Like the idea of over-the-air TV? Here’s how to get going: Mayers​

(TheStar.com article: published on Feb 4th, 2015)

More than one million Canadians choose free TV with an antenna instead of paying a cable or satellite company every month. Many more are thinking about it, based on emails and calls from readers.

Is it legal? Absolutely. Pulling down over-the-air signals is as legal as listening to AM and FM radio.

Are antennas expensive? No. A good one can cost under $100. The issue is durability. You can find YouTube videos where the antennas are made from coat hangers and tin foil. They work. A cheap antenna can work as well as an expensive one, but it will weather faster, will not have the same quality parts and will need replacing sooner.

Is installation costly? No. It’s an easy DIY job. A friend and I installed my antenna on our two-storey home in a few hours. All you need is a few simple tools. If you’re reasonably handy it’s not difficult.

Is over-the-air picture quality good ? The transmissions are high definition and may be better than cable. This is because the signal is not being compressed to be distributed through the cable pipe.

How many channels will I get ? It depends. Location does matter. High ground with a clear line of sight to the CN Tower and Grand Island, N.Y., is best. The signal degrades after about 150 kilometres, so cottage country coverage is spotty

My lineup includes CBC, CTV, CHCH, TVOntario, Global and City. The U.S. networks are Fox, NBC, ABC and two PBS stations. There are also several U.S. specialty stations including GRITtv, a U.S. network with action movies and classic TV series.

What will I save? Immediately, it is the cost of your cable, less your outlay, in my case $56. My TV was bundled with Internet at Cogeco. I kept the Internet, which went up, but I saved $60 a month on cable at 2012 prices. So far, that’s $1,680.

Where can I learn more? Digitalhome.ca has a good forum. Google the phrase “install + over the air TV.”

In the end, giving up cable or satellite doesn’t mean you have to give up TV. You’re just giving up that monthly bill.

Adam Mayers writes about investing and personal finance. Reach him atamayers@thestar.ca

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