Oshawa is one of the best places in North America for over the air TV. We get signals from the CN Tower, Hamilton, and many of the Buffalo stations. Using the setup I’ll describe, I’m currently receiving 21 (or more) digital TV channels with no rotor, and many of them are HD! Digital TV provides a crystal clear signal. It provides a higher quality signal than Cable TV, particularly with the HD signals, as there is no compression applied to the channel. Best of all, your monthly payments are reduced to $0!
I don’t agree with the way Rogers or Bell run their businesses, and I especially do not want to give them more money to further entrench their duopoly. Having said that, I had to come up with a solution for TV at home. Examining my options, I figured that I could install a proper TV antenna for ~$300. If you are on Bell or Rogers, guaranteed this will amortize in less than a year, and even less if you don’t require a digital TV tuner.
I wanted to avoid a rotor for many reasons. My first concern was having the control box around, taking up space. In addition, the control boxes are typically wired. More wires for me to run, and also, it tethers you to were you can control the TV reception from. Also, I’ll probably want to connect more than one TV to the system, so why should one TV be subject to the reception of the “main TV”? Later, I would find out that a rotor would be incompatible with my attic due to space constraints – so it worked out!
I planned to install the antenna inside my attic. With UHF, the higher you are, the better your signal. You could put up a tower and probably double your signal, but a tower can run you ~$700+ installed, and leaves an unsightly skyline. There are no other towers up in my neighbourhood.
I ran a conduit up from my basement to the inside of the soffit on the outside of my house, so that I would have a clean solution for running cables up to the attic. I’m planning on also running CAT6 up to the bedrooms upstairs, so this little bit of extra work now, gives me a lot of flexibility for future runs. This added ~$150 to the cost, once you include the extra tools I needed to do that job.
After doing some research, I figured that my best bet was to use an 8-Bay antenna, since Toronto is about 54km away, Buffalo is almost 100km away for the closest stations, plus the additional dB loss from installing inside the attic. I was looking for deep fringe reception. I decided to install a Channel Master CM-4228HD 8-Bay UHF Antenna. Word on the street is that it isn’t as powerful as its older brother, the CM-4228, but I figured it would do. I’ve heard that the wider beam width of a 4-Bay seems to serve people in the area well too, but you’ll reduce the strength of the reception (if you mount it on a tower, it will likely offset that loss). I also used a Channel Master CM-7777 Preamp to help boost the signal.
I used the venerable TVFool.com website to look up the position of the stations that I could receive, so I’d have an idea of what way to point my antenna. In the end, I’ve pretty well just pointed it south, as it seems to pick up the CN Tower stations well enough, and now I’m getting stations from 144km away.
I used Sensuz Media to order my parts, they seem to have the best prices locally, and offer pickup in Markham. Since I’m in Markham frequently, it was a snap for me to pick up. I bought my mast for mounting over at Durham Radio, they were closer (for driving around with a 10′ post hanging out the back), and I wanted to see what they were all about. They were quite friendly, and very helpful, so if you don’t want to go to Sensuz, Durham Radio is a great supplier, and can provide you with more region-specific information.
I was sure to use quad-sheilded RG6 for the long run from my attic to the inside of my house. You want to limit the loss on this run as much as possible, since this is an unamplified signal. I got a good deal over at Monoprice. At the time, they didn’t have stock on bulk quad sheilded cable, so I bought 2×100′ lengths, plus some other odd sizes, premanufactured, and then trimmed to length after running.
Rogers has been up to some sneaky tricks on home builds.
All of the cable runs inside my house are split on the outside of my house, inside the “cable box”. God forbid, I do “illegal splits” on my own signal. Also, when I run future splits, I will have to run them in the basement anyways, it’s the only way that makes sense. So now I’ve got two places to worry about splits: in my basement, and outside. Also, the connectors outside are more prone to corrosion. A very inconvenient setup for someone who has no intention of using cable again, just to protect Rogers’ business interests. What ever happened to running one cable in from outside? I digress.
I thought I would need a special tool to get into the box, but I didn’t. Needle-nose pliers were able to grasp onto the round bolt, and I was able to get in just fine, and disconnect Rogers, and connect my equipment. It seems as though the rest of the house is wired with RG59, but that’s okay – I’m amplified at this point so we’ve got more breathing room.
Long story short, over the air tv is a viable alternative in Oshawa to cable/satellite for me. I hope to get more people set up on this over time.