For years I had been playing the cable game. I see a bill, which was larger than my plan’s rate, and I begin to go through the multi-faceted customer service system to try to correct the bill. Each layer of customer service there was an employee eager to tell me how my interpretation of my plan was wrong, and how I could save money by upgrading. These battles would occur each month, I would tell them of my friend’s rate on the same plan, I would threaten to leave, I would even downgrade services from time-to-time. The rate fluctuations, and inaccuracies never stopped.
The change came for me when I sat down and looked at all of my bills. How was it that my entertainment was costing me more than services that I actually needed to live (electricity, gas, etc.). I tried one more final negotiation with my cable provider, which as expected, failed. So, what now? I could run to a competitor, but that was simply a stop-gap. Eventually the friendly introductory rates would disappear, and I would be fighting the same battle all over again. I needed to move in a new direction.
I did some research into over-the-air broadcasts that were provided in my area. If you remember, there was a time when everyone had rabbit ears on their TVs, and were able to tune into local content. In fact, I found out that some content had to be provided free of charge. However, I definitely didn’t want the low quality analog signal of the past. Well it turns out that there is a free HD signal available in my area (as is the case for most people), and all I needed was the right equipment.
First I needed to know what was available in my area, and what kind of ranges I would be dealing with. HD antennas each have their own capabilities, and range limitations, so doing my homework now would ensure that I had the best equipment for my situation. I used antenna web to determine my needs. All you need to do is punch in your zip code, or address, and it will display a map with signals in your area. Under each signal will be an azimuth (direction in degrees), and distance to the signal. It is important that you either write this information down, or print it for future use.
Which HD Antenna is right for me?
The first major classification I want to make with antennas is indoor, and outdoor. I have yet to find a single indoor antennal that can even compare with the worst outdoor antenna. You may be the lucky person who is able to get clear, and complete signals from an indoor antenna, but most people will need an outdoor antenna.
In determining the type of antenna you need, you need to understand VHF (Very High Frequency), and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). Basically some channels are broadcast in VHF, and some in UHF. Typically the VHF channel range is 2-13, while the UHF range is 14-51. This is important in helping you determine if you want a VHF, UHF, or combination antenna. The only real difference between these two types of antennas is size (VHF are larger than UHF).
The next thing I had to decide was a directional, or omnidirectional. There is no real mystery here, directional picks up a signal mainly from one direction, while an omnidirectional picks them up from any direction. The biggest difference between the two was range, directional could reach farther than omnidirectional. Again using antenna web I was able to determine that almost all of my signals were coming towards me from one general direction.
I decided to go with a ClearStream 2V Long Range HDTV UHF/VHF antenna. According to this antenna’s specifications, it has a 60+ mile range (most of my signals where between 25-36 miles away), a directional beam width of 70 degrees, and it comes with all the parts I needed for mounting it. I paid 90$ for mine, however I have seen these for cheaper on Amazon from time to time. It was also relatively small which was handy for installation.
So we have our antenna that is specific to our needs, how do we get it running? I climbed up on my roof and started shooting the needed azimuth with my lensatic compass. I needed to split the difference between 299, and 340 degrees to optimize how many channels I would be able to receive. With that done, I secured the antenna in place using ratcheting bar clamps. I wanted to test the antennas placement before permanently securing it to my roof. Next I attached RG-6 coax cable to the antenna and lowered it down the side of my house. Once fastened to my TV, I ran my TV’s internal antenna channel search feature. After a few minutes I was the proud recipient of about 50 channels, 25 of which were HD at 1080i.
Knowing that this was going to work, I began the process of permanent installation. I fastened the antenna with bolts, and sealed the holes with liquid nails. Next, I routed the RG-6 coax cable to my existing external cable box (located on the side of your house), fastening the cable as I went along for a neat professional appearance. I routed the cable into the existing box because this would allow me to disconnect my cable providers cable, and attach my HD antenna cable. It would allow the existing outlets (already hooked up to TVs) to immediately receive the new signal, without me having to route cable inside my walls.
Having all the local and large network channels was great (this includes your local football team, go hawks!), however it didn’t compare to the amount of content that my cable provider could offer. To close the gap we had a few options. Using a streaming device (Apple TV for us), we were able to add Netflix, and HBO Now, for $21 a month. There are tons of streaming options (Hulu, Amazon TV [Prime], your actual TV, Blu-Ray players, Roku TV, etc.), which can help meet your specific needs. Now we have all the content that HBO, iTunes, and Netflix has to offer, as-well-as all of our local channels (NBC, ABC, FOX, KIRO, KOMO, etc) and we have reduced our cable bill to $21 per month.
This is a process that will not be completed in a single day. You will also need to find some content online that you were easily able to flip to on your remote. The upside is that you can get all the same content (or comparable), but keep more of your money in your pocket. We had a triple-play package (cable, phone, internet) costing us about $150/month. Moving to a new internet provider at $30/month, ditching our home phone, and using the new $21/month self-created cable packed we spend $51 a month. This is a savings of $99/month, or $1,188 a year.
Your savings will be based on your current bills, and how much content you want to add via streaming. Apple has just released their 4th Generation Apple TV where you can actually download apps to be used on your TV. This will surely increase the amount of content that can be provided, absent your cable provider. Wouldn’t you rather buy new gear, or gadgets instead of paying a for cable? If there was ever a time to cut the cord, it’s now.