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Free Digital TV Reception using a TV antenna


Explore free digital TV reception (DTV) using a TV antenna.

The correct TV antenna and accessories are the key to better digital TV reception along with proper installation.



To enjoy free OTA digital TV reception you must have a digital tuner

The tuner can be built into the TV or stand alone as a set top box. The stand alone digital tuner will convert the digital signal to analog signal for use with older analog TV sets. All TV's sold today are either digital TV's (DTV's) or HDTV's. Digital TV's will cost less then HDTV's and have a screen shaped like an analog TV. They have digital tuners built into the TV and will receive the new digital signal but will not display a wide screen HDTV picture. HDTV's have a wider screen, produce a sharper high definition picture and also have a digital tuner built into the TV but HDTV's do cost more. Both types of TV's provide digital TV reception.

   Sometimes a simple indoor TV antenna can provide decent digital TV reception but more times then not consistent quality digital TV reception reception you can count on day in and day out will require an outdoor TV antenna. The type of antenna you choose will depend on your location and the surrounding terrain.

Loss of channels after June 12th 09.

If you lost some of your channels after June 12th 2009 there are a couple of reasons that can cause this to happen.

  1. You need to rescan your digital tuner.
  2. You have the improper TV antenna.

Some TV stations relocated their transmitting signal from one channel to another on June 12th changing the channel number (frequency) the signal is broadcast on. When this happens your TV tuner will not be able to find the new channel number unless you rescan the tuner. If you lost some of your channels the first step is to rescan your digital tuner.

If the channels still won't come in then perhaps you have the wrong type of antenna. Unfortunately in the few years prior to the analog shutdown some unscrupulous antenna dealers sold UHF antennas claiming that they were HDTV antennas. UHF antennas are designed to receive channels 14-69 and can be much smaller then VHF/UHF antennas and are more appealing to the consumer. Up until June 12th 2009 most digital TV signals were broadcast on the UHF frequency band and UHF antennas worked just fine. However, after June 12th 09 some stations moved their digital signal to the VHF band channels 2-13. Here are the steps you should take to determine if this is the problem.

  1. Determine if you have a UHF antenna or a VHF/UHF antenna. I have created a page that displays most common UHF antennas. If your current antenna looks similar to any of the antennas displayed on this page then it is a UHF antenna.
    Click here to view UHF antennas
  2. If you determine that your antenna is a UHF antenna the next step is to visit the Digital TV Antenna Selector. The Digital TV Antenna Selector will guide you through a step by step process and provide the information you need to determine the best antenna for your location.

If you still can't receive all of your digital channels then perhaps you need a more powerful antenna or possibly a signal amplifier. To determine the proper TV antenna and signal amplifier for your location click on the Digital TV Antenna Selector link at the bottom of this page

Digital TV reception is (kind of) an all or nothing proposition

You either get a perfect picture or you don't get a picture at all. There is a small area of reception where the signal is not quite strong enough to maintain reception and the signals may go in and out a small blocks may appear within the picture and sound may be interrupted. When this happens it usually means the signal is weak or there is interference present.  You won't see double images or snow on digital TV reception. 

In many ways the only difference between digital TV reception and analog reception is the tuner itself. Digital and analog signals are both sent from broadcast towers to a receiving antenna. In simple terms the difference between the two signals is what each signal is carrying. The digital signal carries data (digital). The analog signal does not. Mixed in with both analog and digital signals is interference both man made and natural. The old analog tuner can’t tell the difference between the TV signal and the interference within the signal so it provides both to the TV possibly resulting into what is called snow, grain or double imaging. On the other hand the digital tuner receives data that can be separate from interference delivering a near perfect picture to your TV. However, if too much interference is accompanying the digital signal the tuner may not be able to clearly read the data and you may lose the signal altogether leaving you with a blank screen. For this reason digital TV reception more then analog TV requires more attention to detail and the proper TV antenna and accessories.

   Digital TV reception is free to the air, signals anyone can receive at most locations in the United States when using the proper equipment. The antenna and equipment you choose along with employing the proper installation methods will play a big role in determining your reception results.

The biggest mistake people can make is to choose the TV antenna they want to work and not the one that will work.

Everyone wants the smaller, simpler more compact antenna to work and many times it will. Do your homework, determine the distance and direction of the TV stations you want to receive. Examine your surrounding terrain for a couple of miles in the direction to the TV station transmitters. Look for hills, dense trees or structures that can obstruct TV signal. Consider the elevation you can install the TV antenna above ground and the elevation of the ground itself at your location. Quality digital TV reception can be obtained in about 98% of the United States so chances are good that you can enjoy free TV at your location.

   Besides transmitter distances and terrain, the actual channel frequencies that the local broadcasters use to transmit the signal will also be a factor in determining what type of antenna you will need. There are basically 3 types of antennas, VHF antennas for channels 2 through 13, UHF antennas for channels 14 through 69 and combination VHF/UHF antennas designed for all channels from 2 through 69. With introduction of digital TV reception some antennas are now designed to receive channels 7-69. With a few exceptions most digital TV signals will broadcast using channel 7 and higher. To the best of my knowledge no locations in the U.S. will broadcast all of the local digital channels on VHF 2-13. A very few locations are and will continue to broadcast all of the local channels on UHF 14-69. Most locations however are or will broadcast on both VHF and UHF on channels 2-51. However, most all stations will use channels 7-51. Check to make certain on the channel frequencies being used in your area.

   In a nutshell, to receive over the air digital TV reception, you must have a digital tuner. Either a set top digital tuner or a tuner that’s built into your TV. When choosing your TV antenna and equipment always consider distance and direction of the stations. Examine the terrain for possible signal obstructions. Evaluate the elevation where the TV antenna is to be installed. Determine what channel frequencies your local broadcaster use to transmit the signal on and choose your TV antenna and equipment accordingly.

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