How to Make a DIY HDTV Antenna and Ditch Cable for Good
If you’re trying to save money and cut the cable, you might have found HDTV antennae are quite expensive. As not all channels are available online, accessing some over-the-air broadcasts (as opposed to cable or satellite) is useful.
But there’s the cost. You cut back on cable to save money. While the one-off spend might be affordable, a few moments of browsing Amazon proves that only a high-end device is fit for purpose.
The alternative, then, is to build a DIY HD antenna using a few shop-bought components.
How to Build a DIY TV Antenna for Your Atticante
In this demo video you can see a working DIY digital TV antenna constructed with just a few parts.
The process is straightforward. Using a piece of wood as a base, it requires a collection of household tools to receive TV signals from a nearby transmitter.
Wire coat hangers act as antenna whiskers, which are secured to the board with screws and washers and linked with wire. In the middle, the received signal (enhanced with some disposable barbecue grilles) is routed through a balun to the coaxial cable, and to your TV.
A digital TV antenna such as this is best mounted in your attic space, as it isn’t particularly weather proof. However, it can be adapted for outdoors use by adopting more rugged materials. To start, however, we recommend this wooden version.
Step 0: Tools & Hardware to Build a DIY HDTV Antenna
To begin, you’ll need to collect your tools. Make sure you have:
- A power drill.
- An electric screwdriver.
- Wire cutters.
- Ruler or tape measure.
- Hacksaw or handheld mini rotary tool (e.g. Dremel).
As you can see, these are all standard tools that you should have access to already.
The HDTV antenna is built from the following components. Note that all measurements in this project are in inches:
- 22-inch section of 2×3 or 1×3 wood board.
- Woodwork pencil.
- 18 screws, no deeper than your choice of wood (1″ or 2″).
- 18 washers that fit between the screws and the wire.
- Thick wire for antenna “V” (coat hangers can be bought inexpensively in bulk on eBay).
- Copper wire (I used six pieces of wire from an old PC power-supply unit).
- Aluminum mesh grill trays as typically found in disposable BBQ kits.
- 1x Balun—this is a small coaxial plug with adjustable screws for connecting wires (pictured below). You may have one lying around from an old analogue TV. If not, you can pick one up online or at a dollar store.
- A length of coaxial cable to run from the antenna to your TV. Be sure to measure the length needed before installing the antenna.
Step 1: Find Your Local Transmission Tower
Knowing where the nearest TV transmitter is will help you to correctly align your antenna.
You have different options for this. The simplest is to check your existing antenna and use the same alignment.
If you don’t have an aerial (perhaps you’ve been using satellite TV or cable until now) you can check your neighbor’s alignment.
Online resources can also help you with finding local transmitters:
Find a local transmitter by searching for your location and “local TV transmitter” if the answer isn’t listed above.
Step 2: Preparing the Wooden Base
Begin by preparing the wooden backing board:
- Draw a 1-inch gap down the middle.
- Starting 2 inches from the top, mark a line crossing that gap every 5.25 inches.
- You should have eight points where the lines intersect.
It should look something pretty similar to this.
Step 3: Cut the Coat Hangers
Next, cut eight lengths from the coat hangers, each 14 inches long.
Each wire length must be bent halfway, to create a V shape, the ends which must be three inches apart. The measurements are essential for the antennae to perform correctly, so don’t just randomly fold them in half.
Cutting can be performed by hacksaw if necessary, but a Dremel-style handheld mini power tool is a quicker option.
Step 4: Attach the V Wires to the Base
Next, drill eight guide holes for attaching the V wires, using a narrow bit. With the holes drilled, attach the V wires, using the screws and the washers.
It’s okay to use screws with bolts here, but be sure to use the washers to ensure contact with the wire.
Step 5: Catching the Waves
Turn the base over and screw each disposable grill tray to the back of the antenna, two screws each. These act as a reflector, collecting the signal for your antenna.
Next, join the V sections together with wire. Criss-cross these on the top and bottom sections and run straight along the middle.
Strip a segment of insulation from the two middle wires. This makes attaching the Balun simpler.
The Balun is the interface to the TV. Think ahead and make sure it’s correctly positioned for connecting and reconnecting a coax cable in an enclosed space. Soldering the Balun will make the connection permanent, but if you’re unsure about this, take a look at our soldering starter guide first.
Congratulations, you’ve built a HDTV antenna using household parts!
Step 6: Receiving HDTV Images with Your DIY Antenna
You’ve built the antenna—now is the time to try it out!
Connect the device to a suitable HDTV, open the TV’s menu and start scanning for channels. As with any TV antenna, you’ll need to try out several positions to get the best results, so be patient.
It’s smart to get a gauge of the correct angle needed to receive pictures before you mount the antenna permanently. This can take quite a bit of trial and error depending on your environment. You might find that fixing the device to your outer wall is a better option than hiding it in the loft or fixing it to the ceiling.
I found that placing the antenna on a table and slowly positioning it in line with the existing roof antenna produced great results. It’s a case of whatever works for you and your surroundings.
Step 7: Mount Your DIY HDTV Antenna
The final step is to mount your DIY antenna. How you do this will depend on your location and the local signal strength.
For instance, if your home can receive a good, strong signal, you might place the antenna in your attic space. Standard reception, however, will probably require you to mount the antenna on a pole.
You Built a HDTV Antenna With Pocket Money
A brand new HTV antenna that you can mount will set you back at least $50. For under $10, or less if you have all the components, you can build your own.
As DIY builds go this one is straightforward enough for anyone to tackle. It might take a couple of hours to get right, but the results speak for themselves.
Looking for something simpler? Check our list of the best DIY HDTV antennas you can build .