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Television Antenna FAQs

Q: How can I view Over The Air (OTA) Digital and HDTV broadcasts?
A: There are currently 3 ways to view your local stations (digital and digital HD):
  1. An over the Air only digital receiver that will tune in only the local channels. These can be purchased at any electronics chain for about $100-$399. One advantage to this, is there will be no monthly fees.
  2. An HDTV with a built in OTA tuner. You will find that these "integrated" HDTVs will run $300-$600 more than a "HDTV ready" display.
  3. An HD satellite tuner. Both Dish Network and Direct TV offer HDTV satellite receivers with the over the air tuner built into the same unit. The advantage of using this method is that there is no need to utilize separate equipment to receive premium HD networks like HBO HD and ShowTime HD. Also, the local and satellite channels can both be integrated into the program guide, to make it seamless for the viewer when switching between local and satellite. You will need an over the air antenna (like the ones we sell) as well as the dish connected to the receiver. These receivers can cost anywhere from $399- $599 although with specials & promotions it is often possible to find them for much less.
Q: Are all Digital Channels on UHF?
A: No, but currently, 91% of broadcasting DTV stations are on UHF. A few cities, such as Chicago and Las Vegas have DTV stations on VHF as well as UHF. While Many DTV stations are now occupying UHF broadcast channels, the plan may allow some broadcasters to move back to their original VHF or UHF TV channels once the transition to DTV is complete. However, this may not occur for another 10-15 years.
 
Q: How is reception in distant or "fringe" areas? Will I get a fuzzy picture?
A: When it comes to digital television, it's an "all or nothing at all" proposition. Once the signal is acquired, a steady stream of data assures you'll get a perfect picture and great audio. If that bit stream is interrupted, however, there will be nothing - just a blank screen. In areas with lots of buildings or obstacles, multi-path distortion can cause a "cliff effect" to kick in. The fix is to use a higher-gain antenna assuming the multi-path can be tamed. Work is being done to determine the optimal designs for improving error correction in set-top receivers.
 
Q: How do analog TV broadcasts and DTV compare to each other?
A: There are some similarities. Both use VHF and UHF broadcast frequencies. While analog and digital television broadcasts have a modulated carrier wave, the way that signal is modulated is entirely different. Analog TV uses an amplitude-modulated (AM) signal for pictures and frequency modulation (FM) for audio, while DTV signals use digital "packets", to transmit pictures and audio.
 
The modulation system currently being used for DTV in the United States is Eight Level Vestigial Sideband (8VSB). As Terrestrial Digital / HDTV broadcasts become more prominent, UHF antennas will play a larger role because the majority of the HDTV/Digital channel allocations will be in the UHF frequency band.
 
Q: What cities have digital VHF Stations?
A: One potential problem with re-using low VHF (2-6) and high VHF (7-13) TV channels for DTV is the possibility of interference from other signals during certain times of the year. "Skip" may bring in distant broadcasts on the same channel and create interference. The physical size of low VHF and high VHF antennas is much larger than that of a UHF antenna.
 
DTV broadcasts use the same channels (frequencies) as regular analog television.
 
Q: What is a Yagi?
A: The Yagi antenna is credited to Hidetsugu Yagi (although not the original inventor), A Japanese physicist. The Yagi was designed to improve the gain of the antenna concentrated in one direction. The directivity is accomplished with added elements called directors and reflectors. The Yagi has high Gain, is very directional, and has narrow bandwidth. In simple unidirectional antennas like the Yagi, frequency bandwidth is inversely proportional to antenna gain. One way to increase the frequency bandwidth of a simple antenna like a Yagi, is to increase the diameter of the antenna conductors. The greater the conductor diameter, the wider the band with increased conductor diameter also has a second benefit, it increases the physical strength of the antennas.
 
Q: What is the difference between UHF and VHF antennas?
A: The most obvious difference between VHF and UHF antennas is the size. A half wave dipole for channel 2 will be 10 times longer than for channel 28. This means that a much more elaborate UHF antenna can be constructed without the antenna becoming physically unmanageable. With more elements added to the UHF antenna, higher gain and directivity can be obtained.
 
Q: What is the Bow tie Antenna?
A: A bow tie antenna is another name for a UHF fan dipole antenna. By using triangular elements instead of rods, the bandwidth is greatly increased, to cover the entire UHF band. Additionally, the mesh reflector of the bowtie is more efficient than the rod reflector as it is lower in weight and has less wind resistance.
 
Q: What is the Corner reflector Yagi?
A: The corner reflector is a popular UHF reflector, that has a very high front to back pickup ratio; for reducing reception from the backside. This is particularly important if you don't want interference from stations to the rear of the antenna. The driven element is placed at the center of the corner angle that affects the power gain, directivity and impedance. Combined with Yagi type directors this increases the gain and directivity of UHF antennas over the entire UHF band.
 
Q: My wife won't let me put one of these things on my roof. Can I install an antenna in my attic?
Yes you can, but keep this in mind. One layer of asphalt shingles + roof felt + " plywood roof deck = 50% reduction in signal strength. Plus if you have metal or aluminum backed insulation in the walls or under the roof the signal will be most likely blocked. You'll have to remove the insulation or install the antenna in a different place. Although the antenna is inside, you'll still need to make sure that the narrow end points toward the transmitter of the TV station.
 
Q: My Homeowners association prohibits antennas on the roof, what can I do?
A: Show them the Federal law concerning antennas, homeowners and their rights. In 1996, The FCC affirmed the rights of homeowners to place antennas on property they own or control.* Check out the FCC ruling here: http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html. The law basically states that homeowner association covenants cannot prevent you from installing antennas or dishes. The rule "prohibits restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming." *Masts higher than 12 feet above the roofline may be subject to local permitting requirements.
 
Q: How far can I be from the transmitters and still get a good signal?
A: Getting reliable UHF DTV reception beyond the curvature of the earth (approximately 70 miles) is difficult. The good news is that terrain has a major impact on reception. Going over water is about the best it gets, since water is generally flat and has positive impacts on temperature for sending the signal along. Still, beyond 70 miles, unless you can get direct line-of-sight to the transmitters, the number of things that could impact reception negatively are numerous. Just keep this in mind going in. Accept that what you want may not be possible.
 
Q: I have read ads for an antenna that can pick up stations 200 miles away. Is this possible?
A: Under extremely rare circumstances, a television antenna could possibly pick up stations 200 miles away. However, rarely is, an antenna going to get terrestrial television broadcasts over such a distance.
 
Theoretically, it would be possible if you lived on top of a mountain and the broadcast towers were also on a mountain. At normal elevations, however, the curvature of the earth pretty much limits effectiveness to about 70 miles for UHF band signals. Low VHF band (2-6) can bounce further than this, but currently only about 7% of digital TV channels are on the VHF band. Most Digital TV channels are on the UHF band - which is line-of-sight transmission.
 
Q: What about "HDTV" antennas they sell at the electronic chain stores, won't these work?
A: Maybe, but often times they are no better than a coat hanger. Very few of the antennas sold in this electronic chain stores have much success with digital reception. They usually have poor gain on the frequencies where digital broadcasts occur and have a difficult time with multi path distortion. Most utilize low grade amplifiers that introduces noise on the line or are shaped to be aesthetically pleasing, but contrary to the principals of digital TV reception.
 
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