The only essential component necessary to direct the free local over-the-air signals to
the TV is an antenna. The most basic system would consist of an antenna and a connecting
cable. A single antenna would suffice in a close-in urban area located near the transmitting
towers, while outlying viewers might benefit by adding an amplifier to boost the signal.
The two main considerations in selecting the free channels option for TV are antenna design and
Although most existing antennas are acceptable for both
the earlier analog signals as well as digital signals, outlying viewers can benefit from certain
newer designs intended to optimize the reception of the digital channels at their assigned frequencies.
The atmosphere is in constant flux, and the antenna needs to be large enough to maintain adequate
signal strength in all weather conditions.
Most of the local broadcasters have moved their signal to a higher frequency, mostly up in the UHF band.
There are no longer any allocated channels from two(2) through six(6). Upper VHF channels from seven(7) to thirteen(13)
are less common, although many markets still have at least one or two useful channels licensed in this upper VHF range.
This re-assignment of broadcast frequencies has necessitated the design of a more optimal antenna.
With no need to receive channels two through six, antennas can be much more narrow, as the widest elements
have been removed. Although it may be tempting to install a large, narrow UHF-only antenna, many markets still
have a need for the upper VHF reception, necessitating the relatively narrow combination UHF and upper-VHF design.
Some antennas have a coaxial 75-ohm connection while many others still use the legacy 300-ohm connection,
which is essentially just two connecting points on the antenna.
The best example of a deep-fringe antenna designed for reception at 65 miles is the Winegard HD7698P.
After assembly, this antenna is 14 feet in length, 53" wide, with height of 33." It weighs 17 pounds
and ships in a narrow carton slightly over eight feet in length and only eight inches wide. These larger
models are nearly impossible to locate in walk-in retailers. The packing carton is narrow, but rather lengthy,
making personal transport difficult for many. Delivery of a larger antenna is usually accomplished best by
UPS or FedEx due to the length of the carton.
HD7698P HDTV High Band VHF-UHF Antenna
A good option for many suburban viewers is to install a large antenna in the attic of a house.
If the space is essentially going unused, the owner can estimate the general direction of the
broadcast towers and measure the attic to determine how large an antenna the space can accomodate
when the antenna length is pointed in the appropriate direction.
Wood and shingles can reduce the signal strength by as much as 50%, and a metal roof can reduce signal
strength by as much as 90%, but a large antenna in a suburban attic can produce acceptable results,
especially when boosted by a pre-amp. The attic installation also eliminates any outside concerns such as
high winds or perceptions of neighbors.
The suburban viewer with the attic installation will need to utilize a somewhat larger antenna than mileage
ratings might otherwise indicate, due to the reduced signal strength under the wood and shingles and the need to ensure
reliable, consistent reception. An attic antenna can be installed without weather concerns. The relatively
light aluminum antenna
can simply be centered and balanced on two small wooden supports constructed from any available
pieces of lumber. There are tripod mounts available that grasp a center mast pole, useful for some
situations, but only useful in an attic if the three tripod connections match the building construction.
Tripods with padded feet may not be helpful in many attic situations, requiring a level surface
in order to maintain the antenna in reasonable balance.
Generally speaking, the farther out in the suburbs toward exurbia the viewer
is located, the more external choices the viewer has in positioning the antenna. Larger antennas placed outside may
require tree trimming to ensure that the antenna can be raised (and lowered), without concern for damaging
an element. Outside installations offer the opportunity to consider a wide range of secure mounting options.
Tripods or pole segments attached to
a roof require a very durable method of attachment. It is very easy to underestimate the power of high
winds. The sturdiest option is to join three or four mast segments with overlapping ends, bracing the
mast length at some point to the structure, and placing the base in a small hole in the ground.
Another deep-fringe antenna rated at 60 miles is the Winegard HD7697P. After assembly, it is 11 feet in length,
53" wide, and 26" in height. It weighs 13.5 pounds and ships in a carton slightly over eight feet
long and only eight inches wide.
HD7697P HDTV High Band VHF Antenna
Rated at 55 miles is the Winegard HD7696P, 9.25 feet in length, 36" wide, and 20" in height when assembled.
It weighs 11 pounds and also ships in the same carton over eight feet long and eight inches wide.
HD 7696P High Definition VHF/UHF HD7696 Series Antenna
50 miles is the Winegard HD7695P, 7.5 feet in length, 36" wide and 20" in height. It weighs 9.5 pounds and
ships in the same size carton as others above.
HD-7695P Antenna, 75 ohm, 36 elements
If your TV market has no remaining upper VHF channel assignments, or if you just want to concentrate on
receiving the bulk of channels now within the UHF range, you might consider the Winegard 9095P, a very
antenna designed for substantial gain within that desired frequency spectrum.
HD9095P UHF High-Gain 39-Element HDTV Antenna
Height of the antenna becomes increasingly important as the distance from the broadcasting towers increases.
After several dozen miles, the curvature of the Earth becomes a considerable factor in reducing the tower to
antenna connection, thereby increasing the need for antenna height.