5.22.2010

I'm tired of paying for things

Here's my latest scheme to save a buck...

Since I live in the Chicago suburbs, the closest TV broadcasts to my home come from the Sears (sorry, "Willis") Tower and John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago.

You might be saying, "Wait a minute, my closest TV broadcast comes from the cable Comcast installed in my living room, or from the satellite dish installed on my roof." Well, refer to the title faithful reader... I'm tired of paying for things.

Enter the Channel Master 4228HD antenna. It's a "deep-fringe" antenna, capable of receiving over-the-air (OTA) television broadcasts from as far as 60 miles away. Since I live about 50 miles from Downtown Chicago, this one was the way to go.

"Wait a minute", you might be saying again, "An antenna? That's from the 70's man, nobody has an antenna anymore!" Well the fact of the matter is, lots of people do have antennas and more and more are getting them because, like me, they're tired of being raked over by Comcast among others.

So here's the deal, since TV first appeared (hundreds of years ago for you high schoolers) it's been broadcast free of charge, over the air, financially supported by advertising. You may remember all that craziness a few months ago about the digital transition. What that meant was that all of the stations are now being broadcast in crystal clear high definition which in most cases looks better than even Comcast or Dish HD which are highly compressed to save bandwidth. I may be getting too technical here. In simple terms, I put a metal contraption on my roof and now I get free (and legal, not pirated) HDTV. Ok?

So the first step was to visit http://www.antennaweb.org. By typing in your address and answering a few questions, the website will tell you what channels you can receive and how to orient your antenna to receive them.  In my case, my antenna needed to point at 48 degrees to be angled toward Chicago. The installation was fairly simple, using a mount purchased at Menards for $20 and some bolts and RG6 cable, I used a compass to identify the proper angle and point the antenna. I ran the wire through an attic vent to an amplified splitter (Channel Master CM-3418) in the attic. From there, the signal distributes to all my rooms.

I haven't purchased it yet, but there's also an OTA DVR (Channel Master CM-7000PAL) that you can purchase to record your programs for the hefty price of $350.  No monthly fees like TiVo, it instead uses the TV Guide service which is also sent free over-the-air to fill its program guide.

I purchased the antenna from Warren Electronics in Moline IL.  All told, the total investment was...  Well, let's do some math:

Channel Master 4228HD Antenna: $64.55 at Warren Electronics
(I bought on sale for $53.55 at Warren)
Channel Master CM-3418 Amplifier: $38.58 at Warren Electronics
(I bought on eBay for $26)
Channel Master CM-7000PAL DVR: $349.99 at Fry's Electronics
(Don't have this yet)
Various cables bolts, mount and accessories $20-$40 at Menards
(Got these for free from work, except the $20 mount)

My total investment: $99.55, yours might be slightly higher, but right around $100 unless you jump on that DVR.  $100, for free TV FOREVER, or at least till the world ends in 2012.

Here's what it looks like installed on my roof, pointed directly toward Chicago.  Not too much of an eyesore like some of those monster antennas I've seen, but you'll need to go to antennaweb.org to see what kind of antenna you'd need.  Good luck!

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