Signals in the air

20090909_cm4221hdSo now we’re getting somewhere!

Here’s the CM-4221HD mounted on my balcony.

The mast, a length of galvanized conduit, is attached to a pressure-treated 2×4 with two u-straps. The 2×4 is affixed to my balcony using a length of strapping attached with screws at the bottom, and a 6″ C-clamp at the top. It’s surprisingly secure.

I need to get a proper outdoor RG-6 coaxial cable. The cable in the photo is far too short and not built to withstand the elements.

So how does it work? Better than I expected, frankly. There’s only one small problem. If I point it south, I get every channel but two: CHCH and CHRO. And wouldn’t you just know it, CHRO is the station I watch most often. If I point the antenna north, CHRO comes in very well, but about five others are unwatchable.

But I have a plan. The CM-4221HD is UHF only. The two channels that do not come in when it is aimed south are 11 and 13, both VHF-hi. So I need a VHF antenna. Yes, a rotor would work, but they’re expensive. Another antenna would cost less.

I frequent the OTA forum on digitalhome.com and when I laid out my problem, one poster suggested plain old rabbit ears. Jessica brought hers over a while back and it was a disaster. I got almost nothing with them. My building is made of kryptonite or something. I may try again and buy a plain non-amplified pair of rabbit ears to see how they work, but I’m sceptical.

Even the rabbit ears experiment fails, I have another option. I could get a proper outdoor VHF-hi antenna. It will certainly work better than rabbit ears! The drawback is its size. My current favourite VHF-hi antenna is the Winegard YA-1713 and it’s 254 cm (100″) long! Yes, that’s big, but the antennas that cover all the VHF frequencies can be more than 400 cm (13′) long. That’s some kind of antenna! It’s also overkill because as of the digital switch-over, VHF-low will no longer be used for television broadcasts.

Do I want a second antenna? Not really, no. But at the same time, for the $50–$75 it would cost, I’d get all the stations broadcast in town very well. Even if the VHF antenna were rendered useless when analog broadcasts are shut down, it wouldn’t be a bad deal. But it won’t be rendered useless. Most digital channels are within the UHF frequencies, but not all of them are. For example, CHRO will remain on channel 13 so an antenna capable of pulling in the VHF-hi channels will still be useful. To connect the two antennas, I need a simple UHF/VHF coupler which sells for less than $20.

The antenna cost me $80 and the mounting hardware was $55. I stopped paying for cable in July so the $135 I’ve spent on over the air reception will be covered in November by the money I would’ve given to Rogers. After that, it’s all free … unless I get more stuff, and I wouldn’t bet against my getting more stuff.

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One Comment

  1. Jonathan
    Posted September 14, 2009 at 13:34 | Permalink

    I’ve discovered that indoor cables survive outdoors remarkably well with a yearly wrap of electrical tape!

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