Setting up your antenna for free HD TV

By Luke Bouma


Now that you’ve chosen the best antenna for your needs, it is time to set it up. You’re going to need a few things, a ladder, drill, wrench, pliers and some coaxial cable.

However, the most important thing you need is patience; it can be a bit of a game moving the antenna here or there to find the right location with the strongest reception. Make sure you have plenty of time to get the job done right the first time.

Before you begin, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help make your antenna installation a success.

Things you should avoid

Over-the-air TV reception is a lot like radio reception in that where you put your antenna will affect how well it works. What is located around the antenna can also affect how well it works.

There are some obvious things you should avoid when choosing where to mount your outdoor antenna. Power lines are a good example; as great as free over-the-air HDTV is, it’s not worth frying for. Here are a couple of other less life-threatening but still important things to avoid when choosing where to place your antenna.

Metal
Metal will block your antenna’s ability to pick up signals. This problem may seem easy to avoid but you will be surprised at the many sources of metal in your house. One common but little-known source of metal is the chimney. Most modern chimneys have a metal lining that kills reception. While it may seem convenient to hang your antenna near your chimney, you may be advised to get your antenna as far away from it as possible.

Other electronics
Avoid placing your antenna right behind your TV or around other electronics. It may seem logical to hide your antenna behind your TV, but TVs, game systems, streaming boxes, etc. all block over-the-air signals. Some stations will be powerful enough to punch through the interference, but it will make it harder to pick up weaker stations.

If you have one TV that picks up a station well, but another one that can’t pick it up at all, or just gets poor reception, there is probably something blocking the signal from your antenna.

Things you should do

Get high
The most important thing you should always do is place your antenna as high as possible. The higher your antenna is, the more likely it will pick up weaker stations and avoid obstacles that block over-the-air TV signals. Even placing the antenna higher within a room may improve its ability to pick up stations.

Get an amplifier
Amplifiers clean up and boost weak signals. Some are very small and can even draw power from the USB port on your TV. If you are struggling to pick up a station, a more powerful amplifier will help matters greatly.

Some people can get over-the-air TV with just a paper clip for an antenna. That’s not most people, though. Most of us need an amplifier to help their big antenna make sense of the signals.

A word on splitting the signal
If you plan on connecting multiple TVs to one antenna, a powered, amplified splitter will help to make sure the signal stays strong to all your TVs.

Conclusion

If we had to pick just one thing to reiterate, it’d be the “stay away from power lines” thing. Seriously: Metal ladders + high voltage AC current + metal antennas + human beings does not a happy equation make.

With that in mind, it’s a simple idea: Give your over-the-air antenna every advantage you can: Get it as high up as possible and keep it away from things that could confuse it. Things like sheet metal and electronic devices. If you can, get an amplifier to boost weaker signals into something your TV can understand.

Remember that there may not be such a thing as the “perfect” location for your antenna. After you’ve gotten some general aiming advice from TVFool.com, it’s a matter of place, test, repeat until you’re happy. It may take a few more trips up the ladder to fine-tune than you’d like, but take solace in the fact that soon, you’ll be pulling in TV in glorious HD that’s beautifully free.

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