Yes, this is another one of those stories about how you can save hundreds of dollars a year by cancelling cable and satellite TV and by using an OTA HD antenna instead. Of course this only works if you live where there are dozens of HD TV OTA signals waiting to be picked up: For many Canadians that just ain’t so. Still, here’s how replacing cable with a high definition indoor antenna went for us.
Why Did We Get Rid of Cable TV?
We got rid of cable because
- Rogers kept raising the rate until it had reached over $40 a month for basic cable.
- Cable costs became taxed with HST which at 13% made the cost seem even more ludicrous.
- Our kids were never big TV watchers and had mostly stopped watching regular programs preferring movies and the internet.
- None of us are major fans of watching league sports on TV.
- I’d rather be prowling around the dark and foggy corridors of the internet than watching The Bachelor.
- We live in an area where you can pick up most of the major networks over the air.
- Friends within a few blocks of us had good success putting up an outdoor OTA HD antenna.
Should Everyone Get Rid of Cable or Satellite TV?
You can see if you compare those factors with your own life that not everyone should give up cable or satellite TV.
- You may love specialty cable sports channels or cooking, home repair and gardening channels. They aren’t broadcast OTA.
- You may live where the only OTA you can pick up is CBC in the other official language from the one you understand fluently.
- Your kids or other family members may be addicted to TV.
- Your cable rates may be reasonable. (Oh, come on, somewhere in the multiverse they must be reasonable, mustn’t they?)
- You may live in a forest which equals terrible reception for OTA.
What Over the Air High Definition TV Antenna Did We Pick?
OK, this one is SquawkFox’s fault. Right around when my eldest bugged me about “Aren’t we ever getting that antenna you said we’d get?” I read her post that included an antenna available from Amazon. It turned out to be available only on Amazon.com but it got me poking around on Amazon.ca.
I found a listing for the Winegard FL5500A Amplified HD TV Indoor Antenna (Black/White)for $112.99 including taxes and free delivery. I read through many reviews for it online, including some of the 208 reviews on Amazon.com. I seethed a little about the fact it only costs $59.99 plus tax in the US.
Eventually I decided to give it a try. Unlike some of the other antennas, it was sold and shipped by Amazon.ca which should make returning it, if necessary, less objectionable.
And I knew I could buy it after clicking through to shop at Amazon.ca from the Swagbucks site and pickup a few points that way, too.
Why Not Buy a Proper Exterior Roof or Chimney Mounted OTA HD Antenna?
Originally I had planned to buy a full-size, full-strength outdoor over the air, high definition TV antenna. (Although I did keep flashing back to my childhood when everyone had these huge TV tower antennas because there was no cable available.)
But it’s like that poem about the nail and the horseshoe and the war. If I got a roof mount antenna, the logical place to put it would be on the chimney. But the chimney probably should be re-pointed if we’re up there anyway. But maybe we should replace the gas insert in the wood burning fireplace with a self-contained gas fireplace and take down the chimney since a huge amount of our home heating is going up and out the locked-open flue. But there’s an arched brick mantle on the fireplace which likely won’t be workable with a self-contained gas fireplace. And what if we want to be able to burn wood to stay alive during the next ice storm? After all with global warming and natural gas pipelines exploding and stuff we could have to become pioneers in our own home at any time.
A sheet-of-paper-sized antenna that I could suction cup to any window in the house suddenly seemed so simple.
So I ordered one.
How Do I Like the Winegard FL5500A Amplified Indoor HD TV Antenna?
Actually, I think it’s cute.
(All you techno-geeks go ahead and wince.)
It looks a great deal like one cover of a cheap flexible vinyl binder. Not the deluxe kind with cardboard in the middle. The really cheap kind that you hated because there was no way under the sun they would ever lie flat on a desk or stand up on a bookshelf. One side of the antenna is black, the other white.
Attached to the bottom of this piece of plastic is a very thin coax cable. Some reviewers disliked the light weight, low insulation cable but I suspect it’s to help keep the antenna from being pulled off the window by the weight of the cord.
There’s a little amplifier box on the cable and a short cord that can plug into the wall. You can also power the amplifier from a USB port if your TV/computer has one handy.
Is It Easy to Install this Indoor Winegard TV Antenna?
You plug the power cable into the wall. You attach the coax cable on the back of your TV. You hang the antenna in the window. Or set it on a table. Or the floor. Or wherever.
How did we attach the antenna? I’m moderately embarrassed to admit right now it’s attached to the curtains by a couple of clothes pins. We were experimenting with what we could pick up from various spots and left it there. I promise to attach it properly with the supplied sticky tape or with the not-supplied suction cup soon. If anyone notices. So far no one has.
What Can We Watch With our Indoor HD OTA Antenna?
Well, we get (no surprise!) the CBC. Actually we get
- 2 CBC channels, one in each official language
- two types of PBS
- a local non-affiliated channel that runs great news
- a CTS channel (hey, who else still plays the Beverly Hillbillies?)
- and several American channels
In other places in the house we can get all the usual American major networks.
Considering we were only replacing “regular” cable, we’re getting essentially everything we had before, plus a few new ones.
Will This Antenna Work for Me, Too?
Well to be honest it might not. We have a family room that looks out the back of our house and a living room that looks out the front. We can get lots of channels from the living room and none from the family room.
Our best reception is in an upstairs bedroom but we have no interest in having a TV there.
This is a light weight antenna meant to pick up strong local signals. If you aren’t fairly close to a transmission tower or a repeater tower you might get nothing at all.
Does It Really Provide High Definition TV?
Yes, actually the picture is extremely crisp and clear. I read somewhere that cable TV providers compress the HD signals to fit more of them down the line and that OTA HD is actually better. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, but the picture is very good.
It’s important to know that we weren’t paying for a HD box for our cable, so we can’t really make a great comparison.
Would I Recommend You Switch to an Antenna?
I have no idea what you like to watch, where you live and what would work for you.
I would suggest if you’re considering this route that you think about getting an OTA antenna and testing it BEFORE you cancel your cable or satellite service. It’s just a matter of attaching a coax cable to the back of your TV.
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Do you use an antenna or are you a cable or satellite TV fan? Please share your views with a comment.