How I got FREE TV

There are waves moving all around you, above you, below you, and through you right now, as you’re reading this. These waves vary from the very long to the incredibly short, and correspond to different types of things – radio, visible light, x-rays – you name it! There’s a wonderful chart made by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that covers basically everything we know about waves & electromagnetic radiation (shown below – you can even order it as a piece of wall art!).

Chart of Electromagnetic Radiations
Click to open the full size version and spend hours learning! I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re on mobile data though…

So, even thought there are these waves moving all over the place around you, you can’t do anything about it. All you can do is try to receive them, and depending on how you do that, you can enjoy some tunes (radio), enjoy looking at stuff (eyes), or get a sweet tan (UV). I wanted to try to receive some television waves, so I built a super-fancy and extremely expensive-looking homemade Over-The-Air (OTA) antenna!

I followed this video and, using a piece of leftover wood, a balun (lets you connect to a coaxial cable), and 8 coat hangers from the previous owner of my sister’s house, got to work. I predrilled holes that I would use to screw down the coat hanger parts so they would butt-up to the wire which would connect to the coaxial cable so I could get some sweet free TV.

Two holes were placed at 2″, 7.75″, 13.5″, and 19.25″ from the top of the piece of wood, spaced 1″ apart from each other. I used some 14-2 household wire to run down the sides, connecting the coat hanger pieces together correctly. Luckily, I drilled the holes first, so it was easy to lay out the connecting wire on top of the wood and figure out exactly where the wire sheath would have to be removed.

The coat hangers were cut to 14″ in length, with the middle inch sanded down to the bare wire. The wires were bent at the middle until the ends were 3″ apart, making 8 perfectly shaped V’s.

The V’s, the connecting wire, and the backing board – all set for assembly!

Assembly was pretty easy – I used 3/4″ #10 screws and #10 washers, starting them into the wood but not tightening them, so I could fit the two wires (the V-shape and the connecting wire) underneath them. Doing so, I made sure that the wires fully & completely touched each other, so that the signal picked up by the V-shape would be able to transfer into the connecting wire with no issue.

The biggest thing to remember is the shape of the connecting wire – there’s three separate “boxes”/areas when you look at the antenna from above, and the wires need to be in the following order to work: crossed / parallel / crossed. The balun connects to the connecting wire in the parallel section. The finished product looks like this:

Notice the criss-crossing of the connecting wires (the white and bare ones going from top to bottom – they need to be insulated where they cross so they don’t mess up the signal), and the balun (black thing) connecting the wires in the middle to the coaxial cable running to the TV.

After everything was screwed down and the connections looked good, it was time to try it out! I hooked it up in our living room and got four channels, but since the ends of the V-shapes were rather pointy and our living room has new couches, the Mrs. suggested it would be best for all involved if I found another spot to keep it.

So, on the off-chance that I might be able to catch a couple signals, I placed it in the basement, in our breaker room. Amazingly enough, it still picks up three channels! CBC, CBC-French, and Global (CKND). Those are some strong waves to get through trees, houses, concrete, and soil, so that they can be caught by some coat hanger sections and provide some entertainment for me. I appreciate the high-energy broadcasting from our local stations!

It works! Hockey Night in Canada, here I come!

All told, this took me about an hour to make, and the worst part was cutting the coat hangers to size since I just had a pair of linesman’s pliers that weren’t all that sharp. If you can, use some tinsnips or something that won’t leave red calluses all over your hands. The rest of the project was a cinch and turned out very well.

I’m really impressed with the picture and the sound too – up until a few years ago all the signals were analog which meant fuzzy pictures and wah-wah sound. Now, the signals are required to be digital, so if your TV isn’t more than a decade old or if you purchased a digital-to-analog convertor you should be able to watch your stories! The TV and sound are just as good as you’d get from a satellite or cable box, for the low low price of absolutely nothing.

If you don’t think you can do this on your own, let me know and I can build you your own OTA antenna*!

*For a reasonable fee of course 🙂