How to Build Your Own HDTV Antenna

On Thanksgiving day, my wife and I had a few friends over to celebrate the holiday and to watch some football. During one of the games one of the guys who, of course, has a degree in electronics, mentioned that he had cut the cord from the local cable company after building his own antenna. He claimed that he was receiving over-the-air HD broadcasts, and with Netflix, he was quite satisfied. However, being the skeptic that I am he could tell by the look on my face that I doubted how well any home-built antenna would compare to my DIRECTV connection. That meant that, as soon as dinner was over, we had to drive to his house for a look-see.

Once there he explained how he had obtained the build plans for the antenna from TV Antenna Plans, which provided detailed instructions, as well as a hands-on video. While explaining this, he showed us how the instructions called for the use of metal coat hangers that he had obtained from work for a fraction of the cost of other suitable products. Then, with those in hand, he followed the instructions and built two antennas. Next, he took me into the attic and showed me what appeared to be two amateurish imitations of real antennas causing me to immediately doubt their ability to provide the needed signals. Why two? He told me he felt that having two separate antennas, one for each HDTV, would provide the best possible HD signal.

How to Build Your Own HDTV AntennaOf course, I then had to see for myself how well these things worked, so we went down to the media area where I was amazed at the picture quality on both HDTVs. To my amazement, the reception and clarity were every bit as good as what I receive from DIRECTV. Another surprise was that, in addition to receiving the standard local channels, he was also receiving channels like a local 24-hour weather channel that is not included in the DIRECTV local channel lineup.

So will over the air broadcasting via an antenna work for you?

That depends on where you are. The old real estate saying ‘location, location, location’ holds true in this situation as well. If you reside in an area where TV broadcasting towers are located, you should get a high signal quality for your HDTV. However, if you live in areas where these towers are blocked or not anywhere near you, you may not be able to receive an adequate signal for your TV. So before going out and canceling your satellite connection, you must remember that the available signal for HDTV is a fickle beast and whether or not you will receive an adequate signal or not might be a hit or miss situation. To assist you in determining if you will receive a good signal or not you can try the website TV Fool which, after putting in your address, can determine the channels you may receive depending on the antenna you choose.

Comments welcome.

Article Written by

I have been writing for LockerGnome since relocating to Missouri seven years ago, where I continue to be a technology enthusiast who enjoys playing with the newest and latest gadgets.

  • Don Naphen

    Ah shades of my old Ham Radio Days Ron!  Antenna experimentation was about the only facet of the hobby that I grasped and had fun doing.  I’m not that technically inclined with circuits and electronic troubleshooting BUT antennas were something that I could actually build and play with.  I was also blessed with some decent real estate to kinda spread them out.  I focused mostly on the HF bands (10, 40, 80 Meters).  Okay, not going to ramble on, but your “discovery” of the coat hanger antenna made me laugh.  One thing you have to remember: over-the-air signals are PURE, straight from the tv station.  Cable & satellite signals are remixed and compressed, so even though they’re brilliant these days, a clean, “untreated” signal over the air is far superior.

    Have a great holiday and behave yourself!  LOL

    • Anonymous

      Hi Don, Thanks for the information. I always behave myself! LOL You have a great holiday as well. 

  • Danny Chamberlin

    Note that this is just a UHF antenna – it will not, by itself, pick up stations in the VHF range. Certainly if you have a borderline VHF channel all that metal will help bring the signal in better, but it won’t bring in those weak VHF stations. When I cut my cord, I had to actually install a roof-mounted antenna (even though I was in the middle of the city) to get one of our main local stations in the low-VHF range.

  • D Lowrey

    As a Ham radio operator for several years…found the plans for these antennas and built one for myself and a couple of friends a couple of years ago. The wire coat hangers and 300-75 ohm connector can be had at your local Dollar store. The only change I made was using some 12 ga solid core I had sitting around for the wires which connect all the V’s. Did not add the reflectors to the back…which doesn’t make much of a difference…except making it highly directional. If you do decide to get these…you can get some cheap (about $4-5 US) aluminum BBQ grills and screw them to the back of the 1X3 board you mount it all to. Have it mounted on the front porch with some stove wire and a shoe string to keep it in place.

    Searching on the net…found the directions where most of the local antennas were and pointed the antenna toward them. Once I did that…got a clean signal for all UHF HD channels. To improve on perfection…ordered a 7db signal amp and ran the antenna into this. From there…it heads out to every TV/TV tuner in the house with more than enough signal. An added benefit…there are several low power UHF stations and they come in…somewhat weakly…but they do come in.

    Having seen many commercial antennas…I would be more than willing to put my homebrew up against anything costing 5-10 times the amount of money.

  • Chris Partezana

    You can plot a map of signal strength by channel at http://AntennaWeb.org Enter your address and a few other things, and it will show you the channel, strength, and direction of the available channels in your area.

  • http://twitter.com/holtcg Chris Holt

    I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that people who moved on from analog broadcast to cable or sat. TV are not aware that all broadcast TV is now digital (and all in the UHF band Danny Chamberlin)  Of course it’s as clear as your Directv Ron, it’s a similar transmission, just from a terrestrial tower instead of a satellite.
    As you point out, your location means a lot, but if you get that thing up in the attic you should be good in a lot of locations.

  • Don

    As an added comment Ron:  I do believe that all tv stations are transmitting their digital signals in the UHF portion of the spectrum now.  The nice thing about digital is that it’s either there or it isn’t, so “ghosting” isn’t a problem anymore BUT freeze-frame and pixelating is!  AND if one happens to be in the vicinity of a major airport, then reception problems will be an issue every time a plane “shadows” the signal momentarily.  UHF is basically a “line-of-sight” signal so unless one is very close to the transmitter locations of each station AND no trees or tall buildings are in the way, then one should be good to go.  In anycase, it’s a fun project for anyone considering cutting the cord with the high priced cable/satellite services.  A huge amount of channels being offered are basically junk anyway.  Maybe some day we’ll be able to do a “carte blanche” choice, but of course  I can’t see that happening in my lifetime!  (Age 70 come March) LOL

  • http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showpost.php?p=1354401&postcount=208 Dennis

    Not true! The new spectrum uses both VHF and UHF frequencies from VHF-hi channels 7 to 13 and UHF channels 14- 52. Also note that VHF-lo channels 2-6 are still being used for Low Power Repeater Stations in some remote areas throughout North America,

    This coat hanger antenna is junk and it works in the wrong spectrum for the new ATSC DTV core channels! It’s only good for some UHF coverage. If you are interested in trying some simple DIY builds that work within the correct frequencies for the new DTV VHF-hi/UHF spectrum, then google ‘Stealth Hawk Antenna’. If you want something much better, but more challenging to build then google ‘Super Stealth Hawk Antenna’.

    The Stealth Hawk antennas will provide good reception for all VHF-hi and UHF channels. And because of the wider beamwidths of these antenna designs, you won’t even need to fuss so much with antenna aiming with a rotor.