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  TV Setup - Local TV using an antenna

If you have a VHF physical channel (7 through 13) in your area, do not purchase any antenna unless the box specifies that it is designed to capture both VHF and UHF bands, and the store has a decent return policy.

Several times a year viewers receiving their TV programs over-the-air should enter their TV set program menu and rescan their TV set channels to locate any new channel movement and any new TV channels in your market. Each TV set has a different rescan configuration so check your TV set manual. If you no longer have the manual, you can perform an internet search for most manuals by entering your TV set brand and model number and add the word manual.  Some newer TV set occasionally self-scan, and you may find a new station in your set's  TV channel grid; However, I have found it better to manually scan occasionally, so the station name / network and program guides can be renewed, too.


There is no such thing as a digital TV antenna or a HD TV antenna. The antenna on top of the homes of your parents and grandparents would work just fine today. An antenna collects broadcast transmissions that are sent on a frequency where the antenna radials were cut to match that frequency. The antenna does not peek at the signal. It just passes the electrons on to whatever is at the other end of the coax cable. In our case it will be your TV set. The TV set has the job of putting all the pieces back together to make a picture with sound.


Assuming the antenna was designed properly, an antenna with more radials will provide a stronger TV signal than an antenna with fewer than four. This will be noticeable when the TV towers are farther away, the terrain is hilly, tall buildings are littered between your TV and the broadcast towers, or the sky is cluttered with rain or snow. For this reason, I find that towers located further than forty miles from your TV set might experience additional screen dropout (pixilation) occasionally that would be uncomfortable to watch without a good antenna.


If using an indoor TV antenna, the acceptable TV viewing range would likely be less than a twenty-mile tower range during rainstorms and more. TV antennas do not like to be indoors. The UHF (14 - 51) frequencies TV signals travel on, do not easily penetrate metal, wood, or other dense objects. Try and keep the front of your antenna as far away from an object as you can.


Outside on the ground, the antenna will work best when placed on a pole where the bottom of the antenna is at least three feet from the ground or the length of the longest radial if over three feet, and the pole is mounted in an open area away from bushes and trees. If you just must be technical about this, all antennas should be aimed upwards at a forty-five-degree angle.


Sometimes a seemingly perfect antenna location is far away from the TV set(s). The best location is on top the home, or in a clear area on the same side of the house as most of the TV broadcast towers in your city. 


However there is an exception to this rule. All coax cables produce some signal loss. The longer the cable run, the weaker the signal to the TV. Try to make the coax cable run less than one-hundred feet. While we can compensate for long runs with a pre-amplifier on the antenna, it would be great if you do not have to add components that may cause maintenance down the road. Look for antenna mounting locations under one hundred feet from the first TV set in your home. Most retail stores such as Walmart, Target, Home Deport, Lowes and more sell RG 6 coax in lengths of 6ft; 10ft; 25ft ; 50ft; and 100 feet.   It is best to use one cable for the main run to the TV set (or TV / DVR splitter). In other words, do not use two 50 foot cables connected together for a 100 foot cable run. Every connection weakens the TV signal sent to your TV.

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When purchasing an antenna, take note if the antenna is amplified. Try to avoid amplified antennas if possible; However, it is not always possible, depending upon your location. What you are looking for in the advertisement and on the box, is the signal capture distance for the antenna without an amplifier. Often a built-in antenna amplifier cannot be removed from the circuit. So, when the amplifier loses power or dies, so does your antenna.  If needed, you can always add a good amplifier later to an antenna that does not have one built in.


Avoid antennas where the coax is permanently connected to the antenna. Mostly likely the cable is not long enough and adding additional cable adds additional connectors.  Each connector in the coax line decreases signal strength; Not to mention that when you change antennas, you will also have to rerun a new coax line at least part way.

I do have to give in a bit here. In the field, I have seen some $40 small antennas with a built in amplifier work pretty well, and bring in a better signal than I had expected. Just understand, ultimately, the amplifier will die and you'll need to replace the antenna and any permanently attached coax.


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