Over-The-Air Antenna What Do I need? What Can I get?
So, you’ve decided to use a TV antenna to get free over-the-air broadcast TV legally for free. Smart move!
The advantages to this are that you get all of your tv shows in 1080p for free after the initial cost of a TV antenna and any other equipment that might be needed, such as cable and amplifiers. The price of the antenna varies based on what kind of antenna you need. If you live fairly close to the TV broadcast towers you can probably get away with an indoor antenna costing less than $50. On the other hand, if you live further away you would need a more powerful antenna that might have to be mounted outdoors. Add in an amplifier and the mounting hardware and you’re looking at spending at most around $200. After the initial cost, there are NO monthly charges. Everything is free and legal.
The big question is if you can get a TV signal where you live! If you can, exactly what channels are available and what kind of antenna will I need to bring them in?
You might be thinking that you can go to your local discount store, get a cheap antenna, hook it up and get good reception right away. Unless you live within a few miles of the broadcast tower with no major obstacles between you, you will probably be disappointed. Don’t be discouraged!
The first antenna that I put up failed miserably! I bought a Mohu Leaf when they first came out from a local store. The Mohu Leaf is a GREAT antenna. IF you live within 30 miles of the broadcast towers! Unfortunately, I live about 60 miles away. Needless to say, I didn’t get any stations at all and returned the antenna the next day. I wondered why a store so far away would sell an antenna that couldn’t possibly work in the area. I still wonder, since to this day I still see antennas in the local stores that couldn’t possibly pick up anything in the area! Buying an antenna from your local store is a great way to cut the cord, just be sure to do your homework and know what you are buying. Here is where you can go to find what stations are in your area and what kind of antenna it will take to get them.
This is THE go to site for a lot of cord-cutters, including me.
Pros: TONS of good info. Great learning tool. Forum posts are very helpful. Color coded.
Cons: Can get very technical. Channel listings do not include sub-channels. Does not give any specific antenna recommendations.
Input your ZIP code and Antenna’s Direct Antenna Selector tool will provide you with antennas, the antenna range, how many channels it might pick up, as well as a channel list.
Pros: Easy to use. Color-coded. Complete list of channels, including sub-channels. Great customer service. Live chat with knowledgeable people if you have any questions.
Cons: The selector tool sometimes does not provide the exact antenna needed, so be sure to compare similar antennas to the one it advises. While it provides a complete list of what channels are in your area, that does NOT mean that you will get every one of those channels.
Channel Master has been making TV antennas since 1949. Their Antenna Selection Guide also has an easy to follow video on how to use it to select the right antenna.
Pros: Easy to use. Instructional video. Informative. Color-coded. While the channel list is not as complete as Antenna’s Direct, it might be more realistic as to what you can expect to receive. Includes all sub-channels.
Cons: Does not give specific antenna recommendations, only what type of antenna is needed.
Winegard is another big name in the antenna industry. They have been making TV antennas since 1948. Along with their antenna selection tool, they have a free guide that is available to download.
Pros: Gives specific antenna advice on what could work in your area. Has an antenna selection guide available for download. Has a live chat feature if you need help.
Cons: Channel list is not as complete as Antenna’s Direct or Channel Master’s. Does not include sub-channels. Be cautious of their antenna advice. I live almost 60 miles from the broadcast towers, but some of their recommendations only had a range of thirty miles.
The Solid Signal antenna suggestion tool is different from the others. In fact, it’s not even a tool. Just call a toll-free number or type in some information and an actual human will talk or e-mail you and suggest what antenna would best fit your needs. They even have a tool that tells you what antennas have recently been installed in your area.
Pros: Communication is with an actual person! Their antenna recommendations are good. Antenna help available through a simple form on the web or a toll-free phone call. Even more help can be found in their forums.
Cons: The channel list to know what is available in your area is good, but buried in their web site. Look on their Cord Cutting By City page.
As I’ve said before, Mohu makes great antennas. Unfortunately, when it first came out it only had a range of about 30 miles. Since then, Mohu has expanded its product line to offer various models that offer a longer range. Type in your ZIP code or your entire address (address will give better results) and Mohu’s site will show you how many channels each of their antenna models could receive in your area.
Pros: Super simple to use. Complete channel list (after clicking “view channels”).
Cons: No live support.
The FCC’s reception map will give you what is available in your area and uses a color code to tell you the signal strength.
Pros: Color-coded channel listing. Has a link to antenna and reception tips.
Cons: No antenna recommendations. Does not include sub-channels.
Some people swear by this site. I just swear at it! At my location, Antennaweb.org consistently doesn’t show all stations or channels available. Typing in my ZIP code, the site claimed I would only get 1 station. I tried my full address and it claimed I would only get 4 stations, 11 channels. In reality, I get more than that. Much more.
Pros: Easy to use – Just type in your ZIP code or address.
Cons: Not accurate. No antenna recommendations.
Joe Goes Old-school
For our example we’ll say that Joe decides that he doesn’t really need to watch Game of Thrones or Walking Dead when they are broadcast. He decides he can wait until the season DVD comes out. Besides, he’s such a fan of the shows that he buys all the seasons DVD’s anyway. He also decides to ditch the Amazon Prime and Netflix accounts. He gets all his TV programming using an antenna.
Unfortunately, Joe lives about 70 miles away from the TV broadcast towers. He decides to splurge and gets the most expensive amplified antenna he can find and spends about $150. He spends $35 on a tripod to mount the antenna on his roof and about $15 on coax cable. He has spent approximately $200 ($150+$35+$15). His first year he will save $1,220 ($1,420-$200). Every year after that he will save $1,420.
Obviously, your circumstances will be different from our example cord-cutter. What won’t be different are the steps to take to see what kind of signals are in your area and what kind of antenna you need to bring them in. Simply go to one of the sites listed above, or several if you like. Why not? Just like the over-the-air TV signals they are all free!