OTA HDTV Reception Q&A

Updates on the DTV transition and how to receive over-the-air digital television for free.

Location: Richmond, IL, United States

Hello there! I created this blog to share the information about over-the-air HDTV reception you have been wearily searching the Web or calling technical lines for, whether you have decided for less expensive means to get your favorite TV shows, or still adjusting from the over the air broadcast DTV transition that occurred on June 12, 2009. After working for a leading antenna manufacturer for almost 5 years, during which time I've shared my expertise with those who asked on the phone and by email at work, I decided to do the same in the Blogosphere! Confused about getting your local HD channels? Just click through the archives, some of the most useful information is in the early posts from 2005-06. If you want to get in touch with me with antenna related questions, just leave a comment anywhere on this site.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hello and welcome to my message board. This is where I will share the tricks in receiving digital and HDTV over the air with an antenna. HDTV is here and is now on the verge of taking off based on market research. While only about 5% of US households are watching HDTV, it is bound to grow over the next several years, and with a lot of new ways to be informed and entertained, there are choices and alternatives. While cable and satellite can provide ESPNHD and exciting HD original programming, you CAN get broadcast network HDTV offering local and big sporting events, most prime time shows, and concert events with the right antenna, if you can, for free! These days the right antenna will pay for itself in terms of saving the cost of getting local channels in HD from cable or satellite.

You can take a peek at my profile -- for about the past four years I've been working at Winegard Company, a manufacturer of off-air TV antennas and satellite dishes for home and RV. During this time I've learned a lot about off-air reception, the tricks and trials, the pros and cons, and most of all, getting HDTV with an antenna. There is a lot of confusion out there, like where it is transmitting, why am I getting zero signal when I am so close to the transmitter, which antenna is right for me, like the SquareShooter, SharpShooter, Silver Sensor, ChannelMaster 4228, or can my current antenna get HD (WHICH IT CAN!!!)?

OK I selfishly dropped these names since these are popular antennas that people may do a Google search on, possibly leading you to this stop on the information superhighway -- I am a bit of a sneak and a wise guy, consider yourself warned!!

Since this is my welcome post I am expecting no comments at this time, next time I will open things up with comments and a bit of myth-busting. But I do invite those of you painfully browsing for a simple answer to visit a site to see your capablility of getting local HDTV. It is http://www.checkhd.com/ and all you need is your zip code to get you going. After getting going you will see what HD shows AND special multicast programs are available off-air in your area! Then click on the "Antenna Guide" link, sponsored by Winegard Company, to check your coverage. The strength is listed based on strongest to weakest on a color map (from strong to weak it is --- yellow, green, light green, red, blue, and violet). The popular HDTV antennas that have been topics of discussion on other blogs I mentioned may be able to receive DTV signals up to red, possibly blue with a preamp or signal booster with a low noise figure (NF of 4.5 dB or lower). Violet ones may need a larger antenna, and if there are only a couple stations listed (or none at all), you are probably in a very weak coverage area, possibly in a low valley surrounded by hills that can block off-air signal reception (cable and satellite may fare better for you unless you are willing to try a monster antenna on a tower).

The CheckHD antenna guide will also tell you the directions the off-air signals are coming in from. You also need to pay attention to the "Frequency Assignment" column on the far right of the results page, because that is the ACTUAL channel the DTV programming is transmitting on (for instance WLS in Chicago is ABC 7, and you can watch it in HD by tuning in 7-1 on a working DTV tuner, but the signal is ACTUALLY transmitting on channel 52). So, if all the frequency assignments are 14 and higher, then a UHF antenna is all you need. BUT, there is a catch -- when analog eventually shuts down (Congress is presently debating a December 2008 hard shutdown date), some channels in VHF (7-13 for the most part) in the US are intending to return to that analog frequency assignment for exclusive digital broadcasting. So in most areas an antenna tuned to channels 7 and higher may do the job now and in the long run.

There is a map on the antenna selector -- entering your complete address will give more accurate results as some neighborhoods in a single zip code have better coverage than others. If you are concerned about giving your address over a Web site, just try the zip code and click on the map until your reach your neighborhood -- the covergae prediction WILL UPDATE automatically, and your home address will not be visible on the Web page.

So hopefully this will get you rolling, and once you see my next post feel free to share the issues, I will also hook you up for more information on getting answers, too. I think I am going to appreciate having a Wi-Fi enabled laptop and PDA!!! To find the answers you are seeking, begin by clicking the "Archives" links on the left end of this Web page.