I have a useless eyesore sitting above my house. It used to be a television antenna, but it hasn’t picked anything up since the 2009 digital changeover. I’ve decided it is finally time to take it down and replace it with a proper HD antenna. It isn’t simply a matter of going out and buying any old long-range antenna. I have to consider several factors, including the fact that I’m in an isolated rural area almost halfway between Nashville, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama. Then, of course, I have to find the money to pay for the equipment and installation.
I used this online tool to research available broadcast towers, frequencies and signal strengths in my area. I discovered that the Huntsville-based station towers are approximately 15-20 miles closer to my house than the ones in Nashville (45 miles and 55-65 miles, respectively). They also topped the list in signal strength, and they happened to be mostly clustered in a small area that a digital antenna could be fixed upon. All the stations in Huntsville are UHF frequencies, and the few VHF stations in the Nashville area are so far away that they would be outside the useful range of any long-range antenna I could find. I could have opted for a rotor-controlled turning antenna to bring in both Huntsville and Nashville, but I considered the difficulties bringing in the Nashville stations to be not worth the extra outlay and effort. Plus, aiming an antenna for picking up digital signals requires a finer hand than the more forgiving analog signals of old, so I opted for a fixed positioning.
Shopping for Antennas and Accessories
I searched for antennas mainly on Amazon.com, as they contained many helpful reviews and tips from people who had used the products. Many of these reviews were from rural users. I settled on what is called an “8-bay” antenna, which consists of 8 separate bowtie configurations in a relatively compact rectangular setup. This variety is rated for UHF reception of 60 miles, and that is all I need. This 8-bay antenna (a newer HD model) costs $95 on Amazon.com. Its 60 mile advertised UHF range would be more than adequate for picking up the Huntsville stations at which I’ll be aiming. I rejected one that claims a 100-mile range and multidirectional pickup, because its bulk and vulnerable structures were too similar to my current antenna, which suffered the loss of several parts when a fast-growing walnut tree began to impinge on it. Its wide dimensions also meant more likelihood it would stray off-station in the rather strong southern Tennessee winds. The 8-bay is more compact, and the modern ones are constructed of heavier aluminum, as opposed to older models, which would bend easily and ruin reception.
Accessories include a preamplifier to be mounted on the mast and a fresh length of RG6 coaxial cable. These items may or may not be absolutely necessary to replace, so I plan to install the antenna with the old setup (a pre-existing pre-amp and existing coax cable) and then make the determination whether to replace the old with the new. Pre-amp and cable would cost about $93.
The total material cost could be as low as $95 or as high as $188. Installation costs will be minimal, as I have consulted with a local retired TV and antenna service man who told me he would be glad to help me install any antenna I purchased. He has an intimate knowledge of the terrain in my area and knows exactly where to point the antenna. If I can’t engage his services, however, a good compass and the table generated at the site tvfool.com will ensure I can at least get the thing pointed in the right direction. I’m planning to use the same basic method this fellow used.
Saving for My New HD TV Antenna Setup
It’s tax season, and most people would simply tell me to use my tax refund to buy what I need. But this year that wasn’t an option. My entire refund was eaten up by outstanding medical bills and two new sets of tires for our cars. What was left went to pay the outrageous costs of natural gas fuel to get through this cold winter. The expenses didn’t end there.
I am now turning to my alternative sources of funding, namely my small Amazon.com online bookstore and my occasional online yard sale through Ebay.com. I have a credit union savings account I can use to hold any funds from these online sale venues until I need it. An added plus is that it takes a purposeful transfer request and about 5 days to move funds to my primary bank account, so I’ll be less tempted to use my saved funds for something else first. Even with the many expenses I still have, I should be able to save this rather modest amount in no more than 2-3 months.