Satellite and cable services offer great programming, but for those of us who don’t have the time to watch, don’t feel that it’s worth the cost, or both, there is an alternative—getting your TV through an antenna, and, if desired, supplementing it with programming available through the Internet. Granted, you won’t get as many channels, but you won’t have the monthly TV bill either.
First, you’ll need an antenna. Antennas may be directional or omni-directional (“omni,” meaning “every direction”). Directional antennas have the drawback of needing to be turned to get a clear signal when a TV signal from one station comes from a different direction than another. While easily accomplished with a TV-top model, many prefer the improved signal of a larger antenna mounted in the attic. With these larger antennas, you sometimes need a remote-control rotor to change the antenna’s direction to avoid a climb into the attic. When I was looking for an antenna, I found one that eliminated the need for a rotor—an omni-directional antenna. These antennas don’t need to be turned to get the best signal. With a range of 40 to 60 miles, they have worked very well for me. For information about available channels in your area, go to antennaweb.org and use their “choose an antenna” mapping utility.
Although you’re set for now with just an antenna, as of February 17, 2009, TV stations will stop broadcasting in analog and will only broadcast in digital (see last month’s article). Thus, if your TVs don’t have digital tuners, you’ll need to either purchase new TVs or a digital converter box for each one. To defray the cost of purchasing the converter boxes, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is offering each household two $40 coupons toward their purchase. For more information, see dtv2009.gov.
Because I saved so much money ditching my paid TV subscription, I decided that instead of a standard converter box, I would purchase a digital video recorder (DVR) that not only functions as a converter, but also lets me record my favorite shows while I’m gone. Keep in mind that there is usually a monthly charge to subscribe to a DVR’s programming information. TPW