Installing a digital TV antenna
To install a digital antenna, along with our satellite dish, that was the requirement. We have managed to use "rabbit ears" for years for our analog TV reception and when we purchased and installed a digital TV converter our reception was good, and the image quality was excellent. No snow, no "multi-path" echoes, just a nice sharp picture. But there was just one problem, now I could never get the antenna adjusted just right so we received all our local digital channels well, all the time. Plus if you walked into the bedroom, or worked in the kitchen, the picture might break up, and even go blank.
So I have decided to build my digital antenna system, hopefully integrating it with our satellite dish installation, perhaps even optimizing the satellite dish performance. We are about 32 miles from most of our stations, although it will be interesting to see if we receive Binghamton stations now with an antenna on the roof versus rabbit ears. I had chosen a low cost directional UHF antenna from Radio Shack. (Note: The current antennas at Radio Shack do not match the one I show here.) I will upgrade it slightly by adding a VHF folded dipole. Please be careful, while the antenna price is good, many of Radio Shack's accessories are exorbitantly priced. Check some of the prices in the sidebar for reference. It is important that the installation be compact and at least not visually obnoxious. That is the beauty of a UHF "mostly" solution. WineGard has this great little bracket/ tube (DS-1111) that will bolt to most satellite dishes providing an offset mounting location for a second small antenna right on top of your satellite dish mount. With a light antenna (3 pounds) wind loading should not be much of an issue. This hopefully will provide a compact installation. To the left I show the UHF antenna staged on the WineGard "pipe".
Extra Non-digital TV's
We also have accumulated TV's, who hasn't. We have an exercise area in our basement, so it is desirable to upgrade our antenna system installation to support these TV's. We both like to watch CNBC in the morning, sometimes during an exercise session. A somewhat productive way to watch TV, learn about finances and get some exercise at the same. So likewise we'd like to be able to receive and distribute our local digital programming from our new UHF antenna installed on the roof to our TV(s) installed in our exercise area.
Satellite / Dish Network service improvements?
I am still wondering exactly what the satellite companies will do in terms of services once local channels are able to broadcast high definition signals. Local stations are providing High Definition programming now, and frankly it is a fabulous quality image. But we only have "standard" definition at best with our current satellite receiver and services. I am hoping after the Feb 09 transition satellite companies will be forced to compete with the quality of the local programming, SO, I am definitely not going to upgrade any of our satellite gear or services until after the full transition. At that point in time the satellite companies may be forced to provide a higher quality service for the same price as standard quality is now. So many of the satellite upgrades are tied to a two year commitment and one year restriction on further discounted upgrades. So after Feb 09, they may give you something for free you just paid to "upgrade" to, and, you might find at that time you really wanted a different "upgrade".
Low cost digital antenna
I want the system to be as low cost as possible. Many of the new digital local television programs are broadcast in the UHF frequency band. Unfortunately one or two digital stations may still be use the VHF-High or VHF-Low bands. But truly most the broadcasts are UHF and it is quite possible a conventional UHF antenna mounted on the roof may provide sufficient signal even for VHF-High and hopefully VHF-Low. UHF antennas are nice an compact, VHF low antennas can be monsters! To keep costs low I have decided to add an homemade folded dipole antenna to my UHF antenna to support the VHF bands while keeping costs low!
Cheap HDTV antenna
At the time Radio Shack had a low cost, directional, $29.99 UHF antenna in store only, so I picked up one of these. After thinking about it I decided not to install the cute little plugs that were provided to plug the ends of the antenna. In some weather conditions the hollow tube may slowly fill with water and then it could freeze and possibly burst the tube, so why not just let the water drain? This antenna is slightly unusual in that it needs a 300 ohm to 75 ohm matching transformer. This is an advantage if you want to "tack" on a homemade VHF folded dipole as I intend to do.
Digital antenna installation, component wiring
To connect your dish and UHF antenna you will want to buy two "diplexers". These merge and separate the satellite and antenna signals so they can share one coax cable, hopefully the one already running from your satellite dish to your receiver located near one of your televisions. I would also recommend you install an amplifier for your digital antenna and dish. The little amplifier will be powered by your satellite receiver, but it should be located near your roof antenna. The amplifier will compensate for the "losses" of the diplexers and also your coax cable. These parts are very low cost. The amplifier must be rated for satellite use, 2300 MHZ (Megahertz), which is the same as 2.3 Ghz (GigaHertz). The diplexers also propagate, or connect, power from your satellite receiver, through your coax up to all the equipment on your roof. The "F" connectors for the satellite signal a usually well marked as to which are for the satellite signals, and these connections are also the ones that pass power.
You will not need the diplexers, but I would still recommend an amplifier at the antenna. There are many available with a little power supply you install near your TV and connect inline with your coax. This will compensate for signal loss in your coax line and any "splitters" you might use for multiple TV's
Staging the installation.
To the left I have staged my digital UHF antenna and components. The second picture shows the satellite signal coax in the upper right. This coax is connected to the satellite "switch" on the roof of my house. So I am testing the components that will be on my roof in my living room. So the satellite coax goes to the satellite side of the diplexer. The UHF antenna connects to the other side of the diplexer. The "output" of the diplexer connects to the amplifiers input (picture center). The small segment of coax in the "bottom" "middle" of the photo simulates (emulates) the section of coax from my roof into the house to the living room. So really the lower diplexer will ultimately be connected to the coax from the roof which will be tied to the amplifier output. But for this test the diplexer is tied directly to the amplifier. Finally the diplexer "outputs" go to the TV antenna in "F" connector and to the satellite box "in" "F" connector.
Satellite antenna switch.
Your satellite dish probably has a "switch" module. The diplexer and antenna amplifier should be connected between the "switch" and the coax cable traveling to the diplexer located indoors.
Antenna Grounding and safety
It is very important that you ground your roof mounted equipment to your home's outdoor ground spike, usually near your electrical meter. You also should provide a static grounding block where your coax enters your house. These two things help assure your equipment in your house is not damaged by static buildup on your digital antenna.
Protecting the digital electronics
On the roof, to protect the antenna electronics I decided to use a piece of 4" PVC pipe, and pipe cap. I just carefully insert the satellite "switch" the diplexer, and the amplifier inside this tube, protecting all the components and connecters from direct exposure to the elements, wind and rain. I just "tie-wrapped" this assembly in place. Don't forget if your antenna and dish are on your roof you may get snow, so try and keep the electronics high and dry.
Pointing your digital antenna
I am lucky most of my stations are almost due South. I do have some to the North which I expect will come in reasonably well once I have this whole setup on the roof. To install the WineGard DS-1111 bracket you will have to loosen the clamp on your satellite dish mount. So I would strongly recommend being prepared to realign your dish. The easy way to do this is to buy one of these cheap satellite finder meters. Assemble your brackets and new digital antenna and then use the meter to "tweak" your satellite dish direction for maximum signal.
Some great resources to help you point your digital antenna:
Tv Fool? Excellent source of Google Earth database of TV stations.
Antenna Web. Another Station locater and good information.
I will be following up with more information and diagrams,
You will have a great digital antenna installation!
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