Image: Amazon Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna

You don’t always have to pay for television, especially local channels that are available free over-the-air. You simply need an antenna, coaxial cable, and TV or converter box. You can even get HD channels for free! Here’s how.

How to Find Free Local HD Channels

Most 4k TVs and HDTVs have a built-in digital tuner that can scan an antenna connection for available signals from local broadcast stations. Depending on weather and other obstacles, channel strength can be inconsistent. But usually channels with nearby broadcast facilities, if unimpeded, are near perfect and can look and sound even better than cable or satellite!

To find local channels simply connect an antenna (either outdoor or indoor) to the TV input of your HD or Ultra HD TV. Be sure to select the TV or Antenna source (most TVs have multiple input sources such as HDMI1, HDMI2, USB, etc.). Use the channel button for your TV to search through channels manually, or, do an automatic channel search that will store all available channels over-the-air.

You can also use the FCC’s DTV Reception map to final local broadcast facilities by entering your zip code. The results will give you directions on which way to face your antenna to maximize the signal reception of a specific channel or network.

The local HD channels traveling through digital signals in your area should also be available from your service provider, but are also free over-the-air if you choose to bypass a paid service (also know as “cord-cutting.”

How are HD TV Channels Free?

HD channels, along with SD (standard-definition) channels, are available as a public service from broadcast stations across the country. After the analog-to-digital conversion in June, 2009 digital signals (which take up less bandwidth than analog) are traveling in all directions. To receive digital High-Definition or Standard-Definition channels all you need is a digital television or digital receiver and CEA-certified antenna.

If you have an older tube TV that isn’t HD or Ultra HD you can still get standard-definition channels in digital quality using an analog-to-digital converter box that sells for about $25 or higher.

For more reference on receiving HD channels over-the-air read this overview of getting free HD channels. [Updated: Aug. 12, 2017]

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