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You’ve heard it’s possible to build your own HDTV antenna to receive digital terrestrial (DVB-T) signals. It sounds like a good idea, and a big saving. You’re planning on cutting the cord, and this sounds ideal. But is it possible?
Yes, it is! Here are four ways you can build your own HDTV antenna using household items.
Reasons to Build a DIY HDTV Antenna
So, why might you opt for a DIY antenna for your digital TV reception? Couldn’t you just buy one of the best TV antennas? Use cable or satellite instead?
Well, several reasons spring to mind:
- Over the air TV is cheaper than cable, and you want to cut the cord (but first consider these cord-cutting pitfalls).
- You can’t afford a factory-built antenna.
- Your antenna has blown down in a storm and you need a replacement fast.
- You just like making your own gear.
Whatever is motivating you to build your own HDTV antenna, you have several options. Each of these follows a slightly different design, and they can all be constructed using household items.
It doesn’t matter how low your budget is. If you want to receive digital TV signals over the air, these four antenna builds are ideal.
1. The Paperclip Antenna
Amazingly, it’s possible to receive pictures over the air with just a paperclip as an antenna!
This will depend on signal strength, distance to the transmitter, and weather conditions, but if these are all favorable, you could be watching TV with the help of a piece of common stationery.
As explained in the video, all that you need to do is unfold the paperclip into an L shape. The shorter end should then be plugged into a coaxial cable, which is then connected to your TV.
Admittedly, that’s the easy bit. For this to work, you need a long cable to achieve roof-height elevation. In the example video, YouTuber LaneVids hangs his cable in the attic space, and takes the viewer down to his main TV. The picture is clear, if a little jerky at times, but then again, the antenna is only a few inches long!
It’s worth adding here that in some (albeit rare) cases, the paperclip may not even be required. Again, this depends on weather conditions, but some users have reported digital TV signals being received with only a cable. While it must be pointed in the right direction, this might be all you need to receive a HDTV signal.
2. Card and Foil Antenna
A slightly more elaborate option, this version of the DIY HDTV antenna should set you back less than $5. Over a million people have viewed this video, and we reckon a good chunk of those have made their own version of this antenna.
Requiring four pieces of cardboard or foamcore board (two at 8 x 11 inches, two at 8 x 8 inches) and a sheet of aluminum foil, this build comes with a printable template you can use.
You’ll also need some PVA glue, a stapler, and some hot glue. When you’re done, you should have a lightweight, box-like antenna ready to receive TV shows. Note that while the $5 total is probably the bare minimum if you already have most of the materials, you shouldn’t need to spend more than $10.
3. Fractal Antenna
A visually stunning antenna for you HDTV reception, this DIY build is probably the most aesthetically pleasing version of this project. Requiring some aluminum foil, a balun converter, two short wires, and a sheet of clear, flexible plastic, this antenna isn’t an eyesore. If anything, it’s going to make your TV room look even better!
The build requires you to print two copies of the template, gluing each to a sheet of foil and cutting around the edges. In turn these should be glued to each face of the plastic sheet, making sure to line them up as closely as possible.
With the wires connected to the “legs” of the fractal design (pushed through holes and stapled, bolted, or glued in place), the balun can then be hooked up to the antenna, and your usual coaxial cable plugged in.
Head to Hackaday to get the full steps for this build.
4. The Coat Hanger Antenna
Finally, here’s one of our own HDTV antenna projects. Although bigger and uglier than the other projects, this DIY antenna is also the most durable. I built this in 2015 and it still works.
The key components of this build are a short length of 3×1 wood, eight coat hangers, and two disposable barbecue grills. You’ll also need 18 screws, 18 matching washers, and some wire. It’s worth noting that this version of the antenna is more complicated than the others.
If you’re new to this sort of thing, try some basic DIY fixes first to get yourself in the zone before proceeding.
As befits a project that is bigger and sturdier, this will take longer to put together than the other builds. However, once tested and mounted, you will be able to receive reliable over the air digital TV. In the video above, I’m testing it downstairs and the signal is good enough; currently, the antenna is mounted in our roof space, with perfect results.
Read our HDTV antenna tutorial for the full instructions.
DIY HDTV Antennas Made Easy and Cheap
Although we’ve listed them here in order of difficulty, each of these projects is a comparatively simple build. Once made, you’ll need to spend some time fine-tuning; make sure you know where the nearest transmitter is. As long as the antenna is correctly lined up (and at the best elevation), good TV pictures should be received.
We’ve looked at four DIY antenna projects:
- An antenna using just a paperclip
- The card and foil antenna
- A fractal antenna
- The coat hanger antenna
Remember, these antennas are designed for use with digital television. If you’re aiming to receive analog signals, you’ll need a different solution. Also, if your TV doesn’t have a digital decoder built in, you’ll need to get hold of one. (The coaxial cable should be connected to this.)
Once you’re done, you should be able to receive the usual OTA TV channels. If you’re “cutting the cord” you should pair these free TV channels up with a low-cost media streamer, such as an Amazon Fire stick or a Raspberry Pi running Kodi.