My Homemade TV Antenna
(last worked on: January 12th, 2018)

* This antenna was useful for finding the best location to place an antenna, but I ended up getting a more directional commercial VHF-UHF antenna (small, in deference to our high winds) and mounting it off of a 2x4 mast.

We ended up with 23 good signals, but a few of them can be intermittent, given our "two edged" refracted signals, lots of rain, helicopters and new home construction in our area causing 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. The signals 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 down lead 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 for minimizing reflected ghost signals --which we ended up going to, on account of a big sand dune being in the way.)

* 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.

* 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" refracted reception here, meaning the signal has to climb over interfering terrain (mainly: the big sand dune).

* I got a deal on 25 feet of quad shielded RG-6 down lead cable, so I broke down and replaced the old RG-59 --not expecting much difference --but the station count went up to 23! (Since the down lead is rather short, a low noise pre-amp probably wouldn't help much --unless it happened to be superior to our TV set's front end/tuner.

** But 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 --and every month. 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, since CDMA technology seems to work 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

^ Even though the fine print cites "Charter Communications" on my latest Internet service offer (March, 2018), the big print is doing business as "Spectrum". The printed offer states that my "address" is "prequalified" to be connected for only $14.99/month, but an earlier such offer indicated that becomes about $20/month to include a WiFi router. (Our Chromebooks are WiFi only). When I asked about these offers at the local Spectrum office, one representative said we'd get "means tested" (which usually means there needs to be a young student or someone in the house on some type of assistance --which is not the case here), but the other implied we wouldn't. When I asked how long that price would last, his answer: "until there's a price increase".