How to Install an HD Antenna to Get Free Television

We are going to tell you a little secret when it comes to installing an HD antenna: there is no HD antenna. An “HD antenna” or “HDTV antenna” is a marketing term intended to make you believe that one antenna is better than another, that it is “high definition” or something like that. But the simple fact is that an antenna is an antenna is an antenna.

The other simple fact is that a wireless antenna is a great way to watch your local broadcast channels for free. It’s great as a backup if your streaming or cable service goes down, or it’s a great way to just watch the things you want to see all the time without paying a penny – outside of upfront hardware costs.

Installing an OTA antenna is a relatively simple task, although there is a bit of homework to do first. But otherwise, it’s as easy as screwing up a few things and searching for channels.

How to install an aerial antenna

Before you rush out and buy an antenna, you need to do a little research. And then you have to make some decisions. This will affect what type of antenna you get and where you put it, both of which can determine what (and how many) channels you can get for free.

This is what you will need to find out:

Step 1: Determine what you are connecting the antenna to.

Step 2: Find out where (and how) to mount the antenna.

Step 3: Purchase an antenna and connect it.

Step 4: Search channels.

First, a little homework

This is what you will need to find out:

  • Are you connecting the antenna to a television? Or an external tuner? Is it near a window, or better yet, somewhere where a coaxial cable can run through the wall to the outside of your house? And if you’re going to use a tuner, you may need a little home networking knowledge.
  • In which direction should the antenna be oriented? Unlike what you are used to with your cell phone, television transmission tends to be more directional, so we will have to find where the transmissions are coming from.
  • Are we mounting the antenna indoors? Or outside? The basic rule of thumb is that outdoors and higher is always better than indoors and lower. The idea is that you want the antenna to have as clear a view of the sky and the radio signal as possible.

Let’s take a look at what all of that means.

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TV or tuner?

One of the last steps in this process is actually one of the first things you should think about. Eventually the antenna you buy will have to be plugged into something. That could be your TV, which will work just fine. But that could be a bit limiting. The television will need to be located in a part of the house that is easily accessible with the antenna cable, and that is not always a done deal.

And connecting an antenna directly to the TV means that no other TV you own will not be able to share the signal. We can do better.

That’s where digital tuners come in. These are products like HDHomeRun and Tablo, which take the signal from the antenna and share it over your home network so that virtually any device can play the free broadcast channels. We are talking about televisions, phones, tablets, whatever. And some of these products include digital video recorders so you can record those free streaming shows.

Tuner boxes often have more than one tuner inside them, which is great because that will allow different devices (be it your TV or tablet or whatever) to watch a different show at the same time. Two tuners? Two shows. Three tuners? Watch two shows live on two devices while recording a third. You get the idea.

Either way, you will need an antenna. We’ll get to that in a second.

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Find your closest towers

Where you live matters a lot when choosing and mounting an antenna. You should have an idea of ​​how far the transmission towers are and in what direction they are from your home.

Fortunately, there is the internet for that, with handy maps that will show you all the broadcast channels in your area, the location and most importantly the direction of your antennas.

One of those res is from the Federal Communications Commission itself. Just enter your zip code (it’s close enough for our purposes) and then click on the broadcast channel you want to explore. It will show you the relative location and direction of the antenna. If the transmission is coming from the west, you will want your antenna to face west. East for this, etc.

Another option is from, which does the same thing but looks a bit different. They all use the same data.

Another thing to pay attention to here is how far away the towers are that you are concerned about. You will find that the antennas will include marketing such as “Over 50 miles!” to give you an idea of ​​how far you can get a signal. All of that is quite unscientific. On the other hand, if you know that your closest tower is 100 miles away, a 50-mile antenna might not be enough.

fcc towers map

Inside or outside?

This part is easy – if possible, you want to mount your antenna outdoors and as high as possible. The idea is that you want to have as few obstructions as possible between your antenna and the signal. That includes things like walls, pipes, and wiring that live inside.

If you are riding outside, try riding above the roof line; a fireplace can do the trick. Or you can mount from the ceiling. Or you can use a freestanding mast and not attach it to your house at all. There are countless options here, just use the one that’s right for your situation.

If the outdoors is not an option, consider a window-mounted antenna. Again, the higher the better. And you will still want to have the antenna pointed in the direction of the towers.

Get an antenna and connect everything

Now that you’ve figured out where to put your antenna, it’s time to buy one. This part can be a bit overwhelming, as there are a ridiculous number of antennas for sale at all sorts of prices.

The bad news is that it is a bit complicated. The basic rule of thumb for antennas is that bigger is better and more range is better than not. (That’s not always true, and it’s possible to be too big or too close to the streaming , but that’s something else for another day.) Get the biggest and best you can within your budget. For what it’s worth, I’ve been using ClearStream Fusion for years outdoors with no problems. And it’s almost a no-brainer at a asking price of $ 50.

For an indoor antenna, try something that will stick to the window, if possible.

Once you’ve mounted your antenna wherever you’re going to mount it, it’s time to hook it all up. That is also relatively straightforward.

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Step 1: Connect one end of the coaxial cable to the antenna.

Step 2: Connect the other end of the antenna to the amplifier, which was probably included with the antenna.

Step 3: Connect the amplifier to the TV or tuner.

Search channels

Once everything is connected, you have one last step to complete. Whether you’ve connected directly to a TV or some kind of tuner, you’ll need to scan for channels. That is what allows the device you are using to actually display the channels as well as the channel lists.

And you may want to search channels more than once. If you don’t see the channels that you are sure should be available, try moving the antenna and then scanning again. There’s some trial and error here, and the patience can pay off.

Note that this is independent of any type of menu information. Those kinds of things are separate and depending on the device you’re using, it may require some sort of subscription, as well as an internet connection.

Bottom line: installing a wireless antenna is relatively easy, it’s just that there are a ton of variables at play.

It is best to be outdoors. Higher is better than lower. And you want the antenna to face the towers. You’ll have to balance all of that with the actual connection of the coaxial cable to the TV or tuner.

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