Want to know what you need to get free HD channels over-the-air? Besides an HDTV, 3D TV, or 4k TV, you’ll need an antenna (indoor or outdoor) to receive the signals. If you are using an older analog TV (like a tube TV) without a tuner, you’ll need a digital converter that will allow the compressed TV signals to display on your TV. Read on for more details on how to get free HD channels over-the-air.
You’ll want an antenna capable of both UHF and VHF reception. These antennas may look like a combination of both rabbit ears and a circular antenna, or like the ClearStream antenna pictured above. Try to determine whether you need a uni-directional or multi-directional antenna. If the broadcast stations are fairly close to each other, you may be able to use a uni-directional. If the stations are scattered around 360°, use a multi-directional. You can refer to AntennaWeb to locate facilities.
Major networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX all broadcast over-the-air (OTA), as well as other local channels like PBS, The CW, Univision. The high-definition signal, sent simultaneously with the standard-definition (SD) signal, can usually be found on the first sub-channel of the broadcast number. For example, the high-def signal for channel 5 would most likely be 5-1. Other broadcasts, including the SD version and other programming may be found on 5-2, 5-3, etc. Some of the networks are making use of those extra bands, while some of the bandwidth is just being wasted.
Choose an antenna, or experiment with different types, to see which gets the best reception in your house or office. Move the antenna around to see where it picks up the most signals. Obstructions such as brick walls are not going to help your signal strength. If possible, get a rooftop or outdoor antenna that can bypass some of those obstacles. You should also consider choosing between a long-range, medium-range, or short-range antenna depending on how far away broadcast facilities are.
Once you’ve got the antenna hooked up you should have the TV automatically scan for channels. Sometimes scanning for the digital HD signals is the most frustrating part. If you find you don’t have good reception move your antenna and re-scan. Make sure you are scanning for digital channels only, as many tuners will scan for both analog and digital signals. Scanning for analog after June 12, 2009. Try doing this a few times to find the best positioning. For the best positioning of your antenna, refer to DVT.gov for local broadcast facilities and which way to direct your antenna.