Lisa B. writes:
I got Amazon Fire TV for Christmas and I’m thinking about dumping my cable. But I have a big question. Can I get my local stations with an antenna? I don’t want to buy an antenna to find out it doesn’t work and I’ve heard different stories. Twenty-five years ago before I had cable, I could get some channels with rabbit ears, but now people say digital channels are different. They say I might need an outside antenna on a pole like my grandma used. I don’t want to lay out for something like that to find out it won’t work. I worry that the people selling antennas won’t be upfront about how they work because they want to make the sale. Should I call the TV stations?
Lisa, you are not along among cord cutters who are saying goodbye to cable and satellite services. It’s true that it can be more difficult to pick up digital signals than it was to get an analog signal back in the day. You can get a spotty or fuzzy analog signal, but a digital signal needs to be spot on or you have nothing.
In fact, the push by the government to force stations to switch to digital signals probably contributed to many people turning to Internet TV when over-the-air signals were no longer available. Digital signals can be difficult to pick up in rural, mountainous and wooded areas or in places where buildings are blocking your signal.
One tool I’ve discovered for finding out what sort of antenna (if any) will work for you is the Interactive TV Coverage Browser at tvfool.com.
You type in your address.
Here is the list of channels that should be available via antenna from my house.
The channels are color-coded. Green indicates that I should be able to pick them up with a set-top antenna, yellow means I would need an an attic- mounted antenna, while red indicates the need for a roof or pole-mounted antenna.
Where I live is pretty flat country. If I were to put in an address in my hilly hometown in the foothills of the Appalachians, there would be a different result.
It’s nearly impossible to pick up a signal over-the-air now in my hometown. Back in the days of analog signals, you could pick up at least three of these channels with a pole-mounted antenna.
You can also click on the station to see a coverage map.
TVfool.com takes into account the transmitter power, the landscape and the station frequency. It does not take into account obstructions like buildings or trees. And from my experience, the signal can vary according to the time of year, (leaves on the trees can be an issue) and other factors. The other thing to take into account is the direction the signals are coming from. If the transmitters for stations are in different locations, you will probably have to adjust the position of the antenna to pick up the signal. If you live in an area where one transmitter is to the south and another to the north, if you decide to buy a pole or roof mounted antenna, you’ll a motor that allow you to turn the antenna.
Even in an area with good signal coverage, there’s no absolute guarantee that you’ll be able to get a strong signal, but there’s a good likelihood. If you live in an area where set-top antennas work, you might want to consider buying a set-top box to test it out. They aren’t terrible expensive. It’s even possible that someone you know might have an extra one they could loan you to test.