I introduced my new adventure in my last blog.
My DIRECTV subscription expires in January and I’ve been looking into dropping them in favor of Over The Air (OTA) and Internet streaming to get my TV fix. If plans go as I hope, after hardware investments, I will save about $500 in 2011 and over $1300 in 2012. Not only will I save money but I’ll get to play with some new technology.
The reason for considering this is simple. We want to save money. Our TV bill costs almost $1400 per year including the subscription to MLS Direct Kick. This will be one of the larger monthly savings we’ve pursued. In 2008 I stopped paying a monthly bill for our phone “land line” when AT&T stopped selling their VOIP option and purchased OOMA. I wrote about that when I made the switch, but sadly that and a bunch of other blogs were victims of hacking. If anyone is interested, let me know and I’d be happy to review how that process went. Bottom line, I’m very pleased. Okay, on to the main point of this new series.
The first thing I looked at were our viewing habits, which is basically answering one question. What shows do we watch? I won’t bore you with explaining what we watch but I will say it breaks down to be about 50% major channels, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX & CW, 50% cable stations, mostly HGTV and sports, mostly soccer. That last one shouldn’t surprise anyone who reads this blog. So one of the keys to making this effort successful is to be able to receive the major channels using an OTA antenna. Wrapped around that key is a requirement that the antenna not overpower the exterior of the house or make my wife cringe whenever she sees it. Ideally, she would never see it. The other requirement, of course is to figure out how to receive the other shows or make the decision to do without or in some cases modify the way we watch (I get to that in a later blog).
Before I continue I will warn you. I love technology, whether it’s computer, audio, video, phones, whatever. Feel free to select the Technology category from the list on the right to see the kinds of things I enjoy. What that means is this project is not simply buying an antenna and hooking it up to a TV. Here is a partial list of what the end result will include:
- Multi-room viewing of High Definition (HD) channels
- Ability to record multiple programs at the same time
- Ability to view the recordings in multiple rooms
- Ability to view Internet content, integrated onto the TV
- Ability to listen to music, view pictures and home movies from a single source in multiple rooms
- Ability to program TV recordings remotely
- Do all the above and save $500 in 2011
- Do all the above while reducing my monthly bill in year 2 from over $100 per month to nothing, or almost nothing
I’m sure there are more, but that’s enough for now.
In terms of technology, I’ll start this series slowly and build over time to incorporate more complex technology. In the area of viewing High Definition Television (HDTV), nothing is less complex and possibly less known, then an antenna. I expect some of you reading may not even be aware that you can get TV broadcasts without a cable connection or satellite dish. Others are shaking their heads and remembering the good old days of rabbit ear antennas on the top of the TV sets or large erector set looking monstrosities on the roof.
My options broke down this way; get an indoor antenna, a larger outdoor style antenna that could be hidden in the attic or getting an outdoor antenna and, wait for it, put it outdoors. In terms of invisibility, in the attic would be the choice. In my situation there are two reasons I didn’t want to go that route. First, putting any antenna indoors reduces it’s ability to receive channels and depending on the materials used to insulate or construct your roo, reception could be reduced dramatically. That means I would need a larger and more expensive antenna, although the difference price turned out to be not that much, maybe $50. The other factor, however, was the key one killing that option. I will be hooking the antenna up to a dual TV tuner which will be connected to my home network. This option provides two benefits. First it will be available to any device in my house and second, it will limit the wire (coax) between the antenna and tuner, a source of signal degradation.
It turns out buying an antenna isn’t as simple as going to the store and picking one out. There are many factors which play into the decision.
- Distance to the towers – how big of one do you need?
- Direction of the towers – Do you get directional, omni directional or multiple antennas?
- The type of signal (VHF (low band or high band) or UHF)
- Not many stores carry them – makes experimenting difficult
Not surprisingly there are many web sites happy to help (and confuse) your decision process. One I found helpful is TV Fool. AntennaWeb is another source of good information. In my case, the towers are a bit under 30 miles and roughly south (you can get exact direction for your location from one of the links above. My channels broadcast in a mixture of VHF and UHF. That’s important because there are antennas that only receive on or the other. You would either need to buy one of each or, like I did, get one that receives both.
This journey will not be quick and will last for months. In fact it probably won’t finish until early next year. I’ll be writing about the technology decisions, lots about that. I’ll also take you through the discussions we had about our viewing habits and expectations and how they will need change. I’ll talk more about technology and how I arrived at the choices I made along with the trial and tribulations, and there will be some (there always are). In between episodes, you’ll need to read about soccer, more about my experiences with plug computing and more general whining about stuff (I am an official curmudgeon, after all). I also hope to write some positive blogs about things which genuinely make me happy. Things that you might consider in your life as well. More things like my Keurig and Sportypal.
Next installment will continue with my antenna discussion, including testing and final (for now) decision.