Archive for January, 2012

Cutting the Cable

Today I installed an HDTV antenna at my house and plan on cancelling my cable television next week. Here is a brief chronicle of my experience for the curious and those that might be interested in making the jump like I did.

With an ever decreasing amount of free time in my life, I have pretty much no desire to watch any television programming other than pro football and some college basketball. Between Netflix, a nice DVD/Blu-Ray collection and way more video and computer games than I have time to play, there is almost no reason for me to watch “regular” TV. Besides, 99% of it is pure crap. Christina has several police procedurals and medical dramas that she likes, but for most of the day our cable boxes are in the off state. I’ve thought about cancelling our cable television service for a while, and last month Christina herself suggested that we go for it.

I began looking into getting an HDTV antenna so that Christina could still watch her cop/doctor/lawyer stuff and I could still see NFL games. There are tons of antennas of different types and qualities available, so this was a little overwhelming at first. Luckily I found a site called TV Fool which can be used to find local HDTV broadcasts. It’s also a good resource for learning more about over-the-are television broadcasting and getting help from knowledgeable users. Fortunately, all of the local network affiliates broadcast out of Orlando, meaning that I should be able to point my antenna towards Orlando to get everything that I wanted. All of the stations broadcast in UHF (ultra high frequency), save NBC which broadcasts in high VHF (very high frequency). I needed a reasonably high quality antenna because the signals that I want originate about 50 miles away. With this knowledge in hand I selected the Antennas Direct DB8 Multidirectional HDTV antenna.

Ideally a television antenna should be installed outdoors to get the best reception and minimize signal attenuation, but I planned on installing my new antenna in the attic. This was done for both aesthetic and practical reasons. I was not interested in drilling holes in the side of my house, and I’m not confident that an antenna would do well in the hot and wet Florida climate. I chose this pole and base to facilitate the installation.

I wanted to split the signal from the antenna to both the living room and master bedroom televisions, so I decided that I needed a signal amplifier. Splitting an antenna or cable signal reduces its power by at least 3.5dB, and coaxial cable runs over 100 feet long can also reduce power and ultimately signal quality. I selected this signal amplifier to install in my attic to split and amplify my antenna signal.

Both of my televisions have built in HDTV tuners, so I was able to directly connect the coaxial cable from the amplifier to each TV. I used the auto program feature to get about 40 channels of digital television on each TV. Of course there are lots of religious and spanish langauge channels that I’ll never watch, but I’m able to receive ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, ion, CW and UPN for free and in high definition with Dolby Digital sound. The great thing about digital over the air TV is that if you can receive the signal the picture and sound are perfect. I watched the Texans/Bengals divisional playoff game today on NBC and picture quality was better than what I get from Brighthouse Cable.

We plan on supplementing our media options with a Hulu Plus account for $8 a month so we can get the Daily Show and the Colbert Report and some other stuff that Netflix doesn’t have. We will keep our cable internet connection, so our cable bill will drop from $130 to $50 a month.

Here are some pictures from the installation.