Tell me about your OTA antenna

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Bozley0621, Sep 14, 2010.

  1. Bozley0621 macrumors 6502

    Mar 25, 2009
    I want to get rid of cable in the worst way. I'd be more than happy with over the air channels and content if I could just get them.

    I live 20 miles from D.C. in a 1st floor condo surrounded by trees. Outdoor antennas are not allowed. I have tried 2 indoor antennas everywhere in my place (short of putting them in my bed to snuggle), but neither TVs (HD with tuner) will pick up and hold any channels.

    Does anyone have a similar type of place where you are getting over the air channels in all their glory?

    Disclaimer: What follows is a rant.

    I called Comcast to see about downgrading my service, but to unbundle and get limited basic cable for just the local channels is $85 after equipment. Verizon isn't any better.
  2. Tilpots macrumors 601


    Apr 19, 2006
    Carolina Beach, NC
    Often times, those HOA rules against antennas are illegal. So you may want to start there. Otherwise, you still have a couple of options.

    You could try getting an outdoor antenna and finding a place for it inside. I'd check to see what'd work best for ya. Or you could just get one, keep the receipt and see if it works for you. If it doesn't, just take it back.

    The other option, if you get internet thru one of those subscribers, is just to plug the cable directly into your TV. Most companies leave the local channels unscrambled and shouldn't be able to disconnect this while your still paying for internet.

    Good luck. Cable sucks... Let us know how it goes.
  3. PurdueGuy macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2010
    They very well may not be allowed.

    HOAs and landlords cannot restrict antennas in areas in which you have "exclusive use" meaning a balcony, patio, etc. A walkway isn't considered exclusive.

    Also, they can disallow hole drilling, mounting hardware, etc. depending on who "owns" the wall. If you have a balcony or patio, you can put an antenna there, but might need to run cabling out a window, door, etc. Also, they cannot protrude out from the "exclusive use" area.
  4. Bozley0621 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 25, 2009
    I guess my only option at this point may be to buy several more indoor antennas and try them all. Oddly enough, I dread the reboxing of the ones that don't work, more than anything.

    Several homeowners have alraedy spoken to legal representatives regarding use of their patios. Unfortunately, this HOA dictates what type of chair we even keep on our patios, let alone an antenna. :mad:
  5. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Don't get confused about chair vs. antenna. The FEDs have laid down the law that supersedes HOA rules about antennas, but they haven't done anything similar about deck chairs. You are allowed to receive signals over the air regardless of what your HOA rules say. Time and time again challenges to this rule by HOAs fail. The core idea is that you have rights to receive these signals and it takes an antenna to receive them. The HOA must bend to reasonable needs (such as an antenna) so that you can receive the signals.

    All that said, the HOA may still be able to dictate type of chairs on your deck/patio. But you do have rights to receive the signals. And it does take an antenna to receive those signals. The HOA must bend if you press the issue.

    Also note that you don't even need their permission. Just put up what you need and leave it to them to try to force you to take it down. That's where the FED law trumps the HOA rules the best. If you try to go the permission route, they'll stall and stall, deny, etc. But if you just put up what you need, the most they'll be able to do is get you to move it to another location. More simply, it's much like a game of poker. You call their bluff (that they can somehow deny you access to the signals) and they can't play any card that will result in your NOT having access to the signals. They can ask you to relocate the antenna, but they can't ask you to relocate it such that you lose access to the signals. On the other hand, asking an HOA for permission will almost only get you denials (but they have no legal right to deny you, per the FED law). Basically, Nike offers the best advice on this topic: "Just do it". Then, it forces them to try to force you to remove/move it. The best they'll be able to do is to get you to put it in a different spot (but it will have to be a spot that still gets you the signals). Most simply: in every scenario, you win, except the one where you believe that the HOA has some right that supersedes this particular Federal law (they don't).

    Lastly, at only 20 miles away, you probably don't need a massive antenna. Use the tool at: to get a feel for the size of antenna(s) you may need. That will be much better than trying to guess. And you may want to try a quality set of "rabbit ears". They may do the trick. The nice thing about Digital TV signals is either you get the video at full quality or you don't; there is not partial quality in digital TV. If you can get all the channels you seek with rabbit ears, the picture quality should be as good as if you put up the most massive antenna you can buy.

    If you do buy an outside antenna to go on your deck/patio, you don't need to actually mount it to test it- just put it on a chair(s) or table and see if it can pull in a quality signal. If so, then you can mount it. If not, return it and try another. Again, at 20 miles, you shouldn't have a big problem barring major nearby obstacles and/or lots of hills/mountains between you and the towers.

    One last tip about outdoor antenna selection: besides using the tool referenced above, a very easy way to find the right size/type is drive around the neighborhood looking for installed antennas. Note their size/type. Then look for something similar.
  6. ayale99 macrumors 6502

    Dec 6, 2007
    I tried buying a lot of different antennas with mixed results.

    The best antenna by far is the DIY antenna:

    I pick up every channel crystal clear now. It beats out the $100+ antennas and only costs about $10 to make!
  7. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Mar 19, 2003
    I messed around with a couple different antennas hooked directly to my TV with so-so results. Then I tried getting an external tuner to hook the antenna into and it made all the difference. The tuner in my TV was the bigger problem than the antenna.

    Also if you have cable internet (or even if you don't), it's worth a shot to just plug your coax straight into your TV. If it has a QAM tuner you'll probably get your local channels in HD. (The cable installer is supposed to put a filter on the line, but in my experience they never bother)
  8. Bozley0621 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 25, 2009
    Thanks for the response. I realize the FCC trumps the HOA. I was using the chair to demonstrate their rigidness (for lack of a better term.)

    I'm renting the condo. I don't want to drag the owner into a debate with the HOA regarding antennas on patios. So, I'm left to complain about them on MacRumors to kind folks like you and try my best to find an alternative, that being an indoor antenna.

    I've looked at antenna web and don't find it that helpful. According to the site, a yellow UHF is best.
  9. mstrze macrumors 68000

    Nov 6, 2009

    This is by far the best indoor antenna you can get. I have tried the DIY version with mixed results.

    Oddly, you might think that amplified antennas would be better than non, but for some reason in the digital realm, they actually perform worse. The different between this and my previous amplified antenna is like night and day....or some 30-40 ticks on the signal level on the joke.

    My situation: 36 miles NE of my local towers with much of it flat of small rolling hills (Houston, TX) storey home, lots of 150ft tall pine trees around. I get not only all of my local Houston stations, but a few times a week, stations from nearby Beaumont or College Station (more like 70 or 80 miles away)

    Good luck!
  10. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Yellow UHF is a standard color coding system. If you go to a retail store that sells antennas, you can use that to help you pick an antenna. Yellow means a small multidirectional antenna will probably work well for you. It also means that signals in your area should be strong, which probably means that a good set of rabbit ears will work for you too.

    As a renter the FED "OTARD" rules are much less with you (as opposed to owning a HOA-overseen property). I believe you still have rights to the signals, but it could turn into an issue where you have to get the owner on board, and they may not want the potential for any trouble (or they may want to raise your rent).

    There are these omnidirectional antennas that don't look anything like the classic rooftop antennas. Generally, they are not great antennas, but I have had success with them when I was in a situation like yours (yellow rating, strong signals). Here's a bunch of designs: Here's one most similar to what I used:

    These are often small. And since they don't look like a classic antenna, no one (HOA) typically notices them any more than they notice a planter or a shelf. I mounted one upside down on the ceiling of my deck and it basically disappeared from view for anyone casually walking by (the mounting hardware was hidden by the disk).

    Apparently, you only need a UHF antenna, which can be smaller than the old UHF-VHF combos. You'll probably do just fine with good rabbit ears. And as another poster mentioned, odds are high that just hooking your cable to your HDTV or digital tuner will get you the network channels in HD, even if you don't subscribe to cable. Look up clear QAM for more info
  11. spice weasel macrumors 65816

    Jul 25, 2003
    This. I recently cancelled my Comcast cable television, but kept my broadband service. I just connected the coax to the tv and voila! In fact, I got more channels than I really wanted, like all the standard def analog versions of the HD digital channels and a bunch of oddball stations. I had to go through my channel settings and delete a bunch of them.

    By the way, don't let Comcast tell you that you have to pay the $30 disconnect charge. They tried to pull that on me, but I told the service rep that they weren't actually disconnecting me since I was still keeping my broadband service. Then she tells me that the fee also includes pick-up of my DVR box. I told her the local office was only 1.5 miles from my house, and I would be happy to drop it off. So they waived the fee.
  12. Bozley0621 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 25, 2009
    Thanks everyone.

    The tv has a digital tuner. I asked Comcast if the local channels were encrypted if I cancel and hook up the tv to the coax. I was told they were, but am unsure how much truth there is in that. I would have to cancel my cable to find out and I don't want to go through the hassle for experimental purposes only to have it not work and not yet have a viable antenna option for backup.

    Keep the tips and experice coming. I'm finding all of your posts very helpful.
  13. spice weasel macrumors 65816

    Jul 25, 2003
    Just connect your cable straight from the jack to the tv, bypassing the cable box. If they are encrypted, you'll know right away. I doubt the network channels are.
  14. codymac macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2009
    The OTARD rules specifically line out renters as having the same protection as owners with the rule covering anyone with "exclusive use." At least, that's how the FCC interprets the 1996 Telecom Act.

    Common sense would dictate not goading your landlord, of course.

    OTARD rules in plain English:
  15. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

  16. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    I've always preferred over They give much more information.
  17. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    Keep in mind that if you live in a rented property, the landord can require extra insurance policies to protect their property.

    A few places near where I live require an adder on renters insurance or $100,000 or more. Not sure of the details but something to discuss.
  18. guitargoddsjm macrumors 6502

    Feb 25, 2008
    QFT. I got this antenna and it worked extremely well. Actually, the HD channels (primarily local/network channels) it picked up over the air looked better than cable. I sent it back because we got a deal through Comcast for $30/month broadband+basic cable (for 12mo), but if I choose to drop cable, this is the antenna I'm getting (again).

    With all that being said, I live right near downtown Atlanta, so I think our signal is pretty good. If you can't get reception w/ this antenna where you live, you'll really need to get an outdoor antenna.

    And if the antenna doesn't work out for you, call Comcast and ask if they're running any promotions. If they say no, tell them that you're going to switch to satellite. If you're lucky, they'll give you a discount...
  19. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    The reason the channels looked better via the antenna vs. cable is because over-the-air (via antenna) typically involves a lot less compression and/or reformatting/re-rendering of the signal than cable or satt. Compression and reformatting (from native to MP4 or QAM) deletes detail to squeeze the video into a smaller package. Detail is key to picture quality.

    As a general rule, picture quality should always be better with a stable over-the-air signal via antenna than what you can get via cable or satt.

    That's why I have DISH and I get cable via it being embedded in the HOA fee, but I utilize an antenna anyway for local channels. Both DISH and cable have the same local channels, but they look their best over-the-air.

    And yes, the HOA tried to bluff me into taking down the antenna. I refused. They discovered the OTARD FCC rules and backed down. That's been about 8 years ago. Why do they back down when pressed? Because the bigger stink they try to make only informs everyone else in the neighborhood that they too have rights to "free" HDTV signals if they put up their own antennas, so they generally pretend like it's not allowed in hopes that they can control others in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, I've been enjoying free HDTV network programming in best quality versions of those network signals for nearly a decade. And a few others have put up their own antennas to do so too.
  20. PurdueGuy macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2010
    They aren't allowed to encrypt the local channels. If they do, you can file a complaint. However, if you aren't paying for cable, then technically you aren't allowed to hook up the cable to your TV and get the signals from the cable company for "free" even though they are free from OTA.
  21. eleven59 macrumors regular


    Jul 21, 2008
    im about 20 miles or more away from the station antennas and have a few trees in the area too and the only indoor rabbit ears ive had luck with are made by phillips (target or wal-mart bought).. they are amplified but the main thing i think that made the diff, is that they have dual antennas AND the ability to use an actual rf cable thats not prewired, instead of some crappy speaker wire that is prewired into the model...

    only downside- thunderstorms....

    cable free for 2+yrs now!!!

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