these stations without the need for an antenna rotor. You will, however, need a good omnidirectional antenna, or a directional antenna that has a wide beamwidth.
OK Case Scenario: Desired channels are clustered in two different directions
If you live between two major cities, this may be your situation. You have good signals, but they are coming from two different directions. If you’re using an indoor antenna, you may have to rotate your antenna by hand to pull in stations from the different directions. If you put your antenna on your roof or in your attic, you may have to install an antenna rotor. A rotor is a little motor that connects to the base of your antenna mast and rotates it to point toward the tower broadcasting your chosen channel.
Another option is to combine the outputs of two antennas, but that’s something we’ll leave for a future article on GettingRidOfCable.com.
Worst Case Scenario: Desired channels are scattered and far away
Now it may be the case that the channels you want to receive are far away and in different directions. This isn’t the end of the world—you can still use an antenna to receive free TV signals, but it may require you to point antennas in different directions and combine their signals, or use an antenna rotor.
Either way, you should call the TV stations you’d like to receive and ask for tips to receive their station. You may also want to seek out a professional antenna installer in the area who knows the best way to get these free TV channels piping hot to your television.
Remember the old VHF and UHF dials on your TV set when you were a kid? Well, HDTV signals also are broadcast on the VHF and UHF bands. This is important because different antennas are tuned to either VHF or UHF—although most antennas can pick up both VHF and UHF to some extent.
VHF stands for Very High Frequency. Channels 2-13 fall into the VHF range. UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency. Channels 14-69 fall into this range. Over 73% of the USA’s TV stations broadcast using a UHF frequency.
Most good UHF antennas are able to receive the high-band VHF channels: 7-13. 92% of the VHF TV channels use the high-band VHF frequencies. Why is this important? This means that a good UHF antenna is capable of receiving 97% of the channels if it is within range. However, if you have a desired channel that is broadcast on the low-band VHF channels 2-6, you may need to look for a UHF/VHF antenna or supplement your UHF antenna with a VHF one.
Does the Number that Shows on the TV Dial Represent How It Is Broadcasted?
Just because you turn your TV dial to channel 3 it doesn’t mean that that TV channel is broadcasted over VHF frequencies. Because the FCC mandated that every station embed a “reference” to how the channel should show in your TV lineup—your channel 3 News could actually be broadcasted from channel 45. Hence the station has a VHF-like channel number on the dial when in fact it is a UHF station. This is represented in the TV Fool Chart as Real and Virtual. Real is how the station is broadcasted and tells you whether it is a UHF/VHF station. Virtual is how it shows up on your dial.
Common Scenario Examples
Now that you understand the basics, you are well on your way to choosing the right antenna for your home. Let me just go over some common antenna situations so I can give you some loose recommendations for antennas.
In a city with many transmitters
If you are fortunate enough to live in a city with many transmitters, you are looking for an omnidirectional (aka multi-directional) antenna or a directional antenna with a wide beam width.
Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna
Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna
Antennas Direct DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna
Channel Master 4221HD Multi-Bay UHF Short Range HDTV Antenna
Near a city with many transmitters
I actually think this is better than living in a city with many transmitters, because you can take advantage of a directional antenna and point it in one direction. My recommendations for indoor antennas remain the same, but I do recommend a different Antennas Direct antenna.
Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna
Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna
Antennas Direct DB4 Multi-Directional HDTV Antenna
Channel Master 4221HD Multi-Bay UHF Short Range HDTV Antenna
Far from a city with many transmitters
This is the trickiest situation, obviously. If you are within 50 miles or so, you shouldn’t have much of a problem, but if your stations are scattered in different directions, you may need to call a professional who can help you mount your antenna on your roof. The pro may also hook up your antenna to a rotor, or install multiple antennas and combine the antenna signals.
Antennas Direct DB8 Multidirectional HDTV Antenna
Channel Master 4228HD Long-Range Outdoor Rooftop HDTV Antenna
I hope this served as a useful guide on how you can use TvFool.com to choose the best HDTV antenna for your home.
When you first decide to get rid of cable, you tend to gravitate toward set-top indoor antennas. There’s a good reason for this—you aren’t quite sure that you are going to commit to a cable-free life. You don’t want to climb up on your roof. You don’t want to squirm through that little hole in the attic.
All that is understandable.
Sooner or later, cable-nixers want to get an even better reception than the one you’re getting from the set-top box. You’re going to want more channels and less of those black glitches that flash across your screen as your antenna signal gets weak. In this article, I’m going to show you how to install a TV antenna in your attic.
Just how much better is the reception from a set-top box to an attic antenna? Everyone’s situation is different, but I had a Terk HDTVa indoor antenna in my basement which performed very well. It averaged around 65% antenna strength for the major networks and 55% for my local PBS affiliate. With the new antenna I am averaging 95% antenna strength for the major networks and 80% antenna strength for the local PBS affiliate. With the Terk I had to consciously point it to different transmitters for ABC and PBS to get the best glitch-free reception. With my new attic antenna it stays pointed in the same direction and is 99% glitch free for all my channels.
The nice thing about installing an antenna in your attic is it isn’t rocket science. The hardest part is getting the coax cable to your television. The easiest part is picking the antenna that is right for you. I will have another article on that another time.
See the picture to the right to see how I wired it up.
In addition to the antenna, I needed the following items:
- Spool of RG-6 Coax Cable. Do NOT use RG-59. It’s too lossy and more prone to damage. The 50 foot roll was sufficient for me, but your situation may be different. If you’re going to run the cable through a hot HVAC duct, look for Plenum cable—it is heat resistant and doesn’t give off poisonous fumes if it does burn. You can buy it for 61 cents a foot here.
- Cable tools: You can buy separately or get them all in a kit here.
o Coaxial Cable Cutter and Stripper. Used to cut your RG-6 cable to the proper size and prepare it for attaching an F-connector.
o F-Connectors. Used to attach to the ends of the cable—these are the fittings that screw into the antenna and the TV/DVR/Converter Box.
o Compression Crimper. Used to attach your F-connectors to the cable when it is cut to the right size.
- Plastic coax cable clips. Like these.
- Drill with bits that work on aluminum. Nothing too fancy, just something to drill holes. I have one like this.
- Screwdriver to attach the antenna to something in the attic.
- Flashlight or better yet, a headlamp. Even better yet, a hard hat with a headlamp.
The best way to run cable from your attic is through the walls. If you can do this, by all means do it.
I wasn’t up to the task because I needed the cable run to the basement from the attic. I used a cable installer trick of running it alongside the furnace flue. This made my job much easier, but you should check with your local code to make sure you can do the same thing. Also, use plenum Coax cable which is heat resistant and doesn’t give off poisonous fumes if it burns.
Step 1: Get a Good Antenna
The antenna I’m using is the Channel Master 4221HD Multi-Bay UHF Short Range HDTV Antenna. This antenna is good if you live in a city with multiple transmitters—because it is good at picking up signal from different directions. Basically it’s not as directional as some of the more popular indoor/outdoor antennas. Another reason I chose this antenna is because it is fairly small (5.5” thick, 24.5” wide, 33” tall). I don’t have a very large attic, so this one fit the bill nicely.
Step 2: Get Into the Attic
To install the antenna in the attic, you have to go into the attic.
My attic access door is fairly small. So small that the antenna was too big to fit through! Not a problem, though. I just took the plastic ends of one side of the antenna and shoved it through the access door. It bent quite a bit, but I was able to straighten the tines back out once I got up in the attic with it.
There are a lot of attic safety tips out there, but I won’t go into a lot of them in this article. Just make sure you wear appropriate clothing (long sleeved shirt tucked into gloves, with long pants). Wear a respirator, too, because that fiberglass dust makes you cough! Safety glasses are nice, too.
Don’t step on anything except trusses and joists. It helps to bring up a board, like a 2 x 8, to place across the joists. If you see any weird stuff, like vermiculite insulation, old wiring, or signs of animals, don’t touch or mess with it. You should consider having an expert assess that stuff.
Step 3: Attach the Antenna to Something
You’re going to need to attach the antenna to something up there. You don’t want your antenna to shift positions. You also want it to be free from obstructions. Most antennas designed for outdoor or attic installations come with some mounting hardware. You may still need to visit your local hardware store, or buy some online.
I ended up buying the Channel Master 3078 Roof/Attic Mount Antenna Mount Kit, and then I attached it to a small wood pole. The pole, in turn, was attached to a truss in the attic using screws.
See the picture to the right to see what I mean.
Step 4: Run the Coax Cable
You need to get the signal from your antenna to your TV, DVR, or converter box. You can do this many different ways, ideally you can snake the cable through your walls to the destination. If that won’t work, you can drill a hole through your attic wall and drop the cable down on the outside of the house. Another option, which I wouldn’t recommend you do unless you know what you are doing—is to snake the coax down alongside the furnace flue.
If you decide to go this route, you’re supposed to use plenum coax—because it has a higher temperature tolerance and if it does burn it doesn’t give off poisonous fumes. You can buy it for 61 cents a foot here.
To run the coax cable through the furnace flue I just drilled a hole through the flashing trim that runs around the flue. The hole needed to be wide enough for the cable to fit through. This took me about 5 minutes because my drill bit was dull. Make sure you use a sharp drill bit and the proper RPMs for aluminum. Aluminum is very soft and tends to stick to your drill bit.
Once the hole was made, I pushed most of the cable through the hole. I left about 3 extra feet of cable in the attic and then fastened it to attic rafters using plastic coax cable clips.
After getting out of the attic I made my way to the basement where I drilled a similar hole in the flashing trim around the furnace flue. Unfortunately, I could not retrieve the cable from the basement, so I had to knock a hole in the wall on the first floor. I made the hole about 8 inches square. From there I was able to snake the cable through the flue flashing. I also used a couple cable clips to pin the coax down from the flue—it’s hotter near the basement because that’s where the furnace is.
I had to later patch the drywall back up, which isn’t too hard.
The cable was now dangling in the basement, and there was plenty there. I measured enough to run to the cable splitter that comes from the cable company—so I could run antenna signal to every room in the house. Another bonus is the cable splitter is on the outside of the house, very close to where the coax cable dropped from the basement ceiling.
After running the cable to the outside, I made sure to cut off just what I needed and then using my strip and crimp tools I attached an “F” type connector and connected it to the input of the splitter.
Step 5: Enjoy Free TV
After everything was installed I ran to my TV to see if it worked. It did! And the signal was incredibly strong. I got about 50% signal boost in the attic compared to the set-top Terk HDTVa indoor antenna.
The great thing about the Channel Master 4221HD is that while it is a directional antenna, it has a wide enough range that it can pick up all my city’s channels (UHF and VHF) without being rotated.
Yes, I could have put the antenna on the roof and enjoyed an even stronger signal—one layer of asphalt shingles reduce TV signal by 50%—the signal I get is strong enough. And no need to rotate the antenna. My TiVo happily records shows over the air and they are ready to watch at my convenience. For free.
Please know that your situation is most likely different than mine. You should first try to drop cable through the walls of your house—not alongside the furnace flue. If you do happen to snake cable down alongside the flue, make sure you buy plenum 75-ohm RG6 coax.