My Homemade TV Antenna
(last worked on: June 1st, 2017)
~~An affordable home and huge lot near the Oregon coast~~

* I thought this project was coming along far easier than anticipated. It didn't. I ended up getting a commercial VHF-UHF antenna (small, in deference to our high winds) and mounting it off of a 2x4 mast.

We use to have over 20 good signals, but our neighborhood seems to have lost several UHF "translators" in recent months. The reality might well be that our "two edged" refracted signals are really "touch and go" with rain and new home construction in our area causing various phasing effects.

* Earlier, I made a small exploratory antenna on a long pole --first to find out if my current problems were due to interference or parasitic oscillations in our several years old, tiny, amplified, outdoor antenna. I walked our property to determine if location and height made much of a difference. Two sets of station signals have simply vanished, but the others were definitely stronger with elevation and distance away from the house.

Most of today's TV signals are in the lower end of the old UHF band, for which antennas can be small affairs (compared to the old VHF monsters --the kind that housing associations would try to outlaw with their CC&Rs). Sometimes all you need is a loop of wire --properly fed into your downlead cable.

* Gosh: but I got some good clean signals --using just a 9 inch diameter loop of 1/16 inch bronze welding rod, a standard 75 to 300 ohm balun/transformer (that's it near the loop), a well anchored 8 foot 2x4 (for to over-build a non-conductive mast, since I ended up almost within falling distance of our home's electric power cables), 25 feet of old fashioned RG-59 cable (which I had on hand, and RG-59 is only supposed to be about a decibel worse than RG-6 for such a short run). With two 1 inch pan head sheet metal screws to secure the antenna and balun to the end of my wooden mast, it worked. (A 9 inch diameter is about right for low-end UHF channels and gives fair capture area, but a directional commercial antenna is always much better --which we ended up going to.)

* Dabs of black RTV/silicon rubber over the screws and to seal the RG-59 connector to the balun against the weather is a good idea.

* However: my reception kept getting worse, especially when it rained. Our GE brand, "70 mile", VHF/UHF antenna is a puny looking thing, compared to the old Winegard and Channel Master antennas I use to install some 30+ years ago. It cost $50 locally, which included a good J-mount and a built in balun. That brought back good reception on our 4 public television channels during rainfalls, but the VHF-11 channel set still suffered with rain.

* Again: all of our channels are "one edge" or "two edge" reception here, meaning the signal has to refract over interfering terrain (mainly: a big sand dune). I suspect that wet surface reflections from new construction and altered terrain in the area often compete with what should be our main signal paths.

* I got a deal on 25 feet of quad shielded RG-6, so I broke down and replaced the old RG-59 --not expecting much difference --but the station count went up

* Since the downlead is rather short (25 feet), a low-noise pre-amp probably wouldn't help much --unless it happened to be superior to our TV set's front end/tuner.

** After I got back our PBS channels, we got to watch weeks of infernal fundraising.

* IMHO, the best resource for guestimating what channels you can get remains "TV Fool".  All the others I've tried were useless, perhaps due to their out-of-date data basis.

* Charter was charging nearly $55/month here for stand-alone Internet access, and nearly $30 (each) if combined with two other services (phone and Internet, at the same rates) --for about $90/month total. Presumably, each of the other services, alone, take that higher rate. So that's what we're saving by troubling to put up an antenna. We also trouble to access the Internet via free public WiFi --for news, email, and maintaining our 40+ web pages --which are all freely hosted at NeoCities (for which, we freely donate). For that 3rd service of telephone, we use a Tracfone, which costs us about $10/month --depending on use. We bought our old CDMA band, flip type cell phone for something like $10 to $15. CDMA works everywhere --even here behind the big dune, but you can't get that type anymore. Hopefully, you have good 2G, 3G, 4G service where you live, good broadcast TV and plenty of WiFi signal choices.

Be sure that you use a friend's private (password secured) WiFi when buying stuff or doing banking. (We do zero banking via the Internet.)
 

--Craig