Build your own Digital TV Antenna

March 21st, 2008 - 1:39pm by Slye Fox


My incredibly simple homemade HDTV antenna.

Next February in 2009, we'll no longer have UHF and VHF analog signals. All broadcasts will be digital and people with older television sets will need a simple A/D converter. Of course my fancy flat screen is HDTV ready, so all I need is a better antenna.

I enjoy not having cable and only use my TV/DVD setup for watching my plethora of movies. But I do miss PBS shows and Nova on Sunday nights, as well as the local news. So I thought all I'd have to do is connect a set of bunny ears to the TV via a coaxial cable and I'd be set. That didn't work out so well, I barely got Channel 29 and that was it. So every once in a while I could watch Family Guy reruns that looked more like the scrambled Playboy channel.


The 42" flat screen running of the antenna. :)

Then whilst net-surfing I come across the description of an easy to build, low cost, HDTV antenna. (That HDTV simply means "digital signal" which in and of itself will be better quality - not "high-def".) Anyway it's all radio waves either way, you just have to have the correct aerial configuration to pick them up.

I made my own and hooked it up and immediately was able to get all the local channels. Not like a cable signal, but certainly clear enough to watch. Yay! -- it worked!

There are certain orientations that work better than others. Maybe if I get ambitious, I'll mount the thing on my roof and get crystal clear reception. (It's in the basement now.)

Of course the first thing that comes across the airwaves is "Celebrity Apprentice". Good God, what the hell has happened to prime time television programming. Friggin' retarded "reality shows". I'll hold out for "This Old House" thank you very much.


Build Your Own!

January 8, 2009 - 10:58pm
Slye Fox says:

And now I really feel like a dumbass, cause it's taken me nearly a year to figure out that I wasn't really watching the digital channels. Tonight, I finally rescanned the local broadcast channel lineup -- and let it finish, (the HD channels were added last). Apparently last time, I stopped it early before the channel scan finished and was only receiving the analog channels via my fancy antenna.

Now -- let me tell ya. I've got 6 different versions of PBS! :) 2.1, 17.1, 17.2, 17.3, 17.4, and 17.5. Also: 4.1, 5.1, 9.1, 11.1, 11.2, 23.1, 29.1, 45.1, and more. And they are all crystal clear. Even with the antenna in the basement like it is, the new digital lineup via the HDTV antenna is stellar.

August 24, 2009 - 5:53pm
Anonymous says:

I tried the antenna and it doesn't work. What's the next suggestion??

September 21, 2009 - 8:31am
Anonymous says:

The next suggestion is to cut the BS and get yourself a real antenna. It is impossible to build a good TV antenna at home without any professional equipment. If you live really close to the towers, then fine attach any metal crap you want to your TV and you'll see an image, but if you are in a fringe area than no games. Start by using a tv antenna selector (link below) to find out what tv networks are available at your location and check the automatic antenna suggestion.
http://www.hdtvantennalabs.com/location/

January 10, 2010 - 7:30pm
Anonymous says:

Those who can, do; those who can't, criticize.

It's not "impossible" and you don't need "professional equipment." I live 12 to 25 miles from my "neighborhood" transmitters, yet pull in seven stations using a four-element fractal antenna I whipped up in a couple of hours... with no tool more complex than a pair of needle-nose pliers.

And the antenna is INDOORS on the ground floor looking through a windowless brick-and-frame wall.

But you go right on believing it can't be done. Those of us who understand RF or are simply willing to TRY things know better.

January 12, 2011 - 5:04pm
A Stranger says:

yeah, I built an AM radio with a diode and earphone and it worked great. That doesn't mean enyone can do it.

January 12, 2011 - 5:05pm
A Stranger says:

I can build radios from crap but I can't type, or use spell check!

February 12, 2010 - 5:50am
Anonymous says:

Why not go one step further and say it's not possible without an antenna from your shop :)

June 29, 2010 - 4:17pm
satellite tv says:

I am someone who's in a "fringe" area and couldn't get a signal with any type of metal crap. I had to give in and get satellite tw which I am quite happy with. For me it was the only alternative as cable wasn't even an option.

January 12, 2011 - 5:08pm
A Stranger says:

I used to watch Fringe, but I didn't pay my satellite bill, now I can't get Fox. I miss it. That blonde chick was really hot!

July 11, 2010 - 3:00am
Anonymous says:

Yes, it does work providing that the digital signals in your area are strong. I made an antenna similar to this one and I can get almost every channel at home. I took this same antenna to a friend's house in the desert and it only picked up 2 channels. So it does work.

April 11, 2010 - 11:07am
Intrigued and Confused says:

So I've watched this video a couple times, and I have a couple questions. If you check this comment, I'd love a reply.

First, why coat-hangers? Are they copper? Or some other amalgam?

Next, (again with the coat-hangers), do you purposefully leave the paint on the crossed lines to prevent the signal from messing up? Or is it just a convenience factor?

Lastly, geographically I'm stuck in between to hills, and there are three different transmitter towers at the corners of an isosceles triangle (I am in line with the "bottom" two). Is this antenna "directional?" Or should it work to pick up from any transmission epicenter?

Lots of silly questions, but I don't have an engineering degree. Any help is appreciated. Fun video.

April 11, 2010 - 11:45am
Slye Fox says:

No question is too silly. ;) I'm not an electrical engineer, but I do understand that solid copper wires will provide better reception than stranded wire. Having them bare or not is of no relevance, but if they have a coating on them, they won't oxidize.

This antenna is definitely directional and should have a direct line of sight if possible. In my case, I'm in the middle of the city where the signal is very strong to begin with.

However, I knew of many folks around here just using their standard old school analog aluminum roof antennas with equally excellent results. I think it's like the guy above states in that any "metal crap" attached will be an improvement.

So - for the cost of a few coat hangers and a 2x4, why not try and see. It's a fun project if nothing else. Or spend $20 at Target and buy an amplified HDTV antenna. (My solution for upstairs because it looks much prettier.)

November 3, 2010 - 5:36pm
Anonymous says:

Actually the coat hanger wire is steel wire not copper. Steel is cheaper and stiffer then copper which is why they make coat hangers out of it. Coat hanger wire is just convient, cheap and the right stiffness so it holds its shape which is why it is used here. You could just as easly use another wire, such as aluminum, so long as its a good conductor and holds it shape.

November 6, 2010 - 5:33am
Malron says:

I built this antenna and it works great. I had an amplifiyed indoor antenna that wasn't getting all the stations when they switched to digital, I went to that website where you put your address in and it tells you what kind of antenna you need. So I went and bought a digital antenna at Kmart for $29.00. It worked slightly better. On a very good day I would get 33 channels but it would loose stations because of poor reception. Most of the time when I scanned I would get about 25 statons. this would be without PBS and NBC, channels 8.1 thru 8.4 and 12. (Phoenix)
I built the coat hanger antenna and I get 45 channels now. Wow what a difference. I get all the, over the air channels here in Phoenix, To the above nay sayers, Build it then talk. I just stood it up outside out my bedroom window, Its 6 feet off the ground with a block wall about 20 feet away. I built it out of scrap, you can get the 75 to 300 ohm transformer at the dollar store, or tear apart an old rabbit ear antenna and use it. Here is website with parts list and diagram
http://cdn.makezine.com/make/television/04/DTV_Antenna_FINAL.pdf

November 29, 2010 - 3:53pm
Mike Thompson says:

These antennas work great! And YES IT IS very possible to build your own TV antenna. I built one for a friend who wanted to pick up tv stations about 20 miles away.

For me, I live about 70 miles away from the same tv stations. My HDTV antenna needed to be not only bigger, but also outside. Mine works great!

Here is a link for building a larger version of this HDTV antenna.

http://www.mikestechblog.com/joomla/misc/hdtv-antenna/127-build-high-gai...

February 5, 2011 - 9:22am
A Stranger says:

yes it does work very well. My father-in-law lives in a fringe area and bought an expensive digital antenna - nothing. I saw this design and built it in an hour (hand saw, measuring tape and screwdriver required) and got five right away from a chair in front of a downstairs window. If it doesn't work for you make sure measurements are acurate - wires are insulated where they cross - baluns are cheap things often cheaply made so your balun (transformer thingy from dollar store or walmart) may be defective - if you are fringe you will need no obstructions (walls, lots of trees whatever) so outside is better and added hieght will also help alot. Put a metal grate (I used a rack from my oven!?) behind it about 2-5 inches away from the wires (experiment to get the most boost as too close or too far can ruin the signal as well) and the signal will get a significant boost. Also point it at the signal source as it is directional. For outside think about building it out of plastic (Plumbing pipes work nice) not wood as wet wood and even "dry" wood can conduct electricity and screw the signal up a bit. Lastly a $30 dollar or so signal booster can be added to the coaxial line and will help with a weak fringe signal - this is a must anyway if the coaxial cable from the aerial to your tv is really long (say more than 50 feet).