Preparing for D Day
October 2, 2008 5:20 PM
It is only 138 days until D Day (Digital Day). I did not think that up, but I wish I had. I read it somewhere while I was up in Tyler hiding from Hurricane Ike.
Do you know where your digital signals are? Have you gotten a digital-to-analog converter box yet? Do you know what stations you will be able to receive after the transition?
If not, now is the time to get ready.
I have been on a soapbox these last few months about the loss of the use of battery-powered emergency televisions. If you have followed the blog, you know this has been one of my pet peeves. I did an article on the Winegard RC-DT09A converter box, which has an accompanying battery pack to power it during electrical outages, so there is hope after all.
I ordered mine last week and just got it off the porch this afternoon when I got home from work. I have not had a chance to play with it yet, but I will do so soon, and I will report on the quality of the box, its features and reception in the comments section after I have had a chance to give it a test run.
One thing we have not talked much about here in the Digital Transitions Answers blog is one of the most important aspects of erecting an antenna, but it’s equally important to the antenna itself or the amps. That is the antenna mast.
The mast is important for any antenna that is going to be mounted outside. For our purposes here, I will stick to a single-level, one-floor house. Two-story and higher structures need special consideration, but some of what I will discuss here can be adapted to taller buildings. Just be careful, take your time and plan your job.
First, pick a site that is away from the power drop to your house. If your electrical service comes in from underground, you are one step ahead of the rest of us. Just make sure it is OK to dig a hole where you want to mount the antenna.
Telescoping masts are probably the easiest type of installation to make. Once the rotor, if you are using one, and the antenna are mounted, it can be raised to whatever height you desire up to the maximum extension. A word of caution, however: Most retail telescoping masts are relatively thin-walled pipe that will not withstand higher wind gusts unless guy wires are used. That is what happened to mine during Hurricane Ike, and I did not even have it extended up all the way. Full extension was 36 feet, and I only had it up about 23 feet. I had the middle section down well into the bottom section, and the top section well down into the middle section to give it more stability, but alas, it was not stable enough. But then again, we are talking hurricane-force winds for several hours, or maybe even a small tornado. It had survived Hurricane Humberto and Tropical Storm Edouard, so I thought it was OK. Not.
Eave brackets can be found almost anywhere that outside antennas are sold. They are sold online, at Radio Shack and at hardware stores. Just make sure you get one that will get you out past the edge of the roof.
One of the tricks that I have learned is, if you are handy at making things, to make a squared-off U-shaped bracket to place in the ground. I have used 2-inch-wide flat-bar that was 1/4” thick and a height of about 16 inches when the bottom of the U is on a flat surface to make the bracket. Stainless steel would be a prime material for this, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, to keep it from rusting away on you. My bracket ended up being a little wider than was necessary to accommodate the diameter of the mast. I drilled a 9/16” hole through both sides of the bracket and through the mast itself, so that when the bracket is installed in the ground, the mast will be raised a couple of inches off the ground. This will allow a pivot to swing the mast from horizontal to vertical and also allow rainwater to drain out of the mast to keep it from rusting from the inside. This also will facilitate lowering the mast if needed for servicing or a hurricane, which, as you all know by now, I did not do. My best friend did lower her antenna, promptly raised it back up after the storm and used it to watch TV for almost two weeks before her cable was restored.
To mount the ground bracket, it is desirable to have a plumb bob of some sort. After finding where you want the antenna, mount the eave bracket on the fascia board using lag bolts (it is a good idea to place at least one lag bolt in the end of a rafter or ceiling joist) lower the plumb bob by the string from the edge of the roof and over the middle of the eave bracket. Let it settle near the ground and mark that spot as where you want the middle of the ground bracket. Dig a hole at least 18 inches deep and about 18 inches wide. Mix some concrete and pour some in the hole. Place the ground bracket in the hole to a depth of about 12 inches, leaving 4 inches above ground level. Pour the rest of the concrete over the bottom of the bracket and around the sides, leaving two 4-inch tabs with the 9/16” holes sticking up out of the concrete. Let the concrete set overnight or until dry.
Place the bottom of the mast between the tabs and install a 1/2” bolt (stainless steel would again be a good choice) long enough to go through both of the tabs with the antenna in between and a flat washer on the outside of both tabs.. Place the nut and tighten. Make sure not to tighten the nut so much that it binds the antenna. You want the nut tight enough so that it does not come off, but you want the antenna mast to be loose enough between the tabs to be able to rotate freely.
Swing the mast to a vertical position and attach to the eave bracket. You are now ready to mount the rotor and antenna to the mast.
When running the coaxial cable into the house, be sure to ground the lead-in and the mast. A grounding block can be found at Radio Shack or at electrical suppliers. Be sure to leave a “drip loop” before the coax goes into the house. A drip loop is some extra coax that allows any rain that runs down the cable to fall off at a lower point than where the coax goes in under the eave or through the wall.