- Audio & Video
How to Get HDTV Signals for Free Without Cable
What You'll Need:
- New HDTV
- Antenna. Any old one will do. A coat hanger could even work, but it would take more effort.
- F-connector adapter, if your antenna is more than 30 years old.
- F-connector coupler, if your antenna cable is too short.
1. Finding an antenna
If you have any old antenna lying around the house, you can most likely plug it into your HDTV. In fact, it doesn't really matter what you use for an antenna.
As long as your TV has a digital decoder, you can see TV signals over the air. I have used a coat hanger to receive HD signals.
That said, more modern antennas will receive signals with less effort on your part. Those with fine tuning knobs, for example, will reduce the need for moving the antenna in order to receive a solid signal. But for the most part, in my experience, an antenna is an antenna despite the fancy buzz words they put on the boxes in the electronics department.
Regardless of what antenna you use, if you position it properly and tell your TV to do a channel scan, you will see many more channels than the three fuzzy ones your parents and grandparents used to watch.
2. Hooking up the antenna
Most likely, your antenna will have a coaxial cable attached that will either screw on or push on to the silver F-connector input on your TV. The F-connector input will usually be off by itself, and it is slightly wider than all the other, multi-color inputs on the back of your set.
3. Placing the antenna
It is best to place your antenna as close to a window as you can. If the antenna's built-in cable will not reach to the TV, you can buy an “F-connector coupler” and an extra coax cable to extend the length. You may not know the best place to put the antenna until you complete the next step below.
4. Scanning for channels
If you are turning your TV on for the first time, it likely will ask you if you want to scan for channels, and if you are using an Antenna or Cable. It will still be best to check your TV's manual for how to access the “Scan for Channels” function, which is usually buried somewhere in the "advanced" menu.
Once you find the function and select “Antenna,” the TV will begin a scanning process that usually will force it to remain in black or with a logo on the screen for upwards of ten minutes. As it does this, you may see a progress bar.
When the process is done, the TV will display the first available channel. You can now scan through the channels using the channel UP/DOWN button, and you should see your local network affiliates, as well as some extras.
With digital signals, interference is digital as well, so the picture will become distortred or possibly go black when something electrical nearby is turned on or if something blocks the signal's path.
If the antenna is not placed properly during the channel scan, it may skip over some channels that you would actually receive if your antenna was placed in a different location. If you got less channels than you were expecting, you may have to re-scan with your antenna relocated.
If you live in or near a medium to large city, any antenna likely will receive at least some HD signals. Using a relatively recent antenna will eliminate a lot of the troublesome issues.
If you can't find an antenna sitting around your house or that of someone you know, it would be a good investment to buy one, because there is a world of HD and digital signals waiting to be discovered... without a monthly payment!