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What are the Best Tips for Antenna Installation?

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  • Written By: Karen Bernardo
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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As long as there are television sets capable of receiving over-the-air television broadcasts, there are likely to be people who are content to just watch what they can receive for free. Fortunately, with the right combination of television, antenna, and possibly a converter box with a digital tuner, many people who otherwise would get no reception at all can achieve a crystal-clear picture.

Before the actual antenna installation, it's important to determine exactly what equipment will be needed. People who subscribe to cable or satellite service just need a television and the equipment their service provides. Those without cable or dish who own a television manufactured after 2005 – and who live within a clear shot of broadcast towers – may be able to get along with a small set of indoor “rabbit ears.” However, those who don't subscribe to a cable or satellite service and own an older television will definitely need a converter box to change the digital signal broadcast by the television station into an analog one their television can process. If they live in a remote area, a deep valley, or a neighborhood with many tall buildings, they also need a powerful antenna.

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In this situation, online resources are recommended for helping to determine any antenna installation needs. After the would-be television viewer fills in his name, address, and contact information and answers a few simple questions about his surrounding terrain, the online resources calculate the channels the individual should be able to receive at his location, the type of antenna he needs, and the best method of antenna installation. The information is often extremely reliable, as are its recommendations, and if an individual is told he needs a large multi-directional antenna in order to pick up all the available channels in his area, that is exactly what he should buy. One note, however: older television sets don't need high-definition antennas. It won't make the picture any clearer, since the technology used by HDTVs to achieve that sharp picture is not available on an older set.

Once the antenna has been purchased, the task of installing it begins. Many people try to get by with installing the antenna in the attic because it's easier, but an attic antenna only operates at 50% of its potential power. Why buy an expensive antenna and then limit its functionality? If it's possible to mount the antenna outdoors at the high point of the roof, make every effort to do so.

Some antennas are not particularly sensitive to directionality; point them in the general direction of the broadcast towers, and they'll work wonderfully. Others are much less forgiving. There are also online resources that will give advice on precisely where to point the antenna. While the antenna is actually being mounted, it's important for someone to remain inside, watching the television, to make sure the antenna's angle is exactly right.

Weekend warriors mounting a rooftop antenna should be very careful to stay away from power lines. They will also need to be comfortable with heights as well as the use of some rather specialized antenna installation tools, such as drills capable of making a hole in the side of the house or window frame to pass the cable through. Even though the antenna is not “cable TV”, a coaxial cable is required to connect the antenna on the roof to the television in the family room. Because of the inherent danger in these activities, it is always a good idea to work in pairs.

Inside the house, connect the coaxial cable that has been threaded in from the antenna on the roof to either the television set, if it is a newer model with a built-in digital tuner, or to a converter box. If a converter box is used, this will then have to be attached to the television with either RCA cables or a short section of coaxial cable – again, depending on the age of the television set. Converter boxes come with directions on precisely how to do this.

With proper planning and precaution, most viewers will easily handle the challenge of antenna installation, and enjoy over-the-air broadcasting for free.

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