Problem: Make an HDTV antenna that actually works and is inexpensive ($5).
Quick Solution: Strip the end of a coax cable so there is about 8″ of wire showing and mount it outside your house perpendicular to the ground. Run a channel search on your TV. Sit back and enjoy the shows.

DIY HDTV Antenna

Discovery/Solution:
There are a number of instructables and templates online to build your own HDTV antenna. Some are made of coat hangers and others from aluminum foil, but none are as easy as what I’m about to show you and they probably don’t work as well either.

The easiest way is to strip about 8″ of wire from the end of a RG-6 coaxial cable and mount it outside your house so it is perpendicular to the ground. If you’d like to do some math and make it a little more accurate, which means possibly picking up a couple more channels or improving the signal quality than read on.

First go to TVFool.com and fill in your address, city, state and zip. Be patient while it loads the terrain and transmitter databases. Select “Only Digital” and you will be presented with a chart that displays the channel, signal, distance and azimuth of the digital channels you can expect to receive. I suggest orienting your antenna straight up and down in relation to the ground, but if you’re really interested in getting a specific channel you can use the true north and magnetic north azimuths listed in the chart to point your antenna in that direction.

The top 26 channels listed on my chart ranged from channel 7 to 50. Yours may be different. Reference this chart to match the low and high channels to frequencies. I veered from this a little and used 386MHz as my low frequency and 700MHz as my high frequency to encompass all channels from 1 to 52. This seemed to be a great range for HDTV channels.
Next find the frequency that is directly in the middle. 523MHz was my middle frequency.

  • 700-386 = 314
  • 314/2 = 157
  • 386+157 = 543
  • 700-157 = 543

Then enter you middle frequency in this antenna calculator to figure out the half wavelength in inches. For the 543MHz signal I want to pick up with my antenna, the half wavelength in inches is 10.34″. So this is exactly how much wire I left unshielded at the end of my coax cable. I left the rest of the cable as is and plugged it into my TV. The length of my antenna is optimized for channel 26, but the hope is that it picks up a number of channels below and above that as well.

I have aluminum siding on my house and the difference in reception when mounting the antenna indoors versus outdoors was astounding. The siding acted as a shield when the antenna was inside so I would highly recommend mounting it outside. Luckily there was already a hole drilled in my wall and through the siding where I could feed the cable. Another option would be to mount your antenna in the attic and run the cable down to your TV. In this case the shingles on your roof will have much less affect on the signal than the siding.

With the antenna mounted, scan for digital channels on your TV and see how many you pick up. I was able to get 26 channels. While watching TV you can make small changes to the antenna angle until you find the position that gives you the absolute best reception. Good luck and enjoy the free TV channels!