Megan: I don't watch much TV but I really want to be able to watch The Office. Since we dropped cable, NBC doesn't come in, though. Can't you fix it?
Tony: Yes. Maybe. I think so. Maybe if I put the antenna on the roof or got a bigger antenna.
Back on Day 2, I dropped cable and got a DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna. To save myself a little money, I decided to make a stand for it out of PVC instead of buying one for $20. The problem was that the antenna didn't pick up NBC very well or PBS at all. I decided to use the existing cable lines to run the antenna's signal from outside into the house. I tried placing the antenna on the roof (no easy feat), but the trees in the 40-acre wood next to our house are tall enough that this didn't improve the strength of the signal at all. (Later, I would figure out that the signal lost along the extra length of cable negated any benefit from being outdoors.)
Going back to Amazon, I decided to buy the DB8 Multidirectional HDTV Antenna. This was essentially four of the DB2 antennas wired together. While it goes for $75 new, I was able to get a used one on Amazon for $35. This antenna worked great indoors when it was close to the TV. Needless to say, Megan was not happy having a giant antenna on a PVC stand in the middle of our living room.
The problem is, placing it outside resulted in a very weak signal. What I needed to do was amplify the signal before sending it along the cable back into the house. I picked up a Motorola Signal Booster Bi-Directional RF Amplifier and tucked it inside the cable weather box just outside this house. This worked perfectly! Some people online had complained that an amplifier had no effect, but I am convinced that they were installing it in the wrong place. Putting the amplifier right next to the antenna, I amplify a strong signal with little noise. If you mistakenly put the amplifier at the end of the long cable line (which would have made it easier to find a power source), you amplify the weak signal and the noise. Fortunately, my cable box was right next to the crawl space entrance, so I could run the power cable through a crack in the door.
I was worried it would be a bit of an eyesore, but it blends in pretty well with the existing "cable company" junk near that spot.
Larger antenna: $35. New amplifier, $35. The little smile I every time I watch a crystal-clear HD show and know that I'm getting it for free: priceless.
Pocket: 6 Planet: 8 Win-win: 21