Cutting the cable with a DIY TV antenna

Recently Kallie and I decided to cut our ties with the the big satellite TV folks in hopes of finding a cheaper alternative. The decision came about when our monthly bill doubled to $120 a month. That was simply ridiculous and the satellite company’s excuse was that some special offers had expired. After making a few phone calls and trying to haggle a better price, I was told that was the very best they could do. So I threatened to cancel my service. This is usually when the big name companies really start to look hard to find a deal for you because they still want your money. Well apparently my money was no good for the satellite company or they already had enough of it because I was still told that $120 was their best offer.

Now Kallie and I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. Certainly less than the average American household. However we do enjoy cuddling up on the couch after a hard days work and watching a few episodes of our favorite shows before we get ready for bed. So considering our TV viewing habits, I had already though $60 a month was high until it doubled. There has to be a better way, and I found it. This Excel Sheet is something I created to compare prices and savings under different options.

After researching many options online, which I must admit I love to research things online, I settled on a Roku for our main TV. Roku is a small device about the size of a hockey puck that connects to your TV via HDMI. It acts like a dedicated computer and streams your entertainment from Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, etc over your wifi. At first we bought a Roku 2 factory refurbished model, but after playing with it a day we decided to exchange it for the Roku 3 model. The reason being was the 2 was sort of sluggish and it does not support multiple profiles on Netflix, a feature we really wanted. The only problem is we never got around to exchanging the 2 and so it ended up on the TV in the sewing/hobby room instead.

Now the Roku 3 has been a great little device and for the roughly $80 it cost, it was a good deal in my opinion. There is no monthly charges for the Roku. Any monthly charges you have are for your services such as Netflix ($8), Hulu ($8), and Sling TV ($20) an month. You can also link your Amazon Prime account to the thing if you have one of those. Now we don’t pay for all of those services as we get by watching a handful of shows, but that is just to show you some of the capabilities of the device.

One thing that is lacking with going to a all streaming TV experience is local channels. It was very important to us to have our local channels on the TV considering we live in a tornado prone area of the country. The solution was to build my own TV antenna. After more research online I stumbled across this guys website which seemed to have the most logical information and I used his bow-tie antenna plans to build my own. So here is a short list of what you need.

1 – board about 5 foot long and at least 2 inches wide, any thickness.

10 – wood screws

About 12 feet of solid copper wire at least 14 gauge or bigger.

1 – TV antenna balun such as this one

To get started, on the board mark one inch from the top all the way across. This is your first set of bowties. Then measure 9 inches down from that mark and make a second mark all the way across. This is your second set of bowties. Next measure 4.5 inches down from the last mark and mark across again. This is where the balun will attach. Now measure another 4.5 inches and make a mark. This is the third set of bowties. Lastly, measure another 9 inches down and make a mark. This is the fourth and last set of bowties.

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Now put two screws part-way into the board on each line and separate the screws at a minimum 1 and 1/2 inches. The screws should have an even spacing between each of the two screws all the way down.

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Cut eight pieces of wire at 19 inches in length and strip off and insulation if any is present. Make sure they are straight. I rolled mine between a board and my table saw.

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Fold each one of these pieces perfectly in half so each side is even. Next, put one pieces of wire on each screw (except the center most pair where the balun attaches) making one complete wrap around the screw as show in the picture. The wires should face outward from the board.

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Next take a piece of wire and connect it to one of the top screws, then to the screw opposite of it on the second row, down to the balun screw and then the 3rd bowtie screw on the same side before crossing back to the last screw on the same side the wire started on making sure to leave enough extra wire so a 1 inch gap can be maintained between the wires on the last section. See picture. Do the same thing to the other screws but in reverse order.

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Lastly, attach the balun to the center set of screws. If you feel so inclined you can solder all the connections to ensure a tight fit, but the screws will usually hold it all together just fine. If you are like me then you just built an awesome antenna for about $4, which is the cost of the balun. I had everything else for the antenna from scraps in my shop.

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Now you just need to find out where to point the antenna so as to get the best reception. This website works best for finding the broadcast towers in your area. Point the antenna so the signal will hit the antenna on the flat side. You will also get the best reception if you place the antenna as high as possible. Mine is now mounted in the attic and feeds into a splitter, then on to the two TV’s in our house. I get 42 local channels, all in wonderful digital clarity. About half of the channels are in High Def and look better than they ever did over satellite. Between the Roku, our streaming services, and the home-built antenna, we get all our shows for under $30 a month.

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It’s not pretty but it gets the job done.

Well I hope you see just how easy it is to make your own TV antenna for less than $5. One of these is a good thing to keep around in case of bad weather takes out your normal information gathering sources. Perhaps you can cut the ties with the overly expensive cable and satellite companies too and enjoy a little more money in your pocket every month.

Dale

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