Next time your cable or pay-TV provider informs you that it’ll be raising your monthly rates….again…..think about cutting the cord with one of the new high-tech indoor TV antennas that are beginning to flood the market. In fact, an HDTV antenna might well be one of the best gifts you can buy someone because it might embolden them to cancel their cable service and return to the airwaves for their local and national television viewing. Companies like Mohu, Terk, 1byone and Windgard are selling some affordable, unobtrusive and effective indoor HDTV antennas that are worthy of your consideration.
Cutting the cable cord is gaining in popularity. The Associated Press reports that lately, an increasing number of shoppers have been choosing Internet streaming of TV shows and movies, either on their computers or through mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets. Subscriptions to online sites like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon are climbing, eliminating the need for traditional viewing habits that require the viewer to follow network schedules and sit through commercials. But over-the-air TV is still a good (and free) deal for frugal consumers.
The Mohu Leaf is offers a particularly attractive $20 proposition for cable cord cutting consumers. The Mohu is as paper thin as its specs imply: It’s about as thick as a laminated sheet of paper, 9 inches x 11.5 inches rectangular, omnidirectional, and can be mounted anywhere. It’s widest at the base where the connector cable attaches to the body of the antenna. Mohu claims the Leaf can receive channels from up to 30 miles from broadcasting towers, so it is ideal for urban areas. Notably, it is paper-thin antenna that you can install on any wall and then paint over it. You don’t have to deal with an ugly box or other indoor antenna sitting on your entertainment center or next to your window taking up space. The Mohu Leaf Metro TV Antenna is $19.95 at Amazon.
Alternatively, you can build your own TV antenna for a fraction of the cost for buying one. A brief Internet search turned up basically consists of a wooden plank and a fistful of coat hangers. Check out Instructables and Make Use Of for some low-cost ideas for DIY antennas. A similar project is explained on Metacafe.com’s DTV antenna project. For those with cancelled satellite service who’d consider using the left-over roof-mounted dish as an antenna base, consider this plan from the folks at Instructables.com. And Lifehacker boasts a DIY that’s low-cost and paper-thin. All you’ll need to get started is some paper, aluminum foil, flexible plastic (like a document cover—available at any office supply store), a matching transformer (and the nuts and bolts needed to mount it), and some glue.
While this may seem like a hassle, it can be less of a headache than keeping up with when content comes and goes from network websites—and if you have a TiVo or other DVR, it’s a breeze to record what you want and watch it later. If you’re in an urban area, you should be able to pick up all the major networks, but check AntennaWeb to seehow far you are from local broadcast towers. Typically you can pick up stations within 25 miles with a low-cost indoor antenna that just plugs into your TV.
“Free to air” (FTA) satellite TV which are unencrypted TV signals sent by hundreds of different stations around the world. You won’t get the subscription based sports, music or movie channels because they are encrypted. But you’ll find no shortage of programming — especially from other countries. The cost is in buying the equipment: a satellite dish, an FTA receiver box, and some coaxial cable running between dish, box, and your TV set. The dish needs to be compatible with the satellite at which you’re going to point it; however, most satellites transmitting FTA signals are compatible with the basic DTV dish available online, or at many electronics stores. Check out FTA satellite TV gear sellers like Pansat, Coolsat, and Conaxsat. The receiver box will cost a couple of hundred dollars and up. Prices vary depending on the signal formats supported and various bells and whistles (Ethernet jack, wireless in-home signal transmission, etc.) You can also buy FTA satellite TV kits which include dish, mounting hardware, coaxial cable or wireless transceivers – everything you need to get hooked up. For more helpful information, check out the FTA links and forums at the Satellite Guys website as well as the information at MyFreeFTA. The general estimate for cost of deploying a satellite system is about $200-300, (Amazon sells a system for about $250) but this upfront cost will pay for itself in less than a year compared to the monthly fee you’d pay to Dish or Direct TV.
Generally, amplified antennas have better reception, but you may be fine with a nonamplified, aka passive, model depending on your location. If stations broadcast within a 20-mile radius of your home, you can probably make do with a passive antenna. If not, an amplified model may help.