Analog TV is fading fast now that HD televisions have become the standard. In many places across the United States, analog signals are no longer offered, and a digital receiver is necessary to watch anything on a television that’s not hooked into a cable or satellite feed.
If you’ve purchased a television within the last two years, it probably has a digital tuner built in. This will suffice for most of the nearly 100 million households that subscribe to cable or satellite service, though it’s more relevant to the latter as, unlike cable, satellite feeds don’t include local channels. Satellite service is also much more prone to interruption due to weather disturbances or problems with the dish, so having an antenna to amplify digital broadcasts is a wise idea for Dish Network and Direct TV subscribers.
Cable service is much more reliable, and it includes local channels with every package offered. However, the quality of your service hinges on your location and your provider, so you should take inventory of how often you’re without service before you invest in DTV equipment. The vast majority of cable users probably won’t get any use out of broadcast signals, although depending on where you live there might be enough programming available for free to justify ending your cable service altogether. Digital television tends to offer a wider array of information and entertainment than analog signals used to, and there may be upward of 30 channels available at your location. You should check AntennaWeb and TV Fool to see what’s available before purchasing new equipment.
If you decide to ready your home for digital TV, these are the things you’ll need to do.
Pick the Right Equipment for Your Location
The good news is that it may not require much work to get the best quality signal. Many households don’t need to mount a antennas on their roofs; instead, a device that goes in their attic may provide all of the signal amplification that the need, or if they’re in a major hot spot a digital tuner might be enough in itself.
Both AntennaWeb and TV Fool are invaluable during the planning process because they’ll tell you exactly what’s available and how likely it is that you’ll be able to get noise-free reception. TV Fool gives a detailed overview of the signal strength at your location through color-coded zones. If channel is in the green zone green, you should have no trouble picking it up with a tuner and an indoor antenna. If a signal is in the yellow zone, you’ll probably need a roof-mounted antenna to pick it up. Signals in the pink zone will require a roof-mounted antenna plus amplification, and signals in the gray zone probably won’t reach you, but it might be possible to receive them with a high antenna and a high-gain signal amplifier.
Check Whether Local Stations Broadcast on the UHF or VHF Spectrum
When digital first overtook analog, most channels were broadcasted on the UHF spectrum. Now some of them broadcast on the VHF band, and while it’s still the less common of the two, antennas are built primarily around one kind of signal or the other. An antenna geared toward the UHF spectrum will have immense difficulty displaying channels on the VHF spectrum, if it can receive them at all, so it’s vital to choose equipment that’s compatible with the most common signals in your area.
Wire Your House for Multiple Televisions
Since you’ll already be installing digital receivers and antennas, why not run cable through the walls so that you can enjoy better reception and a greater number of channels on all of your TV sets? You may need to install multiple amplifiers to ensure every TV set receives an optimal signal, but getting it done sooner is less hassle than doing it later, and it’s likely to provide an incredible amount of convenience down the road even if there isn’t an immediate use for extra TV connection.
If You Have Cable, Check for Local Digital Channels
There is one reason to set up an antenna if you have cable: Cable companies don’t always broadcast local channels with the best signal quality. If you can receive the signal directly, you can get better picture and sound than if you watch it through your cable box. If you watch a lot of local stations, the extra investment might be worth it.
For early adopters and people that switched when the government forced a transition to digital broadcasting, preparing for digital television was a confusing maze that required an immense amount of information to properly navigate. Today, things are quite a bit simpler, but you’ll still need to do a bit of searching to figure out what’s right for you. Luckily that process has been simplified, and the technology has gotten cheaper just like it always does. Whether you have access to cable and satellite programming or you don’t, you can potentially benefit from installing a digital antenna for your home.
- Check to see which channels are available over the airwaves through AntennaWeb and TV Fool.
- Learn what type of equipment you’ll need and which of the two spectrums it needs to be compatible with.
- Future-proof your setup by installing an antenna with multiple televisions in mind.
- Don’t write-off digital broadcasting if you have a cable or satellite subscription. It’s useful as a backup when your service is down, and you can get channels you can’t get with satellite or you might get a higher-quality broadcast over the airwaves than you can get with cable.
Paul is writing articles for Quatrix Antennas, a Sydney based TV antenna installation specialist company and they specialise in upgrades to digital TV.