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Friday, January 18, 2008

How to build TV antenna from a beer can. DIY, free TV

You can receive bunch of TV channels for free over the air (OTA). Including HDTV (High Defenition TV or Digital TV - DTV). All you need is some kind of antenna.

The simplest kind of TV antenna you can imagine is an unfolded paperclip stuck right into tv antenna socket

With paperclip antenna, depending on the location of your house and your TV in the house, (close to the window, facing TV tower is the best) you may get couple of channels in moderate quality or at least convince yourself that there is something in the air.

Paperclip, while being technically an antenna is not the best antenna for your TV. There are at least two reasons: first - paperclip dimensions and geometry are not the best for the frequencies used to broadcast OTA TV (UHF/VHF). Second – TV itself is a source of interference (as well as computer or microwave oven) and having “antenna” right next to the TV is not a good idea. Never place your antenna on top of TV or anywhere near it.

OTA or Over the Air should not be confused with FTA or Free-To-Air television. FTA is a satellite signal one can also receive for free, but you'll need satellite receiver and satellite dish antenna - equipment way more sophisticated than just a paperclip or beer can. Unlike FTA, OTA is receiving a free signal from a local TV tower, not the satellite. We are talking good old OTA here.

So, now let’s build a real antenna from a beer can. Drink do it yourself project



All you’ll need is an empty beer can (I would recommend to start with full one and finish it as a first step), piece of cable and something to put and hold the whole thing in place. I’m using some Ikea furniture and painter’s tape.

While paperclip has not, beer can apparently have a right geometry for a dipole antenna. Long story short – simple dipole antenna consists of two metal rods, each ¼ of the wavelength for a channel you are about to receive. 0.5 liter aluminum can of Mooshead beer is 16 centimeters (6.3 inches) tall and is a perfect match for TV channel 15. It is still capable of receiving all the other channels, but in theory the farther you go from channel 15 the weaker the reception would be. In practice – it all depends on how strong the signal for particular station is. I got the best quality on channel 9 (CityTV) just because it has a strongest signal, while my beer antenna is not designed with this channel in mind.

Start with cutting your beer can in half, then affix these halves with a tape/staples/nails to “the base” (Ikea chair in my case).
Now you have to connect the cable to an antenna. You may just strip-off one side of the cable separating inner copper wire from outside “screening” wires , connect inside copper wire to the one half of the can and outside screening wires to another half. Alternatevely you can use "matching transformer" which you can buy in Radio Shack or other radio outlet for less than five dollars.

Connect your antenna to TV and find a right spot and direction. Antenna should be perpendicular to the direction to TV tower. . The key is to place antenna as high as possible. I’m just putting the chair on top of the table. . http://www.antennaweb.org in US would help you to figure out location of TV towers and channel lists for your area.


Run Auto Channel Search on your TV (make sure Antenna is on for a signal type) and see what channels you’ll be able to pick up

Now open up another can of beer and enjoy your truly free TV.

I live in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, which is 27 miles (43 kilometers) north from Toronto’s CN Tower and 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Buffalo, NY. With my beer can antenna I can get 5 HDTV channels, about 15 analog channels in decent quality, including one or two channels from US, depending on the weather and time of the day.

With this Beer Can antenna, mounted with the tape right to the Window I got 5 HDTV/Digital channels:


Now – word of warning and disclaimer:
  • You probably heard that outdoor antenna works way better than indoor one. This is true. Elevated high enough, decent outdoor antenna would potentially give you better quality and variety of channels. Beer can antenna is not ready for outdoor use. Any outdoor antenna should be equipped with surge protector. Without one you are at risk of damaging your TV or even putting whole house on fire in case lighting would strike an antenna. Putting the beer can antenna at the attic should be no risk at all.


  • There are whole bunch of commercially avaliable antennas out there, including Jensen, Terk, Zenith and others, with and without amplifier. There is a good chance that some of them would be way better than this Beer Can Antenna. But if they are not - please let me know!


  • I’m not associated in any way with Mooshead, Ikea or RCA. They just happened to be the beer I drink furniture I use and TV I watch.


  • See also: How to improve TV antenna reception with reflector - illustrated guide on how to improve beer can tv/hdtv antenna reception with simple reflector made from tinfoil or dish drainer.

    59 comments:

    Slava said...

    Hello neigbour! I live in Newmarket as well and here is my story.
    I have used piece of antenna cable, I-coupler and a paper clip to connect TV to the top metal part of the mop. This part is reliably isolate from the base by the rubber housing.
    Reception is decent, esp. for Aurora channel.
    Trying to get better quality, I have went to local store of The Biggest Retailer in The North America and has purchased Philips antenna. To my amusement, reception was much worse than with my makeshift mop antenna. Thanks to return policy, Philips was returned to the store.

    Thank you for the can recipe, my beer supply will have couple of cans less this weekend! Cheers!

    aou said...

    Hi Slava! Mop? This is interesting. It's not even a dipole, but still decent reception. Sounds like it just happend to be a good quarter wave (unipole) antenna. How long is the metal part?

    Let me know how your beer can antenna would work and what channels you can catch with it. Make sure you are using a tall beer can, not a small one.

    Regards!

    rupertdegruchy said...

    Hello from Toronto. Guiness can seems to work. A Question. For HD channels, do you need to tell the TV which one to display (ie. digital CBC or analog CBC) and can you put them side by side on your dial or do need to switch different formats? The way I understand it the digital signal is all there or not there at all, as in there's no snowy reception so on bad weather days you might prefer to watch the analogue broadcast.Hope my question makes sense

    Summerhill said...

    Hey neighbor,

    Great project but I live in Summerhill (not sure if "hill" means what I expected in this name) but unfortunately it does not work for me at all.
    Are you located south of Summerhill (Yonge & Mulock‎) ?

    Anton Umnikov said...

    Hey summerhill!

    I'm Just south of Mulock, on Bayview. Don'th think it makes that much difference. My only advantage - I have unobstructed South view (direction to CN Tower). You may try to move you antenna around and put it as high as possible.

    Gerald said...

    Good article, thanks for giving me hope that this might work for me as well. The one drawback for me is that I live in the dip just east of Prospect at the intersection of Prospect and Gorham. I suspect my line of site is not that good nonetheless your post has convinced me to give it a try. Thanks again for putting this up.

    summerhill said...

    Ok. I am posting my story and hope it will be helpful for somebody.
    Location: Canada, Ontario, Newmarket (Yong & Mulock)
    Distances to transmitters (http://www.remotecentral.com/hdtv/distances.htm):
    Toronto CN Tower - 29.1 mi (46.8 km)
    Buffalo Grand Island - 76.3 mi (122.8 km)
    Buffalo South (ABC) - 107.0 mi (172.2 km)
    First: tried "rabbit ears" and "beer" antennas and got nothing on first and second floors of my house and almost give up…..
    Second: find the instructions (http://uhfhdtvantenna.blogspot.com/) and build DB4 (2 hours project) – have got 1 HD channel only (CBC) and almost give up… but decided move the antenna to the attic – have got 5 HD channels instantly which confirm basic statement “The higher, the better”.
    Third: Unfortunately unable to put antenna on the roof due to by-law but fortunately my house faced to CN Tower which allows me to build DB8 (combine 2 DB4) using house structure in the attic – have got 12 HD channels instantly (even more HD channels than I had with Rogers cable).

    Going extend it to DB16 (combine 2 DB8) ………. because there is no limit for perfection ;-).

    As yet have no idea why folks are still paying to the cable companies for what they can have free and sometimes in a better quality due to no compression of the signal!!!

    Cheers!

    Charles Schultz said...

    I agree, why do folks pay for what they can get for "free" (after one-time fees of purchasing and installing equipment)?

    Some questions about the DB4/8/16 design. Why is the foil (signal scatter) necessary? Could you not have a bi-directional antenna without it? Secondly, are there any advantages to how DB4's are combined?

    summerhill said...

    2:Charles Schultz
    I found that reflector (foil) is necessary if your location is pretty terrible as mine is. In my case the foil reflector improve signal drastically. You may not require a reflector if you are close to transmitter or/and signal is strong enough.
    As I understand you can combine two DB4's using TV signal splitter in opposite direction, just make sure both DB4's produce close equal signal strength other wise you can loss more than gain.

    Jon said...

    Using a beer can is limiting your channels. You don't want to use a static tuned antenna when you are changing frequencies. You'd be better off with a $8 set of adjustable unamplified rabbit ears from Radio Shack.

    Unless, of course, taping a beer can to your window is the Canadian thing to do, eh? Next time try using a keg for an antenna so you can get the lower channels!

    You Canucks are too funny!

    Cynthia said...

    Thanks! We are in Baton Rouge, LA and without any type of utilities thanks to Gustav. Your beer can antenna is a life saver!

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you so much! The paper clip worked perfecly for me. I'm in college and cable's pretty expensive, especially considering the fact that I only want one channel.

    Antenna Design said...

    Didn't know you could do that. Kinda cool, yet ... antenna's are < $10. Recycle those cans and go buy one. But actually this is really cool so I'm gonna go try it anyways. & seriously, What better way to recycle a beer can than to turn it into a TV antenna?

    Cheers,
    Fred

    Anonymous said...

    Hey I just have to say thanks. Time Warner took our CBS affiliate off their service, and my Buffalo Bills are on tomorrow; you saved my life!

    andras said...

    I am a total newby who lives in central toronto.

    could anyone recommend an installer to receive TV signals?

    thanks

    andrew

    Anonymous said...

    hey, thanks for the info but i was just wondering if anyone could explain how to strip down the wires and attach them to the can...
    thanks

    Anonymous said...

    hey bro your the shit...
    I dident think it was true, i thought how could it be just that simple. So i tryed it...
    using-
    a 3foot coax cable
    24oz beer can
    duct tape
    mop
    that is it...
    WOW a cut at one end of the coax spliting the sheld and threaded end from the cable. it exposes the external wire (stranded) and the internal (stright).
    Cut can in half and cut off cap not the bottom. then cut 1/4 inch x 1 inch long slit at the cap end and twist the slit and wries togeather. then duct tape the wire ends and place the cans apart and try to pick up a channel. i got 15 and taped the can to a mop and chair on my patio. thank you.

    Anonymous said...

    Is the signal reception working just fine from inside an attic let's say? I believe for FTA it won't work inside an attic.

    aou said...

    Attic should be OK for TV antenna.

    FTA/Satellite uses different (higher) frequencies, comparing to OTA and things like wood is a problem for FTA, but OK for OTA signal.

    So unless you roof is made of metal - attic would be your best indoor bet.

    Peter Daly said...

    This looks interesting. You can build a little bit nicer (and probably better) antenna yourself with a little bit more work and coat-hangers or household wire.

    Check out TV Antenna Plans for step by step instructions to create what the industry calls a DB4 style antenna, optimized for HDTV wavelengths.

    -Pete
    MythPVR.com

    Anonymous said...

    Well I made myself tv antenna.
    It's just one half wave dipole (about 31,3cm long) and antenna amplifier (cheap one for "grill" antenna, bought for few €)

    This equipment picks up signal from tv tower placed about 100km away.

    The only problem I have is that there are few tv towers and every tower transmit different channel so while dipole is bi-directional antenna then I must turn my bastard everytime I change channel to get clear picture on tv screen. :)
    If needed I can make some photos of antenna.
    just email me at skubaniec-90[at]hotmail(dot)com

    Anonymous said...

    how do i combine 2 DB4's to building a DB8?

    Jairo said...

    Great Idea, WOW i can't believe it, i've spent 30 mins of my life making your antenna, it didn't worked but at least i've had some beers,hahaha.

    Sam said...

    Hello, My name is Sam. I do not have that many materials and am not sure if there is an easier way of getting cable than putting a chair and cutting it in half. I mean we all love a cold beer but, come on there has got to be an easier way... If anyone has got a better Idea call me at (951)-303-5034, or email me halosamr@aol.com

    Charles said...

    haha, that make two of us! I didn't bother to buy a TV, I hacked my PC into an HDTV with 35 bucks. After reading your post, I know a cheaper way with just 15 bucks.
    http://cyberjedizen.blogspot.com/2009/05/turn-you-pc-into-hd-tv.html

    Kevin said...

    Thanks so much for this DIY! I am at work right now and I was really upset that our TV antenna was missing (Blackhawks vs Red Wings Game 4 is on soon). I saw this DIY, took out the soldering iron, found a big aluminum can and coax cable and put this together. I have perfect HD reception on NBC-DT which happens to be the channel that the game is on. Thanks again!

    John said...

    OK. I live in a isolated town called Anza in California. I tried your beer can idea and i got some channels and they were black and white static no sound only I moved tv around, moved chair/beer antenna around and still same stuff. Any ideas email me halosamr@aol.com

    Steve said...

    I am at Bayview and Wellington (Aurora). Got my antenna up on my second floor and received 5 analog channels. (CTV, Global..) but quality not that clear. Unless you live in a condo in the 905 area. Or you can put one up the roof. Otherwise, you won't be happy with the reception.

    Manos said...

    Very interesting and useful my friend..Cheers!!

    Jaxon13 said...

    So, do Canadian beer cans pick up Canadian stations and US beer cans pick up US stations? If you use Pop cans, do you get MTV? If you use Old Style cans, can you get Cubs games? Or because it's a beer can, do you only get Brewers games? This digital tv thing is SO confusing! *smiles!* --JR

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    ABBY said...

    Hello All

    Hoping someone can help, or at least confirm my worst fears. I just moved into an apartment building at high park. 20th floor, but north facing! no big buildings far as the eye can see to the north for bounce back. We bought a terk from Tiger direct but got very VERY poor signal, even dancing around the apartment, out on the balcony and standing on our heads. Is the building blocking all the signals? What is a person to do in this situation? Would the building maybe have a rooftop aerial I could hook into somehow? Someone help! All I want is CBC!

    ceanes said...

    Hi, i leave in Brazil and i did this "cantenna" and i am amazed how it works, i get one channel i couldnt, and the others are so sharp now. I put it on my clothes cordline outside near the window. The reception here is awful, because i live downstair surrounded by three floor houses. And other commercial antennas didnt work so good like that. At first i was a bit skeptical at how that tiny can could improve my reception , but it really works. Thanks for this brilliant instructions.

    Logicserve said...

    Instead going for such hectic job, why not buy a personal satellite digital tv.


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    Michael said...

    Thanks, it is looking interesting. You can make a little bit good antenna yourself with some more work. How is your beer can antenna work and how many signals does it catch?

    Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace.

    Anonymous said...

    Given how inexpensive real antennas are, this whole project, amusing as it is, sounds like a plot synopsis from the Red Green Show! (u betcha)

    HAMZA said...

    hey , i really this these people should stop paying for cable... i live very near cn tower like 7 min drive and i just thru the normal wire outside and in summer i got around 60 channels and i ran AUTO PROGRAM on my tv,,,, i got alot of channels from buffalo like cw23 and some other and know in winter i am getting 25 chaNNELs and half of more then half of them r hd.. i check with rogers on these channels they said they like charge me about $120 and i have wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy more hd then they r offering... and + the hd reciver i have to pay with rogers....

    John Sum said...

    Thanks man! This really works.

    I tried to make this TV antenna by a regular pop can and a metal basket as reflection. Use a coaxial cable to connect it to my LCD TV which has a ATSC adapter. Now it can pick up around 10 digital channels easily.

    It only can receives very poor analog signals. But this doesn't matter. We can enjoy the crystal clear digital channels.

    My apartment is at Mississauga, Ontario. It faces to north direction which means not to the signal source from Toronto and Buffalo directly.

    ~rAGU said...

    How is the reception without antenna? I think whether this works depebds on that?

    ed said...

    Thanks for the inspiration. I was using rabbit ears and getting tired of the stuttering presentations. After reading your approach, (not having a large can of beer...) I took a piece of coax and attached a wire to the inner conductor with an alligator clip. I now have much better reception than before! After the program (Nova) is over, I will diddle with it some more and see how many new channels I get. Thanks for the approach.
    (Durham, NC)
    ed

    ed said...

    I might point out that if you live in a house with aluminum siding or metal lathe plaster walls, the antenna will work best if placed in a window!

    ed

    Auto Dub said...

    Don't place it behind the windows if you have Low-E Glass... I get almost nothing behing the window. I move the antenna DOWN 4 feet behind aluminum siding and receive 3-5 stations. I move it vertically left 3-5 feet and receive 5-6 stations. I put it outside and 3 feet higher and I receive 15+ stations.

    Although, the beer can antenna works, it is not optimal - so far I have found the DIY 4-bay to be the best. You will have to play with whisker length to find what's right for your area.

    btw - I live in Aurora, ON near Yonge St. & St. John's Side Road.

    Norman said...

    Here in SW England we cannot get Moosehead beer only proper beer so I built my aerial using a Dutch Lager can . Goes fine except I only receive Welsh stations . What have I done wrong ?
    Norm.

    Darryl E, Toronto said...

    lol. Took 10 minutes and tried this, completely as a test to see if I should buy an antenna or not. I can't stress how half-arsed the job I did was. I didn't even use the spec can, although I did use an actual antenna cable I had kicking around and chopped off one end. Used a 750 ml Molson Canadian can. Previously got 0 when using auto-tune, now getting 20 channels, half HD.

    Ray said...

    Hey, just tryed the beer cantenna in southern Ireland, and it works better than any rabbit ears or indoor antenna ive tryed before. We dont have any OTA Hd channels in ireland as far as i know but it picks up 3 out of 4 terrestrial channels perfectly.
    Nice one, Thanks.

    Anonymous said...

    Dude, as nice as this sounds, I am not going to trailer-trashify my house by stapling beer cans to my chair! Anything less....stupid?

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    justinandrew said...

    Hey I just made a quick DIY video after I read this. I used some solder instead of tape, but that's probably negligible (I was just bored). Works GREAT! I am literally cancelling my cable today. All I wanted was HD sports and news on basic cable anyway, so this seemed like a great idea. Now I don't have to shell out stupid amounts of money for a cable box rental, cable channel fees, service fees, etc.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9hBFxMrmMw&feature=share

    aou said...

    Great video! Thanks! Couple of suggestions:

    - Really, really do use TV cable. They are dollar or so in a dollar store. Just rip one side of it to reach wires.
    - Location, location, location!!! The higher your antenna is - the better.

    Gkon Electricals & Electronics Pvt. Ltd. said...

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    Dave said...

    Great Blog, Monsieur! I tried the paper clip method and got over 20 channels, including 18 digital TV with better reception than cable used to give!! Unbelievable! This site needs to go viral...
    Thanks again!!

    Juan said...

    With the paper clip antenna I get 16 channels digital TV in my city in Argentina. Excellent!

    MakaRon said...

    I can't believe did not know about this, It's been more than a year since I cancelled my cable, and i was just simply streaming everything from my computer; and honestly It'd never cross my mind, that by a simple "unfolded paper clip" I'll be able to get up to 7 stunning HD channels, I'm on my way right now to get a cable and build a more decent antenna.
    Etobicoke Centre, ON

    Marcus Wheeler said...

    I chose to mount my Comm antenna's behind the main spar...Don recommended just in front or behind the spar. I read somewhere that you should have 36" between the transponder and Comm...but not sure if that is a hard fast rule? I did achieve the 36" spacing however....just in case. You can see that I also riveted my doubler in place for added strength, I used CS pop rivets just for ease of installation.

    antenna installation brisbane

    Jerry Gene said...

    Very dashing and attractive woody vases. Creativity is clearly showing. Nice work.

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    Anonymous said...

    Why did you cut the can in half instead of just getting a second can?

    Paul Brighton said...

    Yeah..its really works dear thanks for sharing.

    Thiago daLuz said...

    I didn't know that was the kind of thing you could just build at home. We just got a new antenna that's working pretty great, but we could use better reception in the other room with the TV. I might have to try this out. Thiago | http://www.theantennaman.com.au

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    DISH provides best DISH TV packages and Special Offers in USA. Nice post thanks.