Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 37: Giving Up Cable 2: The New Antenna and Amplifier

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 TV and the Cable

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.

HDTV Antenna

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.

Where's the Antenna?

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

I Love Saving Money

1 comment:

  1. HIGH WIND UPDATE: After work today, I discovered that I don't get *any* channels reliably! At first I thought the wind had blown my antenna down or was jostling it. I brought it back indoors but still couldn't get a signal. It turns out the high winds (15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph) blowing the trees in the 40-acre wood next door is likely the problem. I got the following from about the issue:

    Your DTV reception can also be affected by severe weather conditions such as storms and high winds. These reception issues can result from fluctuations in the broadcast signal that can be caused, for example, by moving leaves and branches on trees.