Question: question re: 1950s rooftop antenna

terry

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#1
Newbie here, so I don't know if I'm posting in the right place -but I came across this forum while trying to find a way to ditch paid tv by getting an antenna. I've tried searching the forum for this topic, but didn't find anything - please forgive my ignorance, as I know nothing about HDTV and the new technology. Here's my situation. I live in a modest suburban neighborhood on Long Island, in NY. My home is a single story 1950s brick ranch with an attic crawl space. The house is ringed on three sides by cedar trees. I have a chimney that has the original 1950s era antenna still mounted to it. Years ago, (before everything went digital) we actually used this antenna by attaching a coaxial single-pin fitting to the flat antenna wire that ran into our basement from outside, and we then ran that up to our analog tv. (Forgive me if I'm using the wrong terminology - I hope I'm explaining this clearly). We did get basic free networks that way, but eventually switched over to a cable box and got rid of the indoor antenna line. Fast-forward ten years, and we just got an internet-enabled smart HDTV. I REALLY want to get rid of our cable box, as most of the channels are useless, and I hate having to use two remotes ...but I understand that I'll need to use an antenna of some type in order to view regular network tv. So, my question is (and again, I apologize for my cluelessness), is there any way that the gigantic old 1950s antenna that still sits on my roof can be used for this? Or does the fact that everything is digital now make it completely obsolete? And if I can't use the old antenna, can someone recommend what I should use? And will it require a power source/electrical outlet or something? I did do the tvfool report - here's the link:

TV Fool

Can anyone guide me as to what my options are? A friend gave me one of those little square RCA digital antennas for indoor use, but when we attached it to the coaxial input on the tv and changed the input on the tv to "antenna", it didn't do a darned thing, so I'm assuming I need something with more power installed outside. My husband says that our old antenna is about 22 ft off the ground, but we do have those cedar trees all around us (about 35 feet high). The good news is that the one side we DON'T have the cedars on faces southwest - sort of towards NYC, which I'm guessing is the direction we should face the antenna. If someone could take a minute to offer some input/guidance as to what we should buy, and which way the antenna should face for the best reception, I'd be so grateful. Money is really tight right now, so if I could ditch cable, it would be really great. Thanks in advance for any help! I kinda miss when I was a kid and all we had to do was tweak the rabbit ears.......:bunny:
 
#2
:welcome: terry. You're in the right place.

You should be able to use that old antenna! You might need to patch it up some and upgrade the cables. A lot can happen in ten years.

It seems like you should get SOMEthing from that square RCA antenna. You changed the TV input to "TV" but did you do a channel scan? It's in the menu setup somewhere on the TV. Try to get the RCA near a west facing window and do a channel scan. Should get SOMEthing! Let us know how that turns out, and we can go from there.

You have one strong PBS station coming from the southwest, but there are 6 or 7 stations almost exactly west by compass heading. Would the Cedar trees get in the way of those stations, you think? Might pay to find one of those old fashioned compasses. If the old antenna worked before the digital changeover, there's an excellent chance you can get even better results today.

Rick
 

Jim5506

DTVUSA Member
#3
Your closest station is a PBS station about 7.5 miles away, but after that it jumps to over 20 miles and NYC is about 34 miles, so an outdoor antenna will definitely be needed.

That old antenna might work but probably poorly, especially since many channels have changed from VHF to UHF - NYC has 3 VHF stations left 7, 11 and 13 and to your northeast there is a channel 10 out of the New Haven, Ct. area.

Either direction you'll need both VHF and UHF reception because the ABC station in both directions is VHF.

Now, antennas - the best solution is to use seperate UHF and VHF antennas because combo antennas compromise both signals to combine them on one wire, so for UHF that would be either a 4 bay cat whisker antenna or a medium size UHF yagi and combine it with a VHF yagi lilke the antennas direct YA10-7-13 with a UHF/VHF signal joiner (UVSJ).

Alternatively use a combo antenna like the Winegard HD7694.

If you mount the antenna on top of the house you can get it up above the 35 ft tall trees with a telescoping tower and a guy wire system.

There is of course going to be an initial investment, but you will soon get payback after you go several months with no cable bill.

Another idea is to look at your neighbors houses and see if any of them have cut the cord with cable/pay TV and see which antenna they use and how well they are satisfied with it. (look for shiny new looking antennas, not the old rusty weather worn relics of the past.)
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#4
:welcome: Terry,

Thanks for providing you antenna reception report but since an antenna height above ground level was not specified, it is based at 5 feet.

You have a fantastic report and it should improve at or above rooftop level with an outdoor antenna.

Is there any chance you could post some photos of your old antenna here? Thanks in advance,

Jim
 

terry

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#5
Wow, you guys are AWESOME! I really appreciate the responses...Fringe Reception, I will try to post a pic of our antenna tomorrow....and Rickideemus, the ONLY area that we don't have cedar trees in the way IS the area facing southwest, so maybe I'll get lucky. I didn't think to try a channel scan - I didn't realize you had to do that anytime you changed the source of reception. I think I'll give that a try tomorrow, and I'll report back afterwards. As for checking out my neighbors houses, Jim5506, I have to be honest, people around here seem to adore cable, and are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on all the bells and whistles our cable provider brainwashes people into thinking they need...but I will scout around and see what other people may or may not have, just to be sure. And again, a very big thank you to everyone who posted - I'm feeling hopeful!
 
#7
I didn't think to try a channel scan - I didn't realize you had to do that anytime you changed the source of reception. I think I'll give that a try tomorrow, and I'll report back afterwards.
Yes, without a channel scan you are guaranteed to get exactly what you did - zip. :flypig:

Please start with the RCA, just for testing to start. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Jim5506, you seem to be assuming the old 50's antenna was never upgraded. That would be pretty unusual. He did say people were using it 10 years ago. Heck, I remember watching channel 48 back when I was wee lad of 30 -- we're talking '82? Really, just about everybody had UHF by the mid 80's. At least in my neck of the woods, between two big cities.

You've got a good tvfool report, terry, but that doesn't account for those big cedars towering above your roof. So I'd go one step at a time.

Rick
 
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terry

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#8
Hello again - As suggested, I gave the small RCA indoor antenna a try, reset the input on my HDTV, and scanned the channels. The only channel that even registered was a local station here on L.I., and although there was reception, the picture was chopped up into horizontal blocks, and kept cutting out. I tried adding channels (following the manufacturer's instructions for my HDTV) and nothing worked, so i guess the small RCA antenna is a no-go. So, the next step is to consider tweaking the old outdoor antenna. It was already here when we moved in 18 years ago (house was built in 1957) and I have no idea if the antenna was ever modified or updated. I know the only thing we did years ago was attach that coaxial fitting. I also realized when I was taking pics this morning that, during the spring and summer at least, we have lots of leafy trees on the SW side of the house, and that ALL the trees here are taller than the height of the current old antenna. The pics hopefully give you an idea of the way the antenna is situated on the house, and approximate height of the trees. I also included a pic of the junction box (not sure what it's called) in the basement that has the wiring. And for the record, I was facing Northeast when taking the pics.
So, can anybody tell me please, does it still look like we might be able to use this old antenna? And if so, do we just have to do what we did years ago - attach a single pin coaxial fitting to the flat brown antenna wire? You'll note from the pic that the box allows for two tv lines, but for some reason we cut the "2nd set" line years ago. My husband is pretty handy, though, so I'm sure he can patch whatever needs tweaking...but if anyone thinks that is pointless and we should just get something new, we'll do that instead. Oh, and a quick drive around the neighborhood revealed that nobody has antennas, old OR new...a few satellite dishes, but that's about it. Once again, I really appreciate all the help and advice! Ant1.jpg Ant2.jpg Ant3.jpg Ant4.jpg
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#9
Well, your antenna is both a UHF and VHF antenna. I'd guess 1960's or 1970's vintage. The back elements with the one badly bent element are reflectors (not electrically active). As you pointed out above the box in the basement is a splitter which reduces the signal by 1/2. That 300 ohm cable is a lot heavier than the typical "Radio Shack" 300 ohm cable, but I notice there are no "set offs" where it comes down the antenna mast. I would recommend replacing the cable with good quality black RG6 (Quad shield if possible) coax (but see my electrical warning below). The old 300 ohm will have a lot of loss especially without any "set offs". If you still have a coax ran to the basement it may be worth hooking it up and trying to see what happens. Connect it directly to the 300 ohm without the splitter. The old antenna may work perfectly well, but new antennas are cheap.

Also, note that the antenna is mounted right next to the electrical input for the house. While that is nice for grounding it's extremely dangerous to work on. If it were to fall into the lines while you were working on it you (or your husband) could easily get electrocuted. 240 Volt service isn't something to be messed with.

With the above in mind I'd start with trying to hook the coax to the 300 ohm in the basement. If that fails, start thinking about replacing or revitalizing the old antenna, but not with live power just below it. If the power can be turned off away from the house that would be best (may require a call to the power company). Then I'd relocate the antenna to a location away from the overhead power connection.
 
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terry

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#10
hey, thanks for the reply - I should have realized that the box in the basement was a splitter. And wow, you kind of scared me a bit with what you said about how close the antenna is to the house electrical input. I know nothing about electrical (other than it's dangerous and best left to pros), but no one ever mentioned that we had to be concerned about that...not even when we had the house inspected by an engineer before we bought it. I will definitely take your warnings into consideration with whatever we do next. First I think we'll try what you suggested - hooking the main 300 ohm line up without the splitter and see where that takes us. Sorry, I don't know what set-offs are, but given the risks involved in playing around with the antenna so close to the house electric, I doubt we'll tackle fixing it up or updating it. I'd rather just opt for a new antenna if we can't make it work from the basement. My husband probably won't have time to tackle this until over the weekend, but I'll cross my fingers and hope your suggestion works. Thanks for the help!
 

dkreichen1968

Moderator
Staff member
#11
I guess they're actually called "stand offs." (Standoffs with Insulators 4-Pack : Antenna Standoffs | RadioShack.com) They are designed to isolate twin lead from metal objects (masts, gutters, etc.) that can drain off signal. Modern coax is shielded and therefore doesn't need them.

Unfortunately people often don't think about TV antennas and electrical lines until it's too late. Obviously the previous owners didn't and the inspector probably just missed it, or didn't think about it since "no one watches over the air tv anymore." It's one of those things, as long as it never touches the lines you're okay, but one wrong move and Zap!!!
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#12
Terry,

I agree with the above, your antenna dates from around (possibly as early as) 1964 to 1970-ish, based on the bowtie used as the driven element on the UHF section. It is a small Periodic VHF antenna combined with a small UHF section. Probably quite adequate at your location in the 1960s.

The flat downlead cable was available (at least here) from Radio Shack up until about 1985. I never used it and I always replaced it whenever I came across it. You should too.

Use RG-6 coaxial cable which is available in 50, 75 or 100 foot lengths complete with factory installed fittings that you can buy at your local Home Base or Lowe's. If possible, stay away from Radio Shack Coax and buy BLACK jacketed coax, not colored coax because black will withstand UV radiation (the Sun) far better.

The splitter dates back to at least the mid 1960s (probably earlier) and it looks like those manufactured by Jerrold a good quality outfit back then. However, the odds are it was never designed to pass UHF channels and it is probably very lossy at those frequencies. Secondly, it has a plastic case which in high signal level areas like yours, allows signal ingress (it can receive signals as if it was its own antenna) so that's another reason to put it in a museum. A modern replacement costs under five bucks.

Back to the antenna: it needs to be taken down and rebuilt or it should be replaced. My nature would be to rebuild it (I like to restore old things) but there are better antennas currently available that are cheap to buy. I hope this helps.

Jim
 
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terry

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#13
Oh heck, now I'm confused again....but I really do appreciate all this input - hope I'm not driving you all nuts with my waffling... F.R., I totally understand the whole "restoring old things" concept. We nursed a 1957 caloric wall oven and range top for the last 17 years, and only replaced them with a new oven when the bottom fell out of the wall oven and was a fire hazard. I collect old telephones, own a Victrola, and am currently trying to find a way to rig up my old 1980s boombox to act as a receiver for a turntable for my 45/33/78 collection. We drive our cars into the ground, and do our own home improvements any chance we can. But just the thought of someone trying to disassemble that thing to rebuild it and not falling off the roof or getting electrocuted in the process is daunting, to say the least. Based on what you and dk said in your last posts, FR, I'm really leaning towards just getting a new antenna...if I can figure out who to call/what to do to get the old one removed first. If only I wasn't such a fan of NCIS, I wouldn't need to bother with network tv at all... again, Thanks to all who are trying to help, and I'll report back after mulling this over for a bit....
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#14
Oh heck, now I'm confused again....but I really do appreciate all this input - If only I wasn't such a fan of NCIS, I wouldn't need to bother with network tv at all... again, Thanks to all who are trying to help, and I'll report back after mulling this over for a bit....
Terry,

There is SO much more than NCIS available to you, FREE over the air, with a proper antenna setup and in your location it's almost a gimmie.

I understand your confusion and I suggest you update the whole works but be careful when removing the antenna and mast: I noticed from your photos whoever installed the chimney bracket 'wraps' didn't bother to square-up (make horizontal) the lower wrap, so it may suddenly become loose when you remove it.

Chimney wraps work great and you can install a new one, but I would strongly consider locating it on the opposite side of the chimney, thus eliminating the closeness to the power lines.

Jim
 
#15
terry!

Sorry I apparantly gave you a sex change operation without asking first. :eyes:

You didn't say where you put the square RCA antenna. It's very important you try it in a west facing window. Remember we have those trees to worry about. Please don't neglect the fact many of those stations you want are straight magnetic west, which is different from geographic west. Unless you use a compass, I don't know how we can know whether the trees will be in the way, and at 35 feet they might pose a problem.

I'm talking about using a small, inexpensive antenna as a kind of meter, to see whether spending money on a new antenna is a good gamble, and also to see which way a roof antenna should point. That's how I built my system. I started with a cheap little indoor antenna and moved it all around til I found the best spot. Then I slowly bought more stuff until I wound up with a pretty good indoor system.

Bear in mind, I don't have nearly the experience of some of these other boys. I just got into antennas about six months ago, and some of them have been installing antennas for 30 years or more. They just let me hang here so they have someone to kick around when they feel like it. :sniff:

But I like to go slow, cause I know how many little things us newbies can screw up along the way. For instance, you say you'd rather buy a new antenna than mess with the power line hazard. But did you consider that once you get a new antenna up there, you're going to want to pull down the old one anyway? As long as it's up there, it's an accident waiting to happen, right? And will you be able to locate a new antenna such that there's no similar risk whatsoever?

It definitely makes sense to try and wire up that old antenna with 75 ohm coax. You're going to need one of these:
Push-on antenna matching transformer balun 300/75 ohm TV F cable adapter | eBay

But if that doesn't work, and the little RCA gets absolutely nothing, then I begin to worry a new antenna might be a bad investment. UNLESS there's something wrong with the old antenna and something wrong with the RCA jobber. Which is possible. Which is why I say one ... step ... at ... a ... time.

Nice pictures, BTW!

Rick

p.s. OK, I wrote the above before seeing Fringe's comments. Bear in mind the combined experience of Fringe and dkr is probly about 1000 times yours truly.
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#16
terry!

... You're going to need one of these:
Push-on antenna matching transformer balun 300/75 ohm TV F cable adapter | eBay ... Nice pictures, BTW! ...

Rick

p.s. OK, I wrote the above before seeing Fringe's comments. Bear in mind the combined experience of Fringe and dkr is probly about 1000 times yours truly.
YIKES! Back to the 1980s!

Rick, that works but unless Terry insists on buying 1980s technology it is totally obsolete. If she wants to buy one of those twin-lead to coax adapters, I'll send her one free for the mailing cost but it isn't worth even the cost of mailing it!

Everyone reading this, please give up the "modern" 1980s twin-lead for any antenna setup. If you want to receive FREE OTA it might cost you the equilivant of a few Latte's at your local coffee shop, but those missed coffee drinks will get you FREE TV for many years.

Update to modern RG-6 Coaxial cable and either FACTORY installed fittings or fittings installed using proper tools: I cannot count how many 'home-done' coax fittings that were either dead, leaky or shorted I have replaced over the years.

Yeah, Rad Shack offered some parts back then but zero coaching nor education about how "the garden hose carrying your TV Channels" (coax) actually had to be setup to be able to work. Carp fittings in the 60s-90s. I guess the teenager behind the counter didn't know what he was talking about. DUH!

Jim
 
#17
Rick, that works but unless Terry insists on buying 1980s technology it is totally obsolete. If she wants to buy one of those twin-lead to coax adapters, I'll send her one free for the mailing cost but it isn't worth even the cost of mailing it!
I just thought that was what dkr meant by this:
dkreichen1968 said:
I'd start with trying to hook the coax to the 300 ohm in the basement.
Isn't it worth $3.50 to avoid going up on the roof if possible at this early stage? Just saying IF possible.

Yes? No? Maybe? ;)

Is this better?
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Weatherproo...n-300-75-ohm-TV-F-cable-adapter-/130741906765

[edit] OK, I guess that second one (or any of a dozen similar on solidsignal.com) is more appropriate if you're going to switch to quad shielded RG6 in the basement and run that up to the TV. The more RG6, the less two lead flat wire, the better.

R.
 
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terry

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#19
Wow, I'm trying to keep up with all this info, but it's like being in a foreign country and trying to speak the language, lol... Rickideemus, no worries on the mistaken gender reference, it happens to me online alot :) And to be honest, I'm like you - anytime I am trying out something where I'm a newbie, I do the trial-and-error babystep approach, so please know your suggestions are just as helpful to me as those of the more experienced posters (aka "the 30 year guys"!). I did play with the RCA antenna, and it just didn't want to work. I suspect it's because we have so many trees around. My friend had used it in a tall apartment building, and got better, but still spotty, reception. And we actually had used one of those push-on adapter things on the flat wire when we hooked up the old antenna 10+ years ago, and I'm sure it's still laying around someplace. I guess you can tell I'm pretty leery about anyone getting on the roof, even if it is a one-story ranch. It's not the money I'm concerned about, it's just the safety factor. We're on a corner and have at least 5 different lines coming in to the house that pass right by the antenna... I don't want anyone up there who doesn't know what they are doing. If it weren't for the darned electrical lines being so close.... F.R. and nbound, I do appreciate that you're suggesting a more efficient, modern approach, but knowing how my husband and i have done these things in the past, I'm sure he's going to want to try the "basement" approach first, then move on to your suggestions. And by the way, given THIS house, we'd be moving FORWARD to the 1980s, not back....- but I'm fine with moving in 20 year increments lol, if only to learn what will and won't work.

THAT said, I'm hoping Fringe Reception can help me understand a bit more about the "factory installed fittings" and "proper tools" aspect? Because what you guys take for common knowledge, I'm in the dark about. So I still have some confusion/questions, if you haven't all completely thrown up your hands and walked away by now, lol - I'm really sorry I'm so dense, but I've never even SEEN an antenna up close, and have no idea how to do the various things you are suggesting, OTHER than the push-on adapter idea from inside the house.

1. the suggestion to use coaxial only- do you mean that it gets wired directly to the old antenna somehow, in place of the flat (two-lead?) wire that comes into the house now, and then run through the house and connected to the tv? Is that easy to do, and if so, are there any detailed instructions someplace on HOW to do it?

2. What would be "factory installed fittings"? You mean the coaxial that comes with the pin connector already on it? What if we have the coaxial cable, but it needs a new pin (F-type?) fitting, we shouldn't bother doing that as it won't carry the signal as well? If we DID want to do it, what are the "proper tools"?

3. Is repairing this antenna from the roof still dangerous if we turn the main power off to the house? I'm assuming it would be, because the main power line coming in from the pole on the corner isn't that far from the antenna.

4. The "Chimney bracket wraps"...are they commonly used? And are there other, preferred ways to mount an antenna, like a pole or something?

5. If we have a few lengths of 25 ft. coaxial laying around, can we use some sort of connectors (not splitters) to make the line longer, without diminishing potential reception of the signal?

Lastly, if we chicken out altogether, and I want to hire a pro to do the UNINSTALL of the old antenna, and the INSTALL of a new one what kind of pro do I call? An old-time TV guy? Electrician? Or does everyone just have to do it themselves?

I promise, I won't pester you guys too much longer. We'll make a decision this weekend on what to do next. I really appreciate your patience, and thanks again!
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#20
Terry,

Great TVfool report. You should be able to get lots of channels, and you'll only have to invest some time and less than the cost of a month's cable. Maybe even less than the cost of a month of BASIC cable.

I'd keep the antenna, and lose everything between the antenna and your TV. Invest in a good balun (aka 2 wire to coax adapter) and enough rg6 cable to run a whole new cable right to your TV. You might even want to just drop the cable direct to a TV (through a window or door) just to try it out before routing it through your house.

If you decide to replace the old antenna (it IS looking a bit worn!), something like a Winegard HD7694P VHF/UHF Antenna would work for you, for only about $55. But you don't have to do that right away, see what the old antenna does for you first.
 

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