Digital TV antenna on the cheap

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Yesterday was the originally proposed cutover, but now it won't be until June 12 that analog TV broadcasting in the U.S. ceases (excepting low-power stations.) I hope you applied for a coupon while they were available. If you're still in the market for a DTV converter box, the Tivax STB-T8 and Sansonic FT-300A are two models that are both Energy Star compliant and were top-rated by Consumer Reports.

If you're using a DTV converter box, or your TV has a digital tuner, you'll want an antenna (if you have cable or satellite TV, of course, you don't.) The rabbit ears of yore may not serve you well in the digital world -- they're best for VHF; most digital TV is broadcast in UHF. Here's the FCC on what antenna you'll want and a thorough FAQ from antennaweb.org, where you'll also find antenna suggestions based on your location and what stations are around you.

Before you buy an expensive new antenna, though, check out this guide to making a coat hanger antenna. Enough hardware to build two cost under $5 (the coat hangers I had, and the wood came from an old CD rack.) It's working well; some people are reporting that it beat $100 antennas they tried. Cleaning and straightening the hangers is more of a pain than the video lets on, and the PDF omits one important step (that the video mentions) -- you need to insulate the hangers where they cross (a little electrical tape will do.)

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