Introduction: Simple and Cheap Indoor TV Antenna

About: A human wanting to have wings to fly...

I haven't had a cable TV for the last several years since I found my family didn't need so many (too many) channels and could watch handful of channels for free through antenna. It's called OTA (over the air) channels. You may have to give up some of your favorite channels (I personally miss the Discovery and Family channels) from the cable TV providers, but it's FREE!!  Depending on your location and orientation of the antenna, you could get several to over 30 channels.

There are commercial products both indoor and outdoor.  The outdoor antennas certainly work (much) better than indoor antennas because their elevation from the ground is high so they can catch more signals and there is no obstacles such as wall or house structures compared to the indoor antennas.

But the indoor antennas have their own benefits: 1) you don't have to climb up the roof to install and maintain it; 2) you don't have to worry about thunder or lightening; 3) it's relatively cheaper than outdoor ones because it doesn't need long cable and fixture material.

So, as long as your location is in or near urban area and you have a proper spot inside your house to put it and want to create your own antenna with various shapes and sizes, give an indoor FREE TV antenna a try!

Here is my version.

The aluminum foil in the kitchen is always handy. I needed a support to attach two pieces of aluminum foil and found a piece of cardboard box. The size of each side of the aluminum foil is 250mm x 215mm. I didn’t test other than this size but it works good enough. You may want to try different size and shape of similar design for your TV. I could get over 20 channels with this.

Step 1: Previous Version

I moved to this new house a few months ago and as soon as we moved in, I quickly made this antenna.

I found this TV antenna design from internet some time ago and it really works quite well. A matching transformer in the middle in this picture is missing since I have already removed it to a new design. This one works fine but I don’t want to put this one on top of the roof because I don’t want to take any risk of thunder or even climbing up to the roof, nor to hang it on the living room wall because it is not that small (about 1m high) and doesn’t look pretty. So I decided to test very simple antenna that is cheap, small enough to be hidden behind a picture frame, and indoor.

Step 2: Parts List

I collected parts from my junk drawers and kitchen.

What you need are:
1) aluminum foil for food wrap
2) a piece of cardboard box
3) a TV impedance matching transformer (aka Balun) (I bought one from ebay for less than $2.00 with free shipping but you can buy one from local hardware or electronics store)
4) some wire (any size, 22-18 wire gauge work great)
5) TV connect cable
6) small screws and nuts (any size of your choice, if you don't have any, never mind, you can simply wrap wire through holes)
6) scissors, tape, hot glue

Step 3: Steps

It's quite simple to make so I didn't separate steps but listed below with a picture.
  1. The first step is to cut two pieces of the aluminum foil.  The size of each side of the aluminum foil is 250mm x 215mm but you can try bigger or smaller than these.
  2. Cut a piece of cardboard box to support the aluminum foil you just cut.  Put about 1cm gap between the foils as shown in the picture and attach them on the cardboard using any tape. You can use metallic foil tape around the edge but do not use metallic tape between the gap.
  3. Next, make small holes on the bottom edge close to the center for wire connection.  You can use small screws and nuts to make contacts of wire to the aluminum foil, but if you don't have any proper screws and nuts, you can strip wire long enough (say 3-5cm) and wrap the wire through the holes, twist the wire tightly and attach a piece of tape on top of it so that the wire and the foil make good contact.
  4. Now you have two short wires attached to each aluminum foil.  If you look at the transformer, there are two wires and a female TV cable connector. Connect these wires to the wires you just attached to the foil antenna.
  5. Using a hot glue gun or tape, you can finalize and secure the transformer and wires neatly.

That's pretty much everything for the antenna part.

If your TV is on the 2nd floor or 1st floor, you can directly connect this antenna through a regular TV antenna cable.  Once you connect the new antenna, do an auto-channel-scan.

Next steps will show you how I connected the antenna to the TV through cables the builder had already installed in the house and why.

Step 4: Connect the Antenna (1st Floor) and the TV (basement)

My family moved to this new house a few months ago. Since it is a brand new house, all the cable outlets on the walls in the living room (over the fireplace), in the master bedroom, and in the basement remain unconnected and exposed in front of the switch panel (power distribution panel) in the basement.

I wanted to put the TV in the basement and wanted to put the antenna as high as possible and hopefully to be able to hide the antenna such as behind a picture frame (I don’t have it yet though.) above the fireplace.

So I tested all the cables using my multimeter and identified which one was which and connected the two cables, one from the living room and one from the basement, and connected together (core and core together AND shield and shield mesh) as shown in the pictures.

In the pictures, I used a heat shrink tubes to cover the connections, but if you don't have them, you can use any electrical tape.  Personally, I don't like the electrical tape because they are sticky (-ier later) and hard to remove later and make it dirty.

Step 5: Result