If you’re looking for a way to dump your cable or satellite bill but still be able to see network TV, then Over-The-Air is for you. A lot of people don’t realize that you can get network television programming for free by putting up an antenna. With the advent of cable and satellite most people have forgotten that this is still available. And not only available, but in HD. One thing to keep in mind as well is that OTA HD is a higher quality than what you will get with a pay TV system because it leaves the transmitter with no compression.
The problem is that putting up an antenna can cost some money depending on where you live. If in a larger city, a simple unpowered indoor antenna might get you everything you need and therefore “cutting the cable” is a bit easier. If you’re like me however and you live in the middle of nowhere, the investment might be a little higher. In this case you could be looking at a tower, larger antenna and other costs.
The easiest way to know what you’re going to need is to visit a website that can show you on a map. The standard that most people use is Antenna Web. While this is a great site with some good info, I recently found one much better. TV Fool provides mapping, azimuth information and distance to each transmitter. By submitting your address, you’re provided a full listing of all the stations you should be able to receive, all the above listed information as well as distance and the chart is color coded so you can tell how easy or hard it might be to pick them up.
This is all done using the terrain in your area so the maps take that into account. There are even charts that show the elevation between you and the transmitter as well as signal strength:
Using these tools, you should easily be able to figure out exactly what equipment you’ll need to pick up your local network station. As you can see from the above graphics, I have a problem. There are mountains between me and anything on the US side of the border, so I’ll stick with cable for now. Hopefully you’ll have better luck!