How to Connect an HD Antenna

by James T Wood

Since the transition to digital transmission of television in June 2009, free High Definition programming has been available to those with a digital antenna and a TV that can receive the signal. The previous analog signals couldn't provide an HD picture due to the amount of information that needed to get from the broadcaster to your TV set. But digital broadcast allows for either HDTV signals or several standard definition channels to be broadcast over the same amount of radio wave spectrum.

Find the signal strength and location of your local stations. The Federal Communication Commission has a digital television map that will show you what you need (see link in Resources). Enter your address in the box, click "Go" and the strength of your local stations are displayed on the left. Click each station to see where it is located in relation to you. The stronger the signal, the less work your antenna needs to do. If the signals are all coming from, generally, the same direction, you can also have a simpler installation that doesn't need to rotate.

Select your antenna. A strong signal from the broadcaster means you can probably use a set-top, non-powered antenna and still get good reception. A moderate signal indicates that you need to find a way to amplify the reception, either with an aerial antenna or a powered antenna. If you have a weak signal, your best chance is to have an aerial powered antenna.

Place your antenna so that it faces the majority of the broadcasters in your area. Set top antennas will have a directional dial that allows you to direct the reception direction. Aerial antennas need to be positioned when they're installed.

Run quad-shielded 75-Ohm coaxial cable from the antenna to the television -- or digital converter box -- in as short a distance as possible. The longer the cable run or the more times it is spliced, the more interference can creep into the signal. Using shielded wire helps, but keeping the cable run as short as possible makes things that much better.

Run the channel scanning tool on your television. Note which channels it finds and compare that list to the broadcasters you found at the FCC site. Due to the way digital broadcasting works, each broadcaster can send out several sub-channels over the same signal. So you may have your main, high definition channel, and several standard definition sub-channels all from the same broadcaster indicated by the decimal places on the channel number. So the HDTV might be on channel 8.1 while the SDTV is on 8.2 through 8.9, for example.

Tip

  • If your television was made before 2009, you may need a digital converter box to receive HDTV signals over the air.

Items you will need

  • 75-Ohm, quad-shielded RG-6 Coaxial Cable
  • Digital TV Converter Box
  • Antenna Amplifier

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images