Get OTA HD Television

 (and do it for around $6!)


(Translation: FREE Over-the-air, high-definition television!)

ota hd


Here in Canada, in the past, I've always just gotten reception for my television by using rabbit ears. While it was pretty awful reception in the eyes of people used to a cable connection, I could pull in all local channels, about six, and they provided my with local news and all of the most popular prime-time programs for no cost. This was all I really wanted and all I really needed as more choice would have just encouraged me to watch more when I should be doing something more healthy ;-)

Then broadcasters were forced to stop sending out the analog signals picked up by the rabbit ears. For those who used rabbit ears, this looked to be the end of free television. But in fact, there has been much confusion, and this is not the case.

In fact, for me, it's been a huge upgrade.

The reason is that they've indeed done away with the old analog signal, but only because they've replaced it with a digital signal - one that is broadcasting OTA HD. With an OTA HD signal, while there can be some "pixelating" of the image or "artifacts" if you don't have strong enough reception, you generally get the signal or you don't - it's either perfect, beautiful HD or nothing - gone are the days of the old "ghosted" and static-filled images associated with rabbit ears.. So, if you previously got a channel using rabbit ears, you should now be able to get it the OTA HD digital signal and it'll look the same as your friend who's paying for it over cable or satellite!

What's the hitch?

The first hitch is that you have to be in range of a transmitter to receive the signal and also not have anything blocking it, like mountains or too many buildings. I think that if you used to be able to pull in channels using rabbit ears, you should be able to pull in the OTA HD digital channels being broadcast. 

The second hitch is that your old analog TV set isn't going to cut it anymore. You at least need to add a digital tuner that will pick up the new signal or you need a newer TV with one built in (most new HD televisions will have them). But televisions are so inexpensive these days, it's worth it to upgrade, especially since you won't have to pay for cable of satellite.

The third hitch is that you'll need to buy or make an OTA HD antenna. I almost got away with my old rabbit ears, but couldn't pull in all channel and sometimes got "pixellation."

So, with that background, the remainder of this page talks about what I call the

The $6 OTA HD Antenna

I don't know the legalities of doing this in other countries beyond Canada, so you'll have to determine that for yourself. Also, I can't guarantee which, if any, channels you'll be able to receive. This is simply an experiment for you if you decide to try it. This antenna is also pretty crude, so if you find that you need something with more receptive power because you're in an area with a lower signal strength, you can find many more online if you do some searching and want to spend more time with it.

Here's what you need to make your OTA HD antenna:

  • a 2 inch x 2 foot or larger piece of wood

  • 2 metal coathangers

  • 2 - 4 wood screws 

  • 2 - 4 metal washers

  • a 75 to 300 ohm UHF/VHF matching transformer (about $5 at an electronics parts store)

  • a 6 foot or greater cable extention cord (available at most department stores -  even a dollar store)


Let's get started!




Step 1.

Unravel the coat hangers and snip off the curved end, then carefully straight the bends so you have a generally straight piece of wire. Be CAREFUL to not poke yourself or someone else in the eye!

Make a 35 degree bend in the wire about 3.75 inches from the end.

Make several 90 degree bends spaced at 9 inches apart from that first bend in alternating opposite directions.

Repeat this with the second coat hanger such that when you lie them side by side you end up with something close to what you see in the photo.

ota hd antenna
Step 2.

Using a drill and the wood screws with a washer on each, attach the two coat hangers to the board as shown in the photo by securing them underneath each washer (a wide washer obviously works best). In mine you can see that I was lazy and only used two screws/washers and then just duct taped the bottom together, but you might not want to be so lazy and use two more screws/washers.

Step 3.

Your matching transformer should have two leads on one end. Unscrew one pair of the screws you just installed enough to slip one lead under each, then retighten. The screws should now be holds the coat hanger and the matching transformer to the board.

The other end of the matching transformer should have a normal cable type connection. Plug one end of your cable extension cord into it and the other end into the cable connection of your television.


Step 4.

Now the moment of truth! Turn on your television and find out how to select the "Antenna" as the input. You can probably also have it automatically scan for available channels.

With luck, you should now be viewing some quality HD programming for $6 and a little bit of time!

A couple of things to keep in mind if you can't get reception or reception is poor. You may need to move the antenna around in different positions to optimize the signal reception. If you are in a basement, you may need locate the antenna on the main floor or even higher, like in the attic. Even then, the antenna just might not be powerful enough and you'll have to get a little more serious and spend some time researching to try a more powerful one.

I know it's not the prettiest thing, but I just hide it behind my stereo speaker. Or maybe you could put it behind a large wall picture. Or just hang your OTA HD antenna as a piece of creative modern art ;-)


I'd appreciate it if you'd consider a small $5 CAD donation, if you build this OTA HD antenna and find it to be of good value, to help with the costs of keeping this webpage up and running. That's not even the cost of a pizza and your slick new antenna will still be super inexpensive. Thanks! 

Also, add a comment to the discussion below and let everyone know how it works for you. 

If I don't think anyone is using this page I may delete it to make room for something else like photos of my ski wipe-outs.

Parry Loeffler




I accept no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by anyone using the information.

  2007 Parry Loeffler


"The hardest thing is explaining to your co-workers that

               you're grouchy

because you were up until 1am reading..."

Ada Litvinov

Rice Crust from the Bottom of the Pot: A Journey Across South East Asia


Back to