Over-the-Air HD out in BFE
So we live out in Middle-of-nowhere, Indiana. When we first moved here, there was an old UHF antenna up on the roof, facing north, with some ladder-wire to a connection in the kitchen. We hooked a TV up to it (this was back in the VHF/UHF NTSC days) and on crystal clear days, everything was still snowy.
So we pretty well wrote off ever getting TV on it, particularly when the digital revolution happened. If we could barely see what was on analog TV, we reasoned that digital would be unwatchable.
We paid for DirecTV for a few years, but lately the ~$80 a month just started to seem like a waste for what we actually watched. We started paying for Netflix streaming, which is handy but doesn’t always have something good. Sometimes you just want to veg out in front of the TV and watch whatever’s on.
So I started reading up about digital and what it’d take to receive it. We’re about 60mi south of Fort Wayne, in the middle of nowhere… so naturally the signal will be a little degraded by the time it gets here. The advantage is that all the channels are within about a degree of each other at this distance – and with the exception of a mild hill of a quarry (which actually sits below us) there’s zero obstructions between us and Fort Wayne – it’s almost entirely flat.
The antenna was leaning at an angle, which I learned with TVs can really affect signals – apparently if you orient the antenna horizontally (which would be “vertically” as far as the antenna’s concerned, because TV signals in the USA are horizontally polarized), you will get zero signal. So one could naturally assume if the antenna’s leaning 30 degrees, you’ve got 90⁄30 or 33% signal loss (I think I have that right).
So I climbed the forty foot ladder and used some angle iron and some hose clamps to fix the mast. I took the ladder wire and cut a portion of it off and fed it into Trevor’s bedroom, because he’s the only one with an HD-capable TV. I plugged it in, started the channel search and waited. A few minutes later, it’d picked up 19 channels!
Almost all of them come in flawlessly too – a few of them break up, and to be fair it is a perfectly clear day out, we’ll have to see how it behaves when the weather goes to hell. I sat and watched Dr Phil and some soap operas for a few minutes to see if any of the main channels would break up… they didn’t.
I still have to orient the antenna correctly – as I understand it it needs to be pointed approximately 12 degrees from north, and unless our house is oriented that same way, it’s not – it’s perfectly inline with the side of the house. I could aim it by signal strength, but Trevor’s TV doesn’t have a strength meter.
I’m going to run RG-6 to a splitter, then to the several rooms that the DirecTV was into – because of the cable losses we’ll probably want a masthead amplifier as well, but that can come later. I also need to pick up a few converter boxes – kinda wish we’d done it when they were subsidized by the federal government. :(