Cord cutting tup for beginners

Cord cutting tip: What HDTV can I get over the air (OTA) in my area with an antenna?

Hi folks. What I want to start doing regularly on this blog is putting up quick little tips that will help you with one aspect of cord cutting. So expect one of these tips at least once a week.

Using streaming video services for content is great, but what about local channels? How do you access your six o’clock news, local sports etc? Well, that’s where OTA or over-the-air HDTV signals come in. Check out my blog on getting HDTV via antenna here if you’re new to it. But for beginners: HDTV OTA is totally free! It’s just like in the old days where your TV would use a rabbit ear antenna, but this time the channels are in crystal clear HD.

How do I know what channels are available in my area?

This is the big question: What HDTV can I get over the air? Most urban centres will have at least some OTA signals available if you have an antenna plugged into your TV. A great tool for checking what stations are available is TV Fool. On this site you simply enter your address and it spits out the channels you could potentially tune into (if you live in the US or Canada). Here is what my output looks like:

OTA TV channels that I can get

The green ones can be picked up by a normal indoor antenna

Confusing looking right? Well, it’s relatively straight forward actually. The green ones are stations that I can expect to be able to tune into with a normal set-top antenna. Any of the other ones would require a much more “pro” setup in an attic or even mounted on the roof.

The circle in the top left actually shows you where the transmitter is for each of these channels relative to your address. As you can see, in my area we have two main transmission towers that are opposite on another. So depending on where you place your antenna, you may get better reception from one of these groups of stations.

Try TV Fool Now


How do I get started?

So now you know how what stations are floating out in the ether waiting to get snatched up by your trusty antenna. What next? Now you need an antenna! For beginners I would recommend going with something basic like a Mohu. They are easy to setup and don’t really look like antennas.

The have a couple different flavours. I’ve personally used the Mohu Leaf and can say that it did a decent job picking up several of the stations from the map above. In my area there are a couple channels that tend to come in weaker so I actually ended up upgrading to an amplified antenna a couple years ago. Mohu makes one called the Mohu Leaf 50 that is powered by USB. I’ve also used a Terk antenna in the past that worked quite well, but it looked a bit more like an antenna. That is to say… it was a bit ugly.

The Mohu Leaf antenna

The Mohu Leaf antenna

But at the end of the day you can even try this with any old antenna that is lying around. So give it a try. Plug the antenna into your TV, go into the menu and do a channel search. In the settings of the TV you may also need to set the cable input on the back to “antenna” instead of cable. If you get stuck shoot me an email, I’m here to help.

As always, happy cord cutting.

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