Free TV

with Step-by-Step Instructions...

In June 2009, a series of legislative events led to the implementation of new digital communications laws.  The public owns digital frequencies, and our federal government administers their use.  In exchange for the free use of the airways, television stations are now required to broadcast their signals in the new digital format to all residents within their reception area.   Cable companies receive these signals, insert their own advertisements, and charge you to receive it in your home.  With a little knowledge, you can receive these same signals in as good or better quality than your cable provider sends them to you. 

Depending upon your viewing area (the location of home relevant to cosmopolitan cities and broadcasting towers), you can receive major networks ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and FOX.  You can also receive independent stations such as WB, myTV, CW, Ion, and Univision.  You will inevitably receive stations that you may not want to watch, such religious programs and infomercial-mania telecasts.  What you won’t find are networks like ESPN and Discovery channel, as they are not local networks. For a quick look at what is available in your area, try to utilize a website equipped with an Easy Signal Locator .  This one I found is run by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Electronics Association.  The image below is an example of the data you instantly receive without cost or registration.  You simply enter your zip code, yes for 30 feet, and hit submit.  This is the easy tool for your information and setup.

 AntennaeWebCredit: StanRoss   

What Equipment Do I Need?

You need an antenna specifically designed to pick up digital over-the-air transmission frequencies in the applicable frequencies.   UHF (14-52),  lowVHF (2-6) (4&5 reassigned), highVHF (7-13)

You need to wire the antenna to the television using a shielded coax cable, an arresting block with ground, and the connections and perseverance to put it all together.

You need a television produced after 2008.  Its ATSC digital tuner will tune in digital frequencies without the squiggly lines associated with yesteryear's over-the-air TV.

Take Me Through It Step-by-Step

You can still mount a giant aluminum behemoth antenna, but it is not necessary.  Today’s antennas are sized to meet your needs.  Purchase an antenna based on the band of the channels you intend to receive, and the distance of the transmission towers from your reception site.  Don't forget to bring a compass for aiming your antenna in the direction of the majority of incoming signals.

For a more data regarding TV Signals and Installation in your area, try and utilize a website with an  In-Depth TV Signal Locator  .   The one I found will give you a vast amount of information suitable for an engineer.  The image below is an example of the report you will receive without cost or registration after entering your zip code and elevation.  Let me help you cut through the numbers using the range of available antennas to correspond to the appropriate colors of the bulls eye.


radar image allCredit: tv fool my data


The Portable Indoor Antenna

flat antennaeCredit: customer image

This antenna is a good choice if you live in a metropolitan location where the stations you want to receive are in your town.  It is highly portable and saves you the trouble of mounting your antenna on top of your roof.  These stations are listed in the darkest green in the very center of the bull’s eye.

reg flatCredit: amazon

Double Ring

sm bullCredit: stan rossclear 2Credit: amazon


I was skeptical when I installed this antenna, as I noted that it was listed at different websites as offering different ranges of reception.  I have a rooftop mount, with scattered obstacles that interfere with line of sight (trees other rooftops), and I am located 42 miles from the transmission towers.   The antenna is rated at 50 miles, and I have very good results.   This antenna also is sized at less than your average satellite mini-dish, and fits within the guidelines for most homeowners’ associations.  This is for the stations listed in the greens and into the yellow in the center half of the bull’s eye.  See my install listed further down the page with the pine trees in the background.



Your local over-the-air broadcast listings are freely available online.

listingCredit: stan ross

The mounting of antenna is just four hex bolts into the facia board.  After completing the wiring, grounding block, and connection, I received 28 channels.  10 channels have content that did not make the channel list.

rooftopCredit: stanrossch 8Credit: stan ross

It looks nice in the ad, but how does it look in real life? Well, here's mine.

Type:  Double Ring

Distance: 42 miles to towers

Cable Run:  approx. 100 ft.

Amplification:  none

Mount:  Supplied Rooftop @ 20 degrees

Reception: Very Good...

ClearStream 2V Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna with Mount - 60 Mile Range
Amazon Price: $119.99 $80.00 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 22, 2016)

Quad Ring

If you are concerned about obstacles in the way, or need a little extra distance, try the double ring.  The double ring should extend your range through the yellow region. You can purchase signal boosters as an add-on, but I prefer to think of these as an aid to length cable installations, because with amplification comes distortion.  It is difficult to know exactly how far these antennas will be effective.  Every installation is different.  Tower transmission power differs.  If you live in an area of the country that has hills and mountains, the signals will be cut in half.  I was disappointed to see different retailers list the range at different intervals.   I would say that with ideal conditions, this unit be good in the fifties. 

quad ringCredit: amazonsm bullCredit: stan ross


Now is the time to determine if FREE TV is for you.  If you fit into any of the following categories, then read on. 

  1. If you watch a minimal amount of TV and just want to stay on top of the news, weekly dramas and comedies, and weekend sports
  2. If you get the majority of your content from another source(see my infobarrel article on streaming media players), and just want to supplement those sources with local broadcasts. 
  3. If you travel frequently, and want to pick up broadcasts in different markets.
  4. You just refuse to deal with your cable company any longer and want to cut the cord.
ClearStream 4 Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna - 70 Mile Range
Amazon Price: $149.99 $102.86 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 22, 2016)

Go Big or Go Home

Into the Red and Purple Region–– The purple and red regions may lock you into the larger aluminum multi element antenna of yesterday.  You have the curvature of the earth working against you, so it’s important to get the large, multi-element antennas as high above the ground as possible.   Depending upon the size, you may have to plan for a support structure and guide wires.  People used to mount these in their attics, but this was before the availability of the new smaller rooftop models.  Caution: These can be very large and difficult to install.  If you have 65 plus miles to your target zone, you will have to go big or go home.

big or homeCredit: amazonradar all11Credit: stan ross


Plan Ahead.

Have all the necessary parts and safety equipment available before you start your installation.  Your wire run begins at the antenna outside (presumably).  Make sure the antenna you buy includes the mount, and ensure that you have the mounting hardware.  Purchase a quality shielded coax wire cable in the length you will need to get to your TV.  Try to minimize the number of connections and avoid cheap multi-purpose wire, extra parts that have been in your garage since 1980, and homemade fittings.  Before your coax enters the house, plan to install a Grounding block. 

bloc hereCredit: amazon
Winegard HD8200U Platinum HD VHF/UHF Antenna
Amazon Price: $189.95 $119.99 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 22, 2016)

Wiring - Grounding Block and Attic

The grounding block serves to channel surges of electricity from your coax to a ground that you provide.  From the grounding block, simply run a #10 bare copper wire to a 4 foot spike that you’ve pounded into the soil, your old TV or cable service ground, or your cold water spigot head.   Now feed your coax into the attic or wall in the best way possible.  It is nice if you can utilize your existing coax run that your cable service provider left in place when they were offering services.  These are your property (unless you’re in a condominium) and the cable company will cut them on purpose.  You can normally find the multiway connection splitter in the attic.  Find the house coax that connects to your TV and connect it directly to your incoming signal arriving from the antenna.  Once you’ve established your signal, you can go back and experiment with how splitting the signal affects your performance.

multiphexCredit: stan rosscord in handCredit: stan ross


At your TV - Settings

Once your antenna is mounted and your coax run and connected, it’s time to grab your remote.  Enter the menu function on your television.  Change the option under TV from Cable to Antenna.  Select channel search and sit back and watch. 

search tuneCredit: stanross

The TV will search all the frequencies available, and save those in which it receives a credible signal.  Now you can start to enjoy your TV broadcast in high-definition directly to you.  I think you’ve agree that it looks better than when you were watching it in a compressed form from the cable provider. 


Good luck with your installation!


Have a Pleasant Day!

pleas dayCredit: unrestr use

Sarasota, Florida