Newbie Wanting Ideas About Antenna Configuration

deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
We gave up cable yesterday, and are now trying to get our ducks in a row for OTA. At the moment, we have nothing in place, which is both good (in that all options are open) and bad (in that we can't watch anything).

Short version: one TV, two TiVos with three tuners (two HD on a Series 3, one analog on a Series 2 and we haven't bought an analog converter box yet), two markets in different enough directions that I think two antennas may be the best solution.

I'm completely out of my depth in designing such a system, so I'm asking for help from antenna geeks. I will likely consult a professional (at least for antenna installation), but I want to be better informed before I do.

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

What kind of Terrestrial Antenna do you presently have:
None. Still researching. There is an antenna on the roof, but the cable between it and the jacks was cut when cable was installed (before we moved in). I'm assuming we'll need a different antenna.

We have two major markets: San Jose (~61-64 degrees from our house) and San Francisco (~310-315 degrees).

San Jose reception is the easier problem -- there's no major obstructions, so we might be able to get by with something indoors.

San Francisco is a major problem: terrain is not in our favor, and the line of sight goes through the neighbor's second story. Additionally, there are both UHF and VHF channels involved that we'd like to view. Given the poor reception we had at our last place (four blocks away) that didn't have specific line-of-site issues, we'll need at least an attic-based antenna, and probably a rooftop one's a better choice.

Is the Antenna to be/or installed:
On top of your TV (same Room), Attic, Rooftop or Pole: _____.


Rooftop (we'll have someone do this for us).

If inside (same room) on which floor is the Viewing Area:
First (one-story house).

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


Somewhere over 15'. How much over, not sure yet.

Do you have an Antenna Rotator:
Given our specific situation, I think a rotator's probably a bad idea.

Are you presently using a Pre-Amplifier:
No.

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

I'm guessing it'll be 30-40 feet.

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

...but...

We are a two-TiVo household.

Because we may be recording shows from multiple markets simultaneously, I think a rotator's a bad idea.

How many Splitters are in use in your system:

None yet.

Number & Qty of outlets for each?

I don't understand this question.

Are you using a Distribution Amplifier:

Not yet, but it sounds like it might be a good idea.

Additional Information:
Are you/do you plan to integrate Cable or Satellite Services with this system:

No.

Do you have a current Chart for the Free Local TV Channels in your Area?

Yes. TVfool link here. I believe the green is optimistic for the San Francisco channels (those with magnetic direction of 310-315). Our prior experience suggests it's a yellow or red proposiiton.
 
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flcs3

DTVUSA Member
#2
deirdre, welcome to the forum, and thanks for providing so much information up front.

... two markets in different enough directions that I think two antennas may be the best solution.
Maybe not. The TVFool shows most of the stations to the NW (324-345° true). The stations to the ENE (75-78° true) are much fewer in number. You will have to make a value judgement on their worth to your household compared with the extra effort and cost to receive them simultaneously with the others. The channels are intermixed such that simple passive combining of two antennas (e.g. using JoinTennas) won't be feasible. Some are using separate tuners (e.g. SiliconDust HDHomeRun) for second and third antennas and then sending the signals over Ethernet to new sets with that capability.

I will likely consult a professional (at least for antenna installation)
That is a very good idea for an outdoor antenna (grounding, masts, building codes, etc.).

There is an antenna on the roof, but the cable between it and the jacks was cut when cable was installed (before we moved in). I'm assuming we'll need a different antenna.
Maybe reattaching coax to the existing antenna will be all that you need, possibly after cleaning all of the antenna's electrical contacts. Can you describe the antenna and its condition? Does it have a view over the neighbor's house toward the SF transmitters (assuming that it is pointed in that direction)? Perhaps a photo?

Do not buy any new RG-59 75-Ohm coax cable. Instead, be sure to get RG-6 (though the more expensive RG-11 sometimes is used for longer runs). Where feasible, it usually is better, as well as easier, to get cable cut to length with factory installed F-connectors.

We have two major markets: San Jose (~61-64 degrees from our house) and San Francisco (~310-315 degrees).
San Jose reception is the easier problem -- there's no major obstructions, so we might be able to get by with something indoors.
TVFool shows LOS to both antenna farms with good NM (noise margin) and power. However, TVFool doesn't account for really local conditions, such as buildings and trees. It is usually good with terrain and topography, but it can be prone to location errors. There is an interactive mapping facility, which you should use to check that it is locating your address correctly. This is not a significant problem in flat areas, like Florida and Kansas, but it can be elsewhere.

San Francisco is a major problem: terrain is not in our favor, and the line of sight goes through the neighbor's second story.
As above, the terrain probably isn't a problem if TVFool is translating your address correctly. The signals are strong, so if the construction or geometry is favorable it might work even through or over the neighbor's second floor. One would have to test to be sure, but it is more likely to be a significant problem. How high is the existing antenna mounted and where is it aimed? If the signals are being diffracted over the neighbor's roof, aiming the antenna upwards slightly towards the roofline sometimes helps (but not nearly as much as raising the antenna for LOS).

Additionally, there are both UHF and VHF channels involved that we'd like to view.
Unless I missed some, 7 and 12 are the only VHF high band channels, and both are in the SF direction. If you use a second antenna for SJ, it could be an UHF-only model. There are many VHF-hi/UHF combo models available these days. A relatively modest one should work for the reported TVFool signals levels, if it can be mounted high enough to avoid attenuation and diffraction by the neighbor's second floor.

Given the poor reception we had at our last place (four blocks away) that didn't have specific line-of-site issues, we'll need at least an attic-based antenna, and probably a rooftop one's a better choice.
What do you know about the construction of your roof and your neighbor's second story? Especially important are any metals (e.g. stucco lathe, radiant and vapor barriers, low-E glass, metal studs, metal roofing, metal ductwork, etc.). Brick and concrete block are not good, but not as bad as metal. How far is the neighbor's second floor? Ultimately, this is too hard to predict accurately, especially because of possible multipath, so a quick test is usually the only way to know. It could save the effort of an outdoor install if it works, but it isn't a reliable option.

We are a two-TiVo household. Because we may be recording shows from multiple markets simultaneously, I think a rotator's a bad idea.
Yup, that would be a major problem. Using the second tuner and Ethernet (or other) redistribution with a second antenna may be the best option.

Are you using a Distribution Amplifier:
Not yet, but it sounds like it might be a good idea.
It very well might be, but if the fan-out and runs are modest, a low-noise preamp and passive splitters may be another option. Personally, I would worry about that after nailing down the antenna situation first.

TVfool link here.
I believe the green is optimistic for the San Francisco channels (those with magnetic direction of 310-315). Our prior experience suggests it's a yellow or red proposiiton.
 

deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#3
deirdre, welcome to the forum, and thanks for providing so much information up front.
Yay for good templates!

Maybe not. The TVFool shows most of the stations to the NW (324-345° true). The stations to the ENE (75-78° true) are much fewer in number. You will have to make a value judgement on their worth to your household compared with the extra effort and cost to receive them simultaneously with the others. The channels are intermixed such that simple passive combining of two antennas (e.g. using JoinTennas) won't be feasible. Some are using separate tuners (e.g. SiliconDust HDHomeRun) for second and third antennas and then sending the signals over Ethernet to new sets with that capability.
Well, much as I would love the low-hanging fruit, I think we'll hold off on San Jose for now.

Maybe reattaching coax to the existing antenna will be all that you need, possibly after cleaning all of the antenna's electrical contacts. Can you describe the antenna and its condition? Does it have a view over the neighbor's house toward the SF transmitters (assuming that it is pointed in that direction)? Perhaps a photo?
When I have daylight, I'll get a photo and check out more info. I'm sure it's pointed in the San Francisco direction, but I was told it wasn't working well. Other than that, I have no idea of its vintage.

Do not buy any new RG-59 75-Ohm coax cable. Instead, be sure to get RG-6 (though the more expensive RG-11 sometimes is used for longer runs). Where feasible, it usually is better, as well as easier, to get cable cut to length with factory installed F-connectors.
Thanks!

TVFool shows LOS to both antenna farms with good NM (noise margin) and power. However, TVFool doesn't account for really local conditions, such as buildings and trees. It is usually good with terrain and topography, but it can be prone to location errors. There is an interactive mapping facility, which you should use to check that it is locating your address correctly. This is not a significant problem in flat areas, like Florida and Kansas, but it can be elsewhere.
As above, the terrain probably isn't a problem if TVFool is translating your address correctly. The signals are strong, so if the construction or geometry is favorable it might work even through or over the neighbor's second floor. One would have to test to be sure, but it is more likely to be a significant problem. How high is the existing antenna mounted and where is it aimed? If the signals are being diffracted over the neighbor's roof, aiming the antenna upwards slightly towards the roofline sometimes helps (but not nearly as much as raising the antenna for LOS).[/quote]

This is the crux.

Our street roughly follows the LOS to the towers.

There's our house, which is a one-story.

The neighbor's house is an L-shaped two-story house, approximately 3' higher. The second story is perpendicular to the street, so it blocks our entire array of locations for antennas. It's stucco with an asphalt shingle roof.

The next building is about 1' higher, but is one story, so it's really not an issue as any antenna would be mounted higher than its roofline.

The third neighbor is at the crest of our small hill, probably 5' higher than our house's base, and new construction. It's stucco, so it's got lath wire through it, and it probably also has low-e glass. It also has a tile roof. So that one is probably more problematic for reception than our immediate neighbor.

Once we get past those houses, though, there's nothing between us and the tower; the houses fall off, and nothing else is as high.

This brings me to a question I hadn't previously considered: do people mount antennas on trees? That could be our last resort; we have a redwood tree that's behind the house and behind all the neighbors' houses -- and it's 125 feet tall. We might be able to find a spot for an antenna in there where UHF wasn't interfered with. The squirrels would probably think it was hilarious, though.

Unless I missed some, 7 and 12 are the only VHF high band channels, and both are in the SF direction.
Exactly.

Looking at our season passes on TiVo, here's the channels we actually watch the most of:

KPIX (5.1, SF, UHF)
KBCW (44.1, SF, UHF)
KGO (7.1, SF, VHF)
KTVU (2.1, Oakland, UHF)
KNTV (11.1 San Jose but tower's actually in SF, UHF)
 

flcs3

DTVUSA Member
#4
With your neighbors' houses being only a few feet higher, it should not be difficult to get your antenna higher into "clean air". Once there, something like an AntennaCraft HBU-22 or Winegard HD7694P should be sufficient, though there are a few weaker stations on the TVFool report (e.g. KFTY 32/50.1 Ind) that might warrant a higher gain combo. As always, multipath could be a problem that might require some repositioning or even a more directional antenna.

This brings me to a question I hadn't previously considered: do people mount antennas on trees? That could be our last resort; we have a redwood tree that's behind the house and behind all the neighbors' houses -- and it's 125 feet tall.
I have seen a few pics online, mostly campers but also a couple in rural areas. I suspect that it probably violates some building code or another. Be aware that leaves blowing in the wind can create some signal interference.
 

deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#5
Except the neighbor's house is a whole story AND a few feet higher. I don't think there's a legal way to get the antenna to a useful height, especially not considering our third neighbor's even higher altitude.
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#6
:welcome: Dierdre,

I live in an area with lots of other houses and trees and most of the stations I receive are "blocked" by solid objects, but I still have 30+ channels to watch. Don't be too concerned (yet) about neighboring homes blocking your reception. Regarding mounting your antenna in a tall tree, it can be done but it may not be necessary. For now, lets work from your rooftop.

You wrote you have a one story house and your TVFOOL report is based at 20 feet above ground level. Are you willing to install an antenna higher? A slight change in antenna height be a foot or two can make all the difference.

If necessary, there are telescopic antenna masts available that extend to 20, 30, 40 and 50 feet (actually about 44 feet) that can be collapsed to 10 feet in length, much like an automobile radio antenna mast can be raised or lowered. They can be mounted on the side of a house to allow easy access to antennas when collapsed down. That's what I use.

Here is a link to a tutorial that demonstrates how signals arrive at a receiving antenna and why raising OR lowering your antenna a few feet can help reception:
Siting the antenna

Jim
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#7
Except the neighbor's house is a whole story AND a few feet higher. I don't think there's a legal way to get the antenna to a useful height, especially not considering our third neighbor's even higher altitude.
You should not have much of a problem with "legality" until you approach 20-30 feet over the rooftop. And as long as your neighbors houses aren't stucco, you should be able to shoot through them.
 

deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#8
Jim, that's an awesome link and it really helps me visualize what's going on with the waveforms.

MrPogi, sadly, stucco is the local preferred building material, and one of the two houses in the way is stucco. I always liked stucco before....

Also, joke's on me. I'd forgotten the old antenna was taken down before we moved in 4 years ago. So I really am starting fresh. I've done some searching on review sites and have picked a local guy to look at it.
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#9
Stucco is bad because of the wire mesh that's laid on before the stucco.

Also, they toof down the antenna - but did they leave the mast?
 

deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#10
Not that I saw. It's probably up there somewhere, though.

My husband thinks the antenna was installed before the second story was added onto the neighbor's house, though, and I think that was around 30-40 years ago.

Here's a gallery of the four houses (ours plus our three uphill neighbors) from Google street view with the address information cropped out. It should show the transitions and relative elevation differences. Despite all the trees in front of our house, there are no trees between the various houses, so that's good.
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#11
Dierdre,

I live on a steep sidehill and one of my antennas is mounted within 5 feet of my (above) neighbors deck and iron patio railing. This is the antenna mast I use to receive most of my channels. Pictured in a Kosmic SuperQuad on a rotor facing west. I currently use a Channel Master 4221 about 5 feet higher and when its facing east (looking thru the building, more neighbors homes and a hillside) I receive 5 channels from that direction. At least for now, I wouldn't be too concerned about your comparatively distant neighbors!

Jim

 
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deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#12
It's possible that we could put the antenna in front of the house behind our trees in front. I walked the front today, and I think there's a couple of possible locations for a pole there. We'd have to disguise it and our neighbors probably won't be ecstatic about it, but they weren't paying our cable bill, either.
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#15
I would just mount your antenna on the highest part of your roof with a 8-10 foot mast. From the pics, it should shoot right over the neighbors houses no problem, and the trees don't look bad in that direction, either. If you put your antenna on the far right of your roof, nobody would ever notice it.

Myself, I don't care if the neighbors like my antenna. To me, it's a statement: I'm not stupid enough to pay for TV!
 
#17
A Winegard 7694 should do well for you mounted 5-10 feet above the roofline.

Analog reception was terrible here with houses, trees & a hill blocking Wash DC only 4 miles away. Multipath/ghosting was a big problem. Digital TV has changed all that & the 7694 did a decent job here, even with the weaker stations from Baltimore (40 miles).
 

deirdre

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#18
Antenna guy came out, and we have all the stations we care about -- and dozens more. :)

Essentially, we got all but one or two of the green stations, including a couple of the San Jose ones, which surprised me.

It turns out that my iPhone's compass wasn't as accurate as I'd feared: the direction just missed the roof of the next house over and went between that roof and a power pole (which would also have been a problem).

I'll write up some more this weekend.
 
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