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Old 09-07-2019, 12:32 PM
CoastalMaineiac is offline
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So what have I gotten myself into? (TV antenna installation)


Being sick of paying a monthly bill for TV, I decided to install a TV antenna and started doing some research. The signals do reach my house according to tvfool.com, but they are diffracted twice on the way to me, with noise margins between 15 and 37 dB on the stations I care about receiving. From what I have researched so far, it seems that this should be acceptable with a high gain antenna and pre-amplifier.

The tricky part of this whole setup is that almost all of the antennas that they sell in the major chain stores as "HDTV" antennas are UHF antennas, whereas the channels that broadcast in my area are all on VHF frequencies, including one on the VHF-Lo spectrum, so I ordered what looks like a beast of an antenna from Amazon (Winegard HD8200U).

Has anyone else done this kind of setup and been successful?
What I have ordered so far:
  • The antenna,
  • A 20 dB pre-amplifier made by the same company,
  • An 8-way powered splitter,
  • 75 Ohm terminators for the two splitter ports that won't be used,
  • A 1000-foot box of shielded copper RG6 coaxial cable,
  • Crimping, cutting, and stripping tools for working with the cable,
  • F-Connectors, and
  • A pole and tripod to mount the thing on

Am I missing anything? I figure it's going to be about 20 feet of cable to the splitter, and then anywhere from 10 feet to 50 feet to each TV, as I'm hoping to make the cable runs as neat as possible, although I'm not installing wall jacks. It's going to go on top of my garage roof, and so will be about 20 or 25 feet off the ground with the pole. I figure I can use a compass to figure out how to aim it.
  #2  
Old 09-07-2019, 12:48 PM
guizot is offline
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You must be one of those Blue Hill retro hipsters, right? (Just kidding )

I admire what you're doing, but can't really offer any practical suggestions. Something that always makes me wonder, when I occasionally see one of these antennas on a house, is whether the occupants actually use it, or is it just something that they left up over the years.

My understanding, however, is that if you have one high up, it's an excellent way to get broadcast signals.
  #3  
Old 09-07-2019, 03:13 PM
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"HDTV" is just a marketing term used by antenna manufacturers. All antennas are capable of picking up high definition transmissions, both VHF and UHF. I have a portable TV capable of picking up more than 30 channels with the built in 6" antenna, but I live in the middle of a city.

That said however, you do need an antenna that is properly tuned for your area and height above ground. 25 feet should do it for you. If you can, aim the antenna where most of the transmitters are located. Many stations have their transmitters located in the same area. If they're scattered in different locations, you might want to consider a rotor.
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Old 09-07-2019, 03:15 PM
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Just checking: the stations you want to get are in the same general direction, right?

The height, the cabling, etc. all seem good but with a couple concerns.

Sometimes a pre-amp is too much, esp. when combined with a powered splitter. If you don't get the expected results, try taking it out of the run.

You're getting a 65-mile rated antenna. (And not one of those baloney high-mile cheapo ones.) It will be fairly directional. So this makes the directions of the stations being clustered even more important.
  #5  
Old 09-07-2019, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Just checking: the stations you want to get are in the same general direction, right?

The height, the cabling, etc. all seem good but with a couple concerns.

Sometimes a pre-amp is too much, esp. when combined with a powered splitter. If you don't get the expected results, try taking it out of the run.

You're getting a 65-mile rated antenna. (And not one of those baloney high-mile cheapo ones.) It will be fairly directional. So this makes the directions of the stations being clustered even more important.
yep, this is very important. A "high gain" antenna is kind of a misleading name; they can't create energy out of nothing so what is usually the case is the antenna has much higher sensitivity along one axis than the other. If all of the broadcast sources you want to pick up are in pretty much the same direction away, you'll probably be ok. if not, you may need to add an antenna rotator to the list.
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Old 09-07-2019, 04:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Just checking: the stations you want to get are in the same general direction, right?

The height, the cabling, etc. all seem good but with a couple concerns.

Sometimes a pre-amp is too much, esp. when combined with a powered splitter. If you don't get the expected results, try taking it out of the run.

You're getting a 65-mile rated antenna. (And not one of those baloney high-mile cheapo ones.) It will be fairly directional. So this makes the directions of the stations being clustered even more important.
They are all north-ish from me. The angle between them looks to be less than 60. The transmitters are between 20 and 30 miles away. I opted for the bigger antenna because I don't have line of sight to the towers (two edge diffraction, according to TV Fool.
  #7  
Old 09-07-2019, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by CoastalMaineiac View Post
They are all north-ish from me. The angle between them looks to be less than 60. The transmitters are between 20 and 30 miles away. I opted for the bigger antenna because I don't have line of sight to the towers (two edge diffraction, according to TV Fool.
that antenna apparently has a beam width of 28-63 degrees, so you might be OK once you orient it properly.
  #8  
Old 09-07-2019, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
that antenna apparently has a beam width of 28-63 degrees, so you might be OK once you orient it properly.
That sounds good. I figure I'll start by pointing it directly at the weaker tower, and if the signal from the stronger one is not good enough, make adjustments from there.

Including all the digital sub channels, it looks like I should have about 14 over-the-air channels. I think that should be good enough, but I'm not really the primary TV watcher in the family. So I'm thinking of supplementing it with a Ku-band satellite dish if the others think they need more channels. One thing's for sure, that monthly bill is going away no matter what.
  #9  
Old 09-07-2019, 09:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoastalMaineiac View Post
The tricky part of this whole setup is that almost all of the antennas that they sell in the major chain stores as "HDTV" antennas are UHF antennas, whereas the channels that broadcast in my area are all on VHF frequencies, including one on the VHF-Lo spectrum, so I ordered what looks like a beast of an antenna from Amazon (Winegard HD8200U).
I'm going to start with a very basic question: Are you SURE the stations broadcast on VHF? When U.S. television stations shifted to digital, they adopted something called "virtual mapping" - which meant they kept their old channel number whatever new channel they happened to be moved to.

There are still a few low power VHF stations (and I believe one of them might be in Maine) but only a handful of full-power TV stations still broadcasting in VHF. If you're using a site like Antennaweb.org, look for the RF channel listed under each station.

My second concern is, even with a pre-amplifier, splitting an over-the-air signal six ways is pretty dicey. You'll need to add sets one at a time, and then stop when the signal strength degrades.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 09-07-2019 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 09-07-2019, 09:53 PM
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I Googled a list of TV stations in Maine. Most of the full power ones do broadcast on RF channels 2-13 on VHF.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List...tions_in_Maine
  #11  
Old 09-08-2019, 02:26 PM
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I would just start with an antenna and height to begin. I'm not too far out in the country, but I just put the $20 Amazon antenna special into my attic right above the entrance with ~50' of coax to my TV and I get 50+ channels without aiming the antenna or any other effort (a huge number are repeats or Jesus channels). So I get the 6 of interest with no problems. I would try the easiest method before expanding.
  #12  
Old 09-08-2019, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
"HDTV" is just a marketing term used by antenna manufacturers. All antennas are capable of picking up high definition transmissions,
This is very true.
Quote:
both VHF and UHF.
Unfortunately, antennas designed for UHF and VHF reception are different. VHF signals are lower frequency/longer wave length than UHF signals. To properly receive VHF signals, an antenna needs the long straight elements. Many (most?) antennas marketed as "HD" antennas have only the short or circular elements for UHF reception. In fact, one source I've read says that the cable attached to some of these antennas does more to capture VHF signals than the antenna itself.

This is what the FCC says:
Quote:
To receive DTV signals from all stations in the area, your antenna needs to be able to receive both VHF channels (channels 2-13) and UHF channels (channels 14-51). Some antennas only provide good reception of VHF or UHF channels, but not both. For example, indoor "rabbit ears" usually need to be augmented with an additional "wire loop" or "bowtie" antenna (see images below) in order to pick up signals on UHF channels. Many of the antennas being sold as "HDTV Antennas" perform best at receiving UHF signals, but perform less well receiving VHF channels. Check with retail consultants and consumer websites to make sure that any antenna you choose provides good reception of both VHF and UHF channels.
In fact, many people get frustrated by the lack of VHF reception and think they can fix their problems by buying an antenna with an amplifier. Unfortunately, they buy a UHF-only antenna with a UHF amplifier. The amplifier filters out any incidental VHF signals the antenna might have captured.
  #13  
Old 09-08-2019, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoastalMaineiac View Post

Has anyone else done this kind of setup and been successful?
What I have ordered so far:
  • The antenna,
  • A 20 dB pre-amplifier made by the same company,
  • An 8-way powered splitter,
  • 75 Ohm terminators for the two splitter ports that won't be used,
  • A 1000-foot box of shielded copper RG6 coaxial cable,
  • Crimping, cutting, and stripping tools for working with the cable,
  • F-Connectors, and
  • A pole and tripod to mount the thing on
Be careful that the amplifier and the powered splitter are designed for VHF as well as the antenna.
  #14  
Old 09-08-2019, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
This is very true.


Unfortunately, antennas designed for UHF and VHF reception are different. VHF signals are lower frequency/longer wave length than UHF signals. To properly receive VHF signals, an antenna needs the long straight elements. Many (most?) antennas marketed as "HD" antennas have only the short or circular elements for UHF reception. In fact, one source I've read says that the cable attached to some of these antennas does more to capture VHF signals than the antenna itself.

This is what the FCC says:


In fact, many people get frustrated by the lack of VHF reception and think they can fix their problems by buying an antenna with an amplifier. Unfortunately, they buy a UHF-only antenna with a UHF amplifier. The amplifier filters out any incidental VHF signals the antenna might have captured.
It's true most antennas are optimized for UHF reception. However, in my experience, and again I live right in the middle of a city, I've used one of those flat indoor antennas like the Clear TV antenna and can easily pick up KGUN-TV in Tucson, which broadcasts on its original RF channel 9, as well as all of the UHF channels.
  #15  
Old 09-08-2019, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by CoastalMaineiac View Post
Am I missing anything?
Yes. You need to ground the antenna and cable. Google 'antenna ground NEC 810' to get information on the requirements.
  #16  
Old 09-08-2019, 08:31 PM
CoastalMaineiac is offline
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Originally Posted by Kent Clark View Post
I'm going to start with a very basic question: Are you SURE the stations broadcast on VHF? When U.S. television stations shifted to digital, they adopted something called "virtual mapping" - which meant they kept their old channel number whatever new channel they happened to be moved to.

There are still a few low power VHF stations (and I believe one of them might be in Maine) but only a handful of full-power TV stations still broadcasting in VHF. If you're using a site like Antennaweb.org, look for the RF channel listed under each station.
Yes. A few of the channels do use virtual mapping, but even though the RF channel changed, they merely changed to another VHF frequency. One of the channels (and its corresponding sub-channels) in fact broadcasts on RF channel 2, which is why I wanted to be sure I had an antenna that could pick up the VHF Low band.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kent Clark View Post
My second concern is, even with a pre-amplifier, splitting an over-the-air signal six ways is pretty dicey. You'll need to add sets one at a time, and then stop when the signal strength degrades.
The "splitter" is actually a distribution amplifier (Channel Master CM-3418), so I'm hoping that will make it possible to go six ways. Although two of the TVs (but new enough to have digital tuners) are just old sets that got put in two spare rooms, so wiring them up is strictly optional if the system can't handle it, but I figured if I'm going to be drilling holes and running cables that the whole house might as well get done if possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dag Otto View Post
Yes. You need to ground the antenna and cable. Google 'antenna ground NEC 810' to get information on the requirements.
Great point, and I'm glad you brought it up. It was something I had read about when initially doing my research, but forgot about it when ordering supplies. I just added a coax grounding block, some six gauge copper wire, and grounding clamps to my order.

Last edited by CoastalMaineiac; 09-08-2019 at 08:33 PM.
  #17  
Old 09-26-2019, 01:43 PM
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Success!


All of the equipment slowly trickled in from Amazon, but I have finally gotten everything set up.
All said and done, the cost was just over $616 for the antenna, pre-amplifier, distribution amplifier, mast, tripod, cable, hardware, and the tools. Given that the satellite dish costs almost $100 per month, it will pay for itself in just over half a year. Probably less than that, since they are probably due to try and raise the price again.

I get 13 channels:
  1. NBC,
  2. ION,
  3. Justice,
  4. CBS,
  5. CW,
  6. Decades,
  7. ABC,
  8. FOX,
  9. and four PBS channels

The hardest part of the setup was actually getting the thing onto the roof. It was way too unwieldy to carry up the ladder onto the roof, so I had to enlist some help to get it up there and steady it while I bolted it down. Everything else was pretty simple.
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Old 09-26-2019, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by CoastalMaineiac View Post
. One of the channels (and its corresponding sub-channels) in fact broadcasts on RF channel 2, which is why I wanted to be sure I had an antenna that could pick up the VHF Low band..
Lucky it only goes down to 2 now. The really long reflector at the back of an old VHF TV antenna was to catch channel 0.
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Old 09-27-2019, 12:32 AM
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Have you tried hooking it up to an FM receiver? It should help bring in quite a few radio stations.
  #20  
Old 09-27-2019, 01:34 AM
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Are you using anything for a DVR?
  #21  
Old 09-27-2019, 08:52 AM
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Are you using anything for a DVR?
Not at the moment. That's the next step. Does anyone have any recommendations?
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