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Cutting the Cable, Phase 1, Research and Testing

When the cable company that services our location decided to more than double their rates, apparently while maintaining the same sorry levels of service, I decided that I needed to cut the cable for Television.

I had some small, set top type antennas from a previous location that I used to conduct testing while there, so I pressed them into service again.

Taping the antennas to 2 different windows on the main level of the house, I was more than simply surprised to find that I could get 29-33 channels inside my home (we sit down in a valley a bit) depending upon which window antenna I hooked up!

So I ordered 2, directional and pre-amplified, antennas believing that I needed to combine signals from 2 different directions in order to get good coverage. I went to my local home store and purchased 1, 10 foot length, of 1 and 1/4 inch diameter EMT conduit to server as my antenna mast. I took the TV I was testing with to my basement so I didn’t disrupt the main TV in the family room with my testing. I got a couple of large diameter hose clamps, mounted the antenna to one end of the EMT, cabled it up with a long piece of RG6/U Quad Shield Coax. I fastened the lower part of the EMT to a vertical piece of the railing that surrounded my wooden deck at the BASEMENT level! I had prepared myself to receive even fewer channels than in my family room because the antenna was ~10 feet lower than in the family room!

Finally got everything hooked up and then powered on the antenna and TV. Much to my surprise, EVERY channel that had been programmed from the family room trials–some had come in with weak signals and showed broken TV/Audio–now came in with pretty much 100% clarity! To say I was shocked was an understatement. Given the success of simply powering on, I started the TV searching for channels. When that finished I had 58 channels, fully 2 time what I received in my family room!!!!

Lesson learned here, if you have the ability (location and skills) to mount an external antenna, you should do so, the house REALLY degrades the signals!

I then started changing the direction of the antenna in ~ 45 degree increments. In other words, I moved the antenna in a direction about half of a right angle. The antennas I purchased claim a 40 degree width of signal capture.

NOTE!! whatever the width of capture of your antenna at the antenna, the width of that angle will expand greatly in terms of MILES the farther you get away from the antenna! THIS is very important because if you live 30-50 miles from the signal sources like my home is located, you can “tweak” your installation by turning the antenna EVER SO SLIGHTLY in one direction and then the other. This takes time because you need to re-scan the channels after every adjustment to be sure that if additional channels are able to be received, the only way your TV will get them is to do the auto-tune.

By time I had finished my “tweaking”, I spent ~1 hour doing this process, I had 67 channels. Now some channels that we want to watch had gotten weak in the 67 channel position, and the additional channels we picked up, after watching them for a while, were not high priority channels for us, so i went back to a position that I recalled would give GREAT signal on all the high priority channels we want to watch.

Now, allow me to remind you that ALL of this was done at 10 feet above my basement floor level wooden deck! I identified that I have 1 gable end on the roof, 30 feet higher than the place I am currently mounted, which should allow me to place the antenna and mount it in the same relative direction I have it in now. Now when that, not so small of a task, is complete, I will put in extra effort to make my installation more professional and permanent by using a white jacketed coax and white coax retaining clips to make the installation not so visible. I will also route the coax just below our gutters so they will be back in a shadow and not front and center being visible to anyone in the back yard. Finally, I am going to need to drill an entry point for the cable through the top of the basement wall.

Once inside, I need to find a good location to install a “distribution amplifier”. For those who may not be familiar with the term, a distribution amplifier (or as the trade refers to the DA) is an electronic device that takes an incoming signal and sends it out each one of the output ports on the device at the same signal strength. Unlike when you put 3 TVs on the same wire, the signal strength is diminished because it is being tapped by 3 different TVs, a DA provides each one of your 3 TVs with a full strength signal. For homes where you want to watch lots of TVs at the same time, a DA–properly sized for the number of outputs–is a requirement.

OK, so this concludes Phase 1 of my cable cutting experience. Phase 2 will be reported in a few weeks when I gather all the materials needed to install the outside antenna in its permanent location.

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