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Old 5-Jun-2015, 1:10 AM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 8
Setting up a bidirectional antenna in Ann Arbor: An odyssey retraced

Comcast was beginning to escalate package prices for basic digital cable and internet to over $125/month. My plan was to drop Comcast TV and just stick with internet (25 Mbps). My internet charge in the package was $20. When I dropped TV, the internet price alone went up to $65/month so I decided to switch to AT&T (18 Mbps) for my internet. However I still need ESPN and now that Sling offers ESPN and a few other channels (A&E, TNT, TBS, Food Network, Cartoon Network, Disney ) for $20/month I am able to get all my TV and internet needs for under $60/month. Here is a neophyte's odyssey retraced.

I wanted signals from Detroit but also from Toledo especially as I watch a lot of PBS and the programming is not always the same from both Detroit and Toledo. Toledo offers BBC news, which Detroit does not. All the Detroit stations I want are UHF except for Channel 2,which is VHF.

A friend of mine, who lives 10 miles away in Ypsilanti, wanted the same thing a couple of years ago. We tried at least 10 different indoor antennas including an amplified Mohu Leaf and a Winegard indoor antenna in her upper floor and finally we got what she wanted in the $25 Philips SDV2750 amplified indoor antenna. She gets most of the local channels for Detroit and Toledo. Amazingly she was driving three TV sets with it. I tried the same antenna in my attic and got only four channels. Perhaps it may be because the wire mesh under the stucco blocks the signal. I realized I had a much more difficult situation than she.

Some of the local vendors offer a Winegard 7697P with a rotator for about $ 800 installed. However I am leery of rotors as I have used them long ago and they tend to rust and often jammed in the cold weather. Channel surfing becomes a bit more complicated when the rotor has to be rotated.

Detroit and Toledo are 35 and 42 miles as the crow flies respectively. The TV fool diagram can be seen at

It appears that the stations I want are in two general directions. The Detroit stations cluster around 73º from North while the Toledo stations are around 166º from North.

My choice was to try the Antenna’s Direct DB8e ($159.99). It has two vertical arrays that can be pointed in different directions, but it would not be enough to get the VHF station Ch. 2. There were some options. First I could try and add the VHF reflector dipole ($39) offered by Antenna Direct that can attach to the Detroit facing part of the DB8e array or I could get another multi element VHF antenna. I also looked at the RCA ANT 751, which is both UHF and VHF and costs $42 at Walmart. I liked it because it was not more than 36 in. long and has been rated well for its limited length.

Obviously one needs to combine UHF signals from both arrays of the DB8e (the antenna comes with a combiner) and then it has to be combined with the VHF signal from the additional antenna. Instead of using another UHF-VHF combiner, I decided to get the preamp that does the job of amplifying and combining in a single step.

The RCAPRAMP1 preamp ($20) from Walmart can amplify the UHF and VHF signals. Unlike other preamps, it has separate UHF and VHF antenna input ports with a combined amplified output. It also has an FM Trap. Basically we are adding three different signals. This amplifier is installed at the antenna but the power to it comes from an inline power supply attached indoor at the TV that sends the power through the coax cable itself once it is plugged in. Although the ANT 751 also has a UHF component, by connecting it to the VHF port of the preamp, all the UHF from this antenna should be filtered out.

A roof installation at the peak about 35 feet high was planned using the Antenna Direct Heavy Duty Tripod ($44.99) with an 8-foot mast. Don’t’ skimp on the tripod if you want to keep your antenna on the roof during strong winds.
Try to get at least two legs of the tripod screwed to a stud/beam instead of just the plywood sheathing under the roof.

The reason for the 8 foot mast was simply because if I had to use the RCA ANT 751 for the VHF channels. I need to separate if from the DB8e by at least 2 feet to prevent interference. Make sure the mast actually fits in the tripod before purchase. 1 and 5/8 “ galvanized pipe worked. The tripod comes with tar pads. Screw the mount into the tar pads so the mount and the roof shingles sandwich the tar pads. When done use some additional out-door silicon caulk around each part penetrating the roof.

80 feet of quad shielded solid copper conductor core was used to connect the antenna from the preamplifier to the TV. I also covered the exposed connectors at the antenna with silicone glue.

I hired a Dish TV installer ($150) to install my antennas to my specifications after basically coming up empty in trying to find someone with experience in installing roof-top antennas in Ann Arbor despite an extensive search. Many of the Dish installers will not touch an outdoor rooftop antenna, especially on a two story building. Solid Signal provided me the contact that worked. The DB8e was easy to put together on my dining table but use the instructions and note that the red arrows pasted on two rods may be in the wrong direction, so follow the picture.

The tripod was installed away from the chimney, which was covered by a steel cage (to prevent raccoons nesting in it) and also away from the power lines to the house to prevent interference.

An I-phone compass app was used to orient one DB8e array 73º from north and the other 166º from north. The VHF dipole reflector from Antenna Direct did not work as well as the RCA ANT 751 (also pointing to Detroit) as it has several more elements.

6 gage copper grounding wire was used to ground the mast to the water pipe at the basement. Make sure you have close to the right length as it costs about 98 cents/foot.

The results were well worth the wait. A total of 45 channels and sub channels came in clearly. (Ch. 2,4,6,7,9,14,18,20,30,31,36,38,50 ,56, and 62). Only two Toledo channels (13.1 and 11.1 to 11.3) were not received. Ch. 6 from Lansing was received. An unexpected bonus was receiving Channel 9 (CBC) from Canada.

In conclusion if one needs to use an antenna system where the signals are coming from two main directions less than 45 miles away, I would heartily endorse the combination of the DB8e and the RCA ANT 751 to get the job done. Not sure what will happen if the signal is distributed to several TVs. Might need additional distribution amplifiers. Total cost for hardware and labor was under $500. (One can get a discount from Antennas Direct when buying multiple items from them, but I have not figured in this discount in the stated cost)

They also have a generous 90-day return policy. Given my savings of $65/ month, I will recover my costs in under1 year. If you know someone who is willing to climb a roof, install a tripod, and can lay the cable and the grounding wire neatly, you can save $150 off the price.

Most of all, I relish getting rid of the almost monthly heated battles with Comcast about billing.

I want to thank several people on this site who helped me along the way when I first came to this site: skatingrocker17, rabbit73,and Stereocraig. I hope this will be of help to others who were as timid as I when I first started on the project.

Last edited by drew1942; 5-Jun-2015 at 1:13 AM.
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Old 5-Jun-2015, 1:34 AM   #2
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Cumming, GA
Posts: 41
Good job! It must be nice to be located between 2 markets.
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Old 6-Jun-2015, 12:21 AM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: S.E. VA
Posts: 2,738
Thanks for the positive report! Glad we could help.
If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.
Lord Kelvin, 1883
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