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OTA Digital TV in Oshawa

November 27th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

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.

  1. leftisright
    December 13th, 2009 at 22:29 | #1

    Do you have any pics of your set up? I’m close to the lake in Oshawa in a bungalow, not that high an elevation, but then, not too much to block any signals (except for the odd tree). I’ve tried a simple horizontal antenna, but I only get WNED and WNLO(?).

  2. Rob
    February 7th, 2010 at 00:06 | #2

    I’m at the King and Wilson area. I’ve got an ATI “HDTV Wonder” tv tuner card in my PC, which is plugged into my bigscreen TV. The ATI “TV Wonder 650” is just as good. For the PC, I recommend getting a PCI-slot tuner rather than one of those USB tuners.

    I use an indoor antenna on the second-floor. The antenna is kind of homemade…actually a uhf antenna from “The source” from which I’ve torn off the element, mounted onto a steel plate (side panel from an old computer) and attached to an amplifier which is mounted behind the steel plate. I get 25 channels (including subchannels) from the CN tower, Hamilton and from Buffalo. I have to turn the antenna depending on the channel (either west or south), but I have no cable or satellite, and watch everything in crisp clear digital (much of which is in genuine High-Definition).

    Anyone in Oshawa with an old outdoor antenna/rotor should really look into getting a TV with an ATSC tuner or a HD TV tuner for their computer, coz the picture you can get off the air for free is amazing. I can’t complain with 25 channels considering I’m using an indoor antenna, but if I had a rooftop antenna, I imagine I could pull in even more than I’m getting.

    I love using the computer as a receiver because with a free program called “WatchHDTV”, my PC becomes a PVR, allowing me to schedule and record TV shows onto my hard-drive. “LOST” in high-definition is just beautiful!

  3. Bob Kerr
    March 15th, 2010 at 21:41 | #3

    Hi Everyone.

    Just made the change from Rogers over to an outside 4 bay antenna mounted onto my chimney (approx 400 feet above sea level). Reception is very good & get approx 18 channels. Used the channelmaster 4221 antenna with their recommended “preamp” & also removed/replaced all of Rogers coaxial wiring.

    We are very excited about having made the switch & are happy to be saving $$$$, especially during these financial times. Will be looking at the possibility of having a rotar installed but will hold off until the summer.

    Bob (from Oshawa ON)

  4. Len Jeffrey
    May 5th, 2010 at 07:30 | #4

    Hi. I have had a digital converter for over a year and it works well. The antenna is a round Radio Shack antenna purchased years ago when Radio Shack was around. I’m using an old tower and reception is good-usually 13 channels. Can anyone tell me what happened to channel 29 over the air?

  5. May 5th, 2010 at 07:49 | #5

    @Len Jeffrey
    I’m assuming you’re in Oshawa?

    I suspect that your antenna isn’t strong enough to pick up 29. The round antennas are okay for short-range stuff, as they are omni-directional. With my setup, we are getting 29 flawlessly, even in bad weather.

    If you take a look at tvfool.com, you’ll see the majority of stations are either south, or west of us, so it makes sense to increase your directionality. I would try a 4-bay, or 8-bay antenna on your tower, and see what that does for you. It looks like durhamradio.com has them on sale:

    http://www.durhamradio.com/tv-antennas.html

    … and if you’ve got the cash, get a preamp:

    http://www.durhamradio.com/preamps-and-splitters.html

    Let us know how it goes!

  6. Len Jeffrey
    May 15th, 2010 at 00:02 | #6

    I have the original, amplified round radio shack antenna at the top of the tower and three of the four-bay antennas connected in parallel into a 4 in/one out splitter box. Actually, the splitter box was meant to be used as a one in/four out tv box.This weekend I will be aiming the fourth antenna towards channel 29 and placing this antenna higher than the other two four-bay antennas. I have been receiving channel 29 whenever the weather is good and usually only in the mornings. I haven’t been able to spend much time in setting up the last antenna because of bad weather and having to go to work.I will see how this works out. What do you guys think?

  7. May 21st, 2010 at 11:09 | #7

    @Len Jeffrey
    I think you are doing yourself a disservice with your setup. Granted, I don’t know what you are going for, and I’m not an engineer, but here’s my thoughts anyways.

    When you use a signal combiner like that, you are basically chopping your reception by half or more. Here’s why (as was explained to me):

    Say you want a channel, 29 for example. If you aim one antenna directly at 29, and get 100% signal, that is great. Now say you want something off of the CN Tower, so you aim an antenna directly there, and you get 100% signal. Ooops, now you want to get both, and you combine them. Assuming that the antenna aimed at 29 get 0% signal from CN Tower, and vice-versa, yo will end up with 50% signal for both. That is a best case. You can also introduce interference if you have more than 0% signal, as the combined signals are likely out of phase.

    How does your reception work with *a single* 4-bay antenna, and a pre-amp mounted at the top of your tower? I suspect with correct alignment you will get all of the channels available.

    Anyways let us know how it goes!

  8. Len Jeffrey
    May 23rd, 2010 at 00:05 | #8

    Thankyou for all of the information that you have given to me. It makes complete sense.I actually added another 4 bay antenna and got no new stations. I tried moving it in different directions while my wife was at the other end of a walkie talkie watching a level meter on our tv screen[not very scientific].
    So that’s the way it stands right now. We only get channel 29 after midnight on clear nights but all other channels from the direction of the cn tower are strong all the time. What if I added an booster to one antenna aimed at channel 29. Would that weaken the other channels by roughly 50%?
    Also, another thought. Why are the 4-bay,8-bay,etc. antennas terminated with 75 ohm connectors? Those antennas are 300 ohms??

  9. May 26th, 2010 at 08:23 | #9

    @Len Jeffrey
    Have you tried hooking *only* your highest-altitude 4-bay with a pre-amp to your TV? I think this would dramatically boost your signal. Sensuz carries the high gain pre-amp that works well for me (CM-7777). All the links are in the above post.

    I can’t help you with the balun information, that goes beyond my understanding at the moment.

  10. Len Jeffrey
    May 26th, 2010 at 20:10 | #10

    Thanks. I’ll go and buy a preamp as you say, asap. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  11. George
    September 28th, 2011 at 11:46 | #11

    Can you provide a list of the 29 channels that you get? I’m curious.

  12. September 29th, 2011 at 11:17 | #12

    @George

    You get most the major networks including: CBC, CTV, Global, CityTV, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC.

    I’m getting the following:

    2.1 (NBC)
    2.2 (WGRZ-US)
    2.3 (WGRZ-RT)
    4.1 (WIVB-HD) (CBS?)
    5.1 (CBC)
    7.1 (WKBW-HD) (ABC?)
    9.1 (CTV)
    11.1 (CHCH-DT)
    17.1 (PBS)
    17.2
    17.3
    19.1 (TVO )
    23.1
    25.1 (CBLFT-D)
    26.1 (WNYB-SD)
    26.2 (WNYB-HD)
    26.3 (WNYBSD2)
    26.4 (WNYBSD3)
    29.1 (WUTV-HD) (FOX)
    29.2 (TCN)
    36.1 (CTS HD)
    41.1 (CIII-DT) (Global)
    47.1 (OMNI 1)
    49.1 (WNYO-HD)
    49.2 (Cool TV)
    51.1 (ION)
    51.2 (qubo)
    51.3 (IONLife)
    57.1 (City HD)
    64.1
    66.1 (CKXT-DT)
    69.1 (OMNI 2)

  13. Alan
    November 11th, 2011 at 20:48 | #13

    I’m living near Taunton and Townline in Oshawa and live at the top of the neighbourhood with a clear view of the lake. Would I have better or worse reception vs people closer to the lake/or in the city?

    Very interested in this set up – is there a simple how-to posted anywhere?

  14. November 14th, 2011 at 14:23 | #14

    @Alan
    I know the area well. You should get excellent reception where you are, and you can even see the CN Tower in some parts, on a clear day. This is probably one of the best locations I know of.

    Unfortunately, this was meant as a simple how-to!

    If you want to make it more simple (assuming an outdoor install):

    – buy a 10′ 1.5″ (or 1.25″, I forget) steel conduit for your mast from Home Depot, ~$10
    – get a good 8-bay antenna (Channel Master CM-4228HD)
    – get a good pre-amp (Channel Master CM-7777)
    – decide on how you are going to mount it
    – durham radio sells this stuff, along with various mounting kits, and can give you good tips
    – point the 8-bay mostly south (and mount as high as you can)
    – antenna + 1/2 of pre-amp are mounted together on the mast
    – mast should be grounded if mounting outdoors
    – pre-amp out should be grounded near service entrance (using a coax grounding block)
    – other 1/2 of pre-amp needs power, and is probably mounted indoors. The closer to your TV or split, the better.
    – I start by pointing it south, and slowly turning it west until we get channel 11.1 (Hamilton) clearly

    That should get you everything listed above.

  15. David
    September 22nd, 2012 at 11:24 | #15

    Hi,

    Very useful information, I have been trying to wire the inside of my house, was able to get into the Rogers box but nothing seems to carry the signal through to my television. Am I better off to just run a new cable in or is there an easy way to troubleshoot this issue? Also, I haven’t installed the antenna yet, have simply been testing positions to see what I get, I don’t have a preamp and wanted to keep costs low but would it significantly increase my reception? Any although it may sound like a dumb question does the preamp connect directly to the satellite or is it something you have close to the television? Thanks in advance for all the advice!

  16. September 24th, 2012 at 06:23 | #16

    @David
    Chances are, you’ve got a few different cables in the Roger’s box (one for each jack). What I’d typically do, is get a cable toner, and ensure that you are connecting to the right cable in the box. Home depot have these, at double the price, if you are in a hurry. If you cannot product a tone at the jack near your TV (EDIT: you should place the tone at the TV jack, and find the cable at the box with the tone), you might have a disconnected split or break in the cable, so try and visually inspect the cable through your house, if you can.

    Instead of a toner, if you have a really, really, long piece of cable, and a multi-meter, you can plug the cable in near the TV, and bring the other end out to the Rogers box. You do a continuity test with the multi-meter (measure each cable in the box, until resistance on the inner wire drops to 0 ohm).

    Also, you won’t have TV stations automatically appear on your TV after you plug the cable in. You’ll likely need to do a channel scan.

    A good pre-amp will *double* the number of stations that you receive. I wouldn’t do it without one. There are two pieces to it. One is as ‘close’ (in wire length) to the antenna as possible, the other as close to the TV/split point as possible.

  17. Bob
    October 16th, 2012 at 23:54 | #17

    Antennas sound great, but almost all of my TV watching is from recording first and then viewing later. Do I have any options for this?

  18. October 17th, 2012 at 06:24 | #18

    @Bob
    Yeah, for sure.

    I use MythTV which is an open source DVR package. It takes a bit of fussing with, but it works great when you have it ‘just so’.

    If you want an out-of-the-box solution, there is at least the CM-7400, and the discontinued CM-7000PAL. I’m sure there’s other solutions available too, I just haven’t spent a lot of time researching, as MythTV is really what I want.

    The PC I have running Myth is my HTPC, and does a lot more than any of these channel master boxes can do, better (i.e. like watching youtube, or other streaming services).

  19. simone
    April 29th, 2013 at 18:52 | #19

    after years of bad customer service
    i have decided to cancel my rogers cable
    and go with an 8 bay antennae
    . interesting article on how to but a little confusing
    for me. except that I think i will invest with a pre amp.
    does anyone know a good installer?
    and the difference between attic and outdoor installation ?

  20. May 8th, 2013 at 08:58 | #20

    @simone
    I can’t help you with installers, but with respect to attic vs outdoor install: you lose about half the signal moving the antenna into the attic, for an antenna mounted at the same height. Mind you, you won’t have a giant antenna hanging off of the side of your house, and in Oshawa at least, the loss of signal isn’t really a problem.

  21. Dave
    June 10th, 2015 at 21:25 | #21

    I’m also in the Beatrice/Grandview area. I’m using a cheap 8 bay diviwave antenna mounted to the deck (facing south). I’m able to pickup the following:

    2-1 nbc
    2-2 channel 2
    2-3
    4-1 cbs
    5-1. cbc
    7-1 abc
    7-2 laff
    7-3 escape
    9-1 ctv
    11-1 chc
    17-1
    17-2 think
    19-1 tvo/Tvo kids
    23-1 pbs
    23-2 bounce
    25-1 (French)
    27-1
    27-2
    29-1 fox
    29-2 zuus
    29-3 grit
    36-1 (church/religious)
    40-1 omni(Chinese)
    41-1 global
    47-1
    49-1 mytvbuffalo
    51-1 ion TV
    51-2 qubo (kids)
    51-3 ion live
    51-4 paid prog
    51-5 paid prog
    51-6 paid prog
    57-1 city tv

    57-1 is the only one I struggle with. Comes in 60% in the evening

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