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TV antennas help save on cable, satellite bill

September 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hefty bills are prompting more and more people to dump their cable and satellite services. Instead, they're tuning in with TV antennas for free over-the-air shows. Consumer Reports tested 10 ten digital TV antennas to see if they can help you save.

Guy Harnett installs TV antennas for his customers who are tired of paying for dozens of cable channels they never watch.

"People want antennas to reduce on their cable bills, reduce on their satellite bills," said Harnett.

The type of antenna Harnett installs goes on your roof and offers the best reception.

But Consumer Reports says indoor antennas are cheaper and easier to install.

"What you can get from these antennas are the local broadcast channels like CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC. But what you won't get from this are the major cable channels," said Claudio Ciacci, Consumer Reports.

Some antennas have a classic "rabbit ears" look, while others are super-sleek, with flat designs so you can attach it to a window or hide it behind your TV.

Consumer Reports enlisted a dozen staffers who live in the New York area to test the antennas at their homes. Results varied widely.

"Four of our testers got no signal at all. They were able to pick up no channels at all. Some were able to pick up three or four channels, while others got up to 20 channels because of the varying signal strength in their area," said Ciacci.

So where you live can make a big difference. Also important is where you place the antenna.

"We had our testers use the antenna in three locations in their home," said Ciacci. "Two locations were right near their TV set, and then we tried a third position over by the window because the window provides the most unobstructed access to the broadcast tower."

Consumer Reports says the $35 RadioShack 15-254 did well in many test homes, and it has a 30-day return policy -- important if you find it doesn't work in your house.

Even if you have cable or satellite, Consumer Reports says you might want to consider getting an antenna. That way, if your service goes out in a big storm, you can still get local TV reception until your regular service is restored.

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