Question: New to OTA TV and would like advice please

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
Hello everyone. I am new to this forum and do not see a place for a newbie to introduce oneself. I have not used an antenna on a TV since the late 80s. Well times have changed and the simple fact is that money is dictating this choice in a nutshell. My wife and I are trying to cut back on expenses such as TV and cell phone. The other main factor is that we are college students trying to make a better life for our family and watching a lot of TV is just not practical . We have a smart TV with Netflix and Amazon Prime so we are spending less that $15 a month for "on demand" TV. The goal now is to have OTA TV so we have it when we want it for local news, Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, etc.
My issues are as follows:
we live in an apartment on the first floor
we live in the mountains
my flat panel RCA amplified antenna is just not working. If the antenna is placed on the TV stand it picks up nothing. If I hang it on the wall behind the TV it picks up nothing. If I tape it to the aluminum window frame in the livingroom it picks up about 10 stations some of which work fine while others have digital bitter. Heck it will not pick up the local ABC station at all which is the closest to us. So, I am here to get educated on where to start and what to do to get quality OTA TV without spending a fortune to do it.

What is your primary objective (check the line applicable) :
I want as many as I can reasonably get

Main Assembly:
What kind of Terrestrial Antenna do you presently have:
(Make/Model/None): RCA branded flat amplified HDTV antenna bought from Big Lots

Is the Antenna to be/or installed:
Same room as my tv. Must be indoor as I live in an apartment.

If inside (same room) on which floor is the antenna?
First floor corner apartment

If in Attic, Roof or outside separate Mast/Pole:
How high above ground is your Antenna installed/proposed:
Indoor

Do you have an Antenna Rotator:
No

Are you presently using a preamp?
No

Interior:
How many linear Cable feet is it between your Antenna and the most far TV:
25 feet

How many TV sets will be/are presently being used, on this system:
1

How many Splitters are in use in your system:
None

Are you using a Distribution Amplifier:
Built in amp connected to the antenna


Additional Information:
Are you/do you plan to integrate Cable or Satellite Services with this system:
No

Is there anything else you would like to provide concerning construction, obstructions or geographical issues?
I gave up Direct tv to save money. I live in an apartment in the mountains and can not have an outdoor antenna.

Do you have a current Chart for the Free Local TV Channels in your Area?
http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29&q=id=46ae67491025f3
 
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#2
Which direction do your window(s) face? Looks like ABC is directly to the west so antenna should be placed in a window that faces West, if possible.

WSET-TV (Digital)

Channel: 13 (13.1)
Network: ABC
Maximum ERP: 28.700 kW
Coordinates: 37.315140 -79.634757

WSET-TV
Effective ERP: 28.700 kW
Distance: 23.4 miles Azimuth: 263 degrees Compass: 272 degree

details for ABC station: TV Fool
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#3
Your PBS station is on low-VHF (real channel 3), and your ABC station is on high-VHF (real channel 13). Both stations will probably need a physically larger antenna than the RCA flat panel. The low VHF station needs an antenna with long dipoles (like 83 or more inches), the high VHF station would benefit from a dipole in the 29" range. A rabbitear loop antenna such as a RCA ANT111/112 in a west facing window may work better than the flat panel. I would also suggest a Winegard Freevision FV-HD30 if you can afford it.

A TVfool report that is resolved to your actual location would help us help you more.

Thanks,
 

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#4
Thank you very much for the help. I am new to all of this and I am trying to follow the forum rules and search before I post. Here is the tvfool report that I get when I enter my address, city, state,a nd zip.I also do own the RCA ANT111/112 listed above. I connected it to the TV and it did nothing when the TV was scanning for channels. Now the antenna at the time was near the TV and not placed in the north-ish facing window in the living room. I will try that and see what happens.


TV Fool
 
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dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#5
You may want to try using the "maps" option on TV Fool. Based on the TVfool you have given us, you may have a difficult time without a western facing window. Let us know how the RCA ANT111/112 works in the window.
 

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#6
Maybe this will help as well. I do not have a compass but these pics were taken today at 5:50pm. Maybe this will help you see what I am dealing with here.

this is from my livingroom window where the TV is:


bedroom window


outside looking at the livingroom window where the TV is


Does any of this help?
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#7
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s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#8
I have another newbie question. I see that some DIY folks are claiming to make their own antennas for cheap out of coat hangers, screws, washers, and wood. Do these rather inexpensive antenna work? If so would this be a better option than say a $50-$100 store bought indoor antenna? It seems that I have both VHF and UHF channels that are around according to TVFool. What are your thoughts on these home made antennas? I am less concerned about how the antenna looks and more concerned with getting quality OTA TV from within my apartment without spending a ton of money. :)
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#9
The antennas that I use are DIY. You can see them here. The dipole-loop antenna may work well for you, if you can mount it outside one of your windows. You can build it out of an "ice maker" copper tubing kit and the PVC parts. But a Winegard Freevision FV-HD30 could work just as well.
 
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KrissB

DTVUSA Member
#10
I have another newbie question. I see that some DIY folks are claiming to make their own antennas for cheap out of coat hangers, screws, washers, and wood. Do these rather inexpensive antenna work? If so would this be a better option than say a $50-$100 store bought indoor antenna? It seems that I have both VHF and UHF channels that are around according to TVFool. What are your thoughts on these home made antennas? I am less concerned about how the antenna looks and more concerned with getting quality OTA TV from within my apartment without spending a ton of money. :)
I was going to chime in on this, but you have a lot of VHF channels, so my current knowledge that I've seen in action is not much help for VHF. I have made a dipole setup with "Coat-Hangers" I use different frequency setups. In my album here on this site you can see some of them. Mostly they are for testing, to learn, etc.. Currently I'm using a triangle dipole setup using mesh in the open area's. >< kind of looks like that, but the open area's are filled with wire mesh so I can use it outside, and it won't sail away with the wind :p ! To test if it will work is really simple I made a similar setup with coat hanger like wire, that isn't coated (like coat-hangers are) and wrapped them with foil. I've had tremendous luck with simple dipoles like so - - but stacked 3 high 6 or 7 inches long. 6 Inches is cut for a majority of the channels I wish to get. Yet, I'm switching it up to try something new :D (Bigger is better thought). I posted the story's for each antenna in the pics (hopefully it's able to be read.) You could even eyeball the Winegard Antenna that was suggested, and try to make such an antenna. I think the horizontal bars in the back are just the reflector (use aluminum foil strips), you can even use waded up aluminum foil for the folded triangle (I think that's the VHF elements). Similar waded up aluminum for the 4 elements that are either Directors, or UHF elements. Now to wire them, I'm not sure how to wire the VHF side, but the UHF you would connect the top and bottom on the left together, and the same with the right side. I'm guessing that antenna would be a 300-ohm antenna? I'm shooting on a limb here, hopefully someone else can fill in some blanks here or correct my crazy thoughts!

I have used waded up aluminum foil as an antenna, and even used the same pre-amp you have for your RCA panel. It is able to be disconnected via the coax cable right? Also, you can use that to save your TV jack if you change antenna's a lot. Instead of breaking the one on your TV. Dipoles can be wired right to a cut Coax cable, 1 pole is wired to the shielded wire, the 2nd pole is wired to the center stiffer single wire (or vice versa if that matters).

I hope I haven't confused you more! I'm guessing you have read up on some of the antenna's I was checking out. If you want prettier test tools, you can buy some aluminum cooking pans (I seen some with holes that may survive a few days outside lol) at the dollar tree. Foam board, or a new piece of cheap art work with a wire coming out of it might conceal the ugliest of all monster antenna's. I also have a few extra unusable curtain rods (they are conductive metal). There is a mass of things you can use once you get an idea in your head, you'll be thinking crazy things when you see normal things at the store if you get the antenna bug like I did! lol I'm taking my Cable box back next week and cutting down to only Internet, and we'll split that line to get the basic channels (that could be another option to save a bit of money if you aren't too crafty or just don't have the time to spend on it (or to get by until you find that crafted solution)!

I'm into this OTA (Over the air) antenna thing to help others, I could see this attempt being confusing, I apologize for that!

Hopefully you will find a good solution soon.

Best of Luck,
KrissB
 

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#11
Thanks for the help on this. I am new to all of this. I have basic hand tools but do not know how to solder nor have tons of geeky electronics experience. I am the guy looking to save money, do not mind doing it myself if it is beginner level, and simply want it to work. I am not the guy that is willing to spend 3 hours trying to increase the signal to my TV for one station by 1DB just because I can. :) I saw this DIY antenna, the question is....is this too good to be true?
Digital TV Coat-Hanger Antenna | MAKE
http://www.current.org/wp-content/themes/current/archive-site/ptv/ptv0821make.pdf

If I can make my own antenna for an inexpensive price rather than pay $100 for a store bought unit....I am ok with that. Would this coat hanger antenna only work for UHF? Would I need to antennas to get both VHF and UHF? If so, how do I feed the output from two antennas in to my TV?

UPDATE:

As I was asked to do above, I placed my RCA ANT111 in my living room window of my apartment and did a scan for channels. Reception is better than with the RCA flat panel antenna that I was using. Now I did this about 90 min a go and I did receive more stations. The TV said they were all digital however a few of them were simply the HD and SD versions of the same station. I am now getting the VHF local ABC station which I was not getting before, but I have lost MeTV. ION TV which is higher up in the UHF band is still fading in and out. Overall however I am getting more channels with the antenna change. Should I still pursue making a DIY antenna like the one listed above in the links I gave?
 
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#12
The antenna in the plans you made reference to would be of little to no benefit in your situation and would probably be a step backwards from the RCA ANT111. You could try experimenting with a reflector slightly larger than the uhf loop placed behind it about 4" if you can find a practical convenient way to hold it. Dollar store cooling racks, or cardboard covered with aluminum foil comes to mind. This might bring back missing uhf channels. The right size and placement of reflector to receive all channel could be tricky it might work first try, but could turn into nothing but a frustrating exercise. The rabbit ear voodoo dance. You've gotten some good advice here, and are making good progress. Good luck with your project.
Steve
 
#13
s1mp, you see those LOS's in the Path column in your TVFool report? That stands for Line-Of-Sight. The top nine stations, in terms of signal quality, are all line of sight to you, and 8 of those are to the west. In other words, with even a half decent antenna pointed west with no major obstacles, you'll have quite a spectacular lineup with close to twenty channels and subchannels, Line of sight is everything for you.

If those windows in the picture are on the north side, it looks like the trees are fairly sparse on the west side. Are there no windows on west side? (Find somebody with a compass!) If not, does your apt. reach to the west wall? I would try, at least, getting your antenna as close to the west wall as possible. (Maybe you can put your TV on a cart and wheel it close enough??) There might be a signal burrowing right though the wall -- you won't know til you've tried.

A better antenna could help, but the best antenna in the world isn't going to pull anything through aluminum siding, and the worst antenna might work if you can find the "sweet spot."

Personal opinion: see if you can find a sweet spot first. Then if reception is marginal, look at buying a better antenna, based on advice from this forum. I wouldn't mess with a DIY project. You sound like a busy man with college and the wife. You wouldn't expect your very first antenna to work better than the RCA jobber, would you? Typically DIY antennas become a religion to folks, and they wind up building 2 .. 4 ... 7 before they get something they're happy with. Takes a lot of time, and can easily wind up costing more than the $40 to $60 you'll spend on a great commercial antenna.

The trick is getting the right antenna facing in the right direction with as few obstacles as possible. And you have all the expertise in the world on this forum to make that happen, if at all possible. Just takes a little patience. :cheers:

Rick
 

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#14
Alright, I did a bit more looking into this antenna stuff. :) I do not own a compass but by using Google Maps I see that my living room window is facing NE and both bedroom windows are facing NW. The bulk of my OTA broadcasts are coming from the west and are line of site. So now what do I do? :) I looked at the FCC laws that are linked above and I do not have a patio, desk, balcony, etc. All I have is brick around my aluminum window frames. I wonder if I could (without causing an issue with the apartment) clamp an antenna outside my daughters window to the brick which would give me an outside antenna on my NW wall? Would using my RCA ANT111 placed in a NW facing window and then running a long run of coax from the bedroom to the living room be a decent idea? Would I be fighting a bad fight due to the long cable run thus loss of signal?
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#15
Alright

Would I be fighting a bad fight due to the long cable run thus loss of signal?
Don't worry about low signal strengths with digital TV. Clean low signal levels always trump high level 'noisy' signals. Clean 'vapors' can be deciphered by a good tuner but confused signals at any signal level are worthless.

Use black-jacketed RG-6 which is preferred to old RG-59.

Jim
 
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#16
I do not own a compass but by using Google Maps I see that my living room window is facing NE and both bedroom windows are facing NW.
NW has to be a heckovalot better than NE!


The bulk of my OTA broadcasts are coming from the west and are line of site. So now what do I do?
I guess it depends on how close to the west corner of your building the window is. You want the signal to actually reach the antenna.

All I have is brick around my aluminum window frames.
Signal will have a big problem getting around brick or aluminum, either one.

I wonder if I could (without causing an issue with the apartment) clamp an antenna outside my daughters window to the brick which would give me an outside antenna on my NW wall?
Probably depends on your landlord, and the aesthetics of the antenna maybe?

Would using my RCA ANT111 placed in a NW facing window and then running a long run of coax from the bedroom to the living room be a decent idea?
The ANT 111 is a little loop/rabbit ear indoor antenna, right? It's not going to last long outside, and I doubt it'll work inside surrounded by brick and aluminum. The fact that you got anything from the NE window shows you have a strong signal bouncing off of something. What about the SW wall? Is that brick also?

Would I be fighting a bad fight due to the long cable run thus loss of signal?
Like Fringe said, any loss from a cable run will be very, very minor compared to asking the signal to tunnel through BRICK!

Rick
 

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#17
I spoke with the apartment staff while paying the rent today. I was told that if I have a balcony or patio (which I do not) then yes I could place an outside antenna out there on a stand or a clamp as long as it does not modify the building or structure in any way. I was also told that you can clamp a plant box outside of a window as long as it does not modify the building. If you can mount a plant box, why not an antenna? :) My wife and I have not been feeling well...a cold I think, so I have not done much as it relates to figuring out how to use a small outdoor antenna on a NW facing window to help pull in the stations from the west. I am starting to see that there is a lot involved in getting OTA TV to work right. What I can tune it at say 11am I may not be able to get at 8PM. I am trying to figure out TV fool and also trying to learn more about OTA TV in simple terms without the geeky technical margin (for now until I "get it"). I am learning that you not only have VHF and UHF, but those are also broken down in to lower and upper. I am learning that what the TV says is the channel may not be what the channels is actually being broadcast on. My PBS station says it is 15.1, so I thought it was UHF. Nope, it is real number 3, so it is low VHF. I have not been able to obtain PBS yet....which I want for my 5 year old daughter for the children's programming. :) Heck, I grew up on Sesame Street and I turned out ok....I think. :) The different types and models of OTA antennas is a bit confusing, but I will get it. Trying to figure all this out is fun and frustrating at the same time. My wife was watching CSI last night and all was ok until someone stood near the steps to smoke. Where the person was in relation to the antenna was about ten feet away. The signal started breaking up. When they went away the show was fine again. :) Thanks for all the help with this.
 
#18
Hey, s1mp, I think you're catchin on! :thumb:

If you can mount a plant box, why not an antenna? :)
That's what I say!! Wait ... I'm getting an inspiration ... You really don't need a HUGE antenna, except maybe for PBS RF3. There has to be a way to conceal a loop inside a plant box! In fact, there's these concealable antennas out there I never paid much attention to. Maybe you need a long rod to hold TWO plant boxes out there, one on each end -- make it look real pretty.

I get these crazy ideas from time to time. Probly won't pan out. :flypig:

Rick
 

s1mp13m4n

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#19
I am still trying to work with what I own right now until the budget is there to buy a better antenna. I saw a Clearview 2 at Wally's World. In a nutshell I would be looking at $150 for antenna, coax, and two window cable pass through cables. That amount of money is not in the budget yet. I am planning on taking time tomorrow to get the best out of the RCA ant111 that I do have by playing with placement. My wife is getting frustrated with OTA tv because it just does not work right. I want a happy wifey, help. Lol seriously thought, what I am doing now is not working.
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#20
It is easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission. (Rules are meant to be broken, just don't destroy or damage anything.) If you can mount an appropriately sized antenna outside the apartment and run a cable inside it will be months, if not years, before anyone notices. Winegard Freevision FV-HD30 may not get PBS, but everything else would come in fine.
 

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