Our DirecTV bill was simply too expensive for the amount of time we spent watching TV. I really wish we had ‘cut the cord’ sooner because now we watch free TV!
We decided to install an outdoor HDTV antenna on our house, allowing us to pull over-the-air (OTA) channels for free.
Here’s a look at the finished product, sitting above my DirecTV dish:
After completing the transition over to OTA HDTV it seems to me that the picture quality is better than DirecTV. It could be wishful thinking, but I honestly believe it to be the case.
I also thought that this process would be much more difficult than it actually was. I really wish we had done this sooner because we do not miss DirecTV.
Do you pay too much for DirecTV? You’re smart to consider options to save money on entertainment expenses. We have this in common, and so I’m happy to share a tutorial I created based on my experience switching to a FREE digital streaming signal. I’m living my life without DirecTV, and you so can you.
I’m going to walk you through the steps I used to replace my DirecTV with an outdoor HDTV antenna.
Mandatory equipment needed:
- HDTV Antenna – I purchased the RCA Outdoor Antenna with a 70-mile range for less than $50
- RG6 Coaxial Cable – You will need cabling to run from your antenna to your connection in the house
- Coaxial Cable Splitters – You will need these to replace any DirecTV splitters
Optional Cord Cutting equipment:
The first step in this process is to figure out what HDTV antenna you need.
This should give you HDTV signal in every room with a coaxial outlet.
DirecTV is different from basic cable because you need a box for every tv.
If you previously had basic cable, then you will get tv in every room you previously had the cable tv in before.
Our tool is TV Fool
First, you need to see what channels are available in your area. Head over to the TV Fool to use their HDTV signal detector.
Tap “Click Here” in the center of the page to be directed to enter your address.
Use TV Fool to identify the range of the antenna you’ll need to stream HDTV
For example, TV Fool indicated the range I needed was 70 miles, and so I purchased a RCA HDTV 70 mile range Antenna.
Enter the height at which your antenna will be placed outdoor if you’ll do an attic installation.
The best way to ensure the signal will get to every room is to install your HDTV antenna close to your existing DirecTV dish, since you know that is the line into the house.
HDTV antenna installation
Using the instructions that came with your antenna, find a safe location to install it on your house or roof. [info]
You should always be mindful of any large objects that might be on the path of receiving a strong signal. [info]
You can always move your antenna around to a different location and then just run coax cabling to the location where it enters your house. [info]
Installing HDTV Antenna and removing DIRECTV
Now it is time to head to your DirecTV dish and inspect the coaxial connection that comes from the dish.
My DirecTV system was using the Single Wire Switch or SWM technology. I can’t speak to any other DirecTV technologies, and so I’d especially encourage you to comment below if you have experience with other systems.
Here is a picture of the SWM adapter that was coming from the DirecTV dish, note that it looks very much like a cable splitter, but it’s actually special SWM splitter from DirecTV and works only with a satellite signal.
Looking at this SWM adapter, you will want to understand where the different cables are all going.
In my case, they were going to another box that was an original Cox cable installation for the house. I was able to identify an existing ground wire, which saved me from having to lay that coaxial cable myself.
I’m not an electrician and really didn’t want to mess with the existing cables. I decided to just hook the antenna up to the existing cables to see what would happen.
Then I could diagnose any problems as they arose.
Again, the house was already wired so in my mind all I’m doing here is just changing the source from satellite to antenna.
I was worried about signal loss throughout the house since I have no idea where other splitters could exist and don’t have an idea of the existing wiring in the house either.
The signal is strongest the closer you are to the antenna and the least amount of splits in the line as well.
Insert coaxial splitter
My next step is to remove the DirecTV SMW adapter and replace it with my new Coaxial splitter. Use the coax cable from your HDTV antenna as the “in” source, and then use whatever cabling was attached to the “out” sources on your DirecTV SWM adapter as the “out” sources for the splitter. Once you have replaced the SWM adapter with the coaxial splitter, then – believe it or not – you’re almost done!
Switching TVs from DirecTV to HDTV
Step 1: Remove DirecTV from your TV and hook coaxial cable directly to TV
Now that we have all of the connections completed, we need to see what comes in on your tv. I would recommend not starting with your family’s main tv but instead start with a tv in a spare room.
The next step is to remove the DirecTV box from your TV. My TVs were all connected via HDMI cable, so I removed the HDMI plug from the back of the TV.
Next, find the coaxial cable that runs from the wall outlet to the back of the DirecTV box and unscrew it from the DirecTV box. Once removed, find the cable connector on the back of your TV and screw the cable in.
Run the coaxial cable from the antenna to a new splitter. Then attached the coaxial cables from the SWM splitter to the new splitter.
Step 2: Find HDTV channels on your TV
The next step will be for your TV to catalog the new HD channels it is receiving. Since we all have different brand TVs, I recommend finding the remote that came with your TV, you can use your DirecTV remote if you programmed it to control your TV – more on that later.
With your remote, you need to access your TV’s menu, and from there try to find a section that says “Tuner”. Here you might see the input as Cable, and if you do, switch it to the “antenna” or “TV” input and complete a channel scan operation. If this hasn’t been of any help, you can Google “how to scan for HDTV channels for [insert brand of TV] TV”
How to find HDTV channels on a Vizio TV
Here are the basic instructions on how to find HDTV channels from an antenna source for Vizio TVs:
Press the Input button on the remote control and select “TV”.
Press the Menu button on the remote.
Select “Tuner” and press OK.
Check the “Tuner Mode” settings. It should say “Cable”. If it says “Antenna” press the left arrow button on the remote to change it to “Cable”.
Go to “Auto Channel Scan” and press the OK button on the remote.
Your TV will then scan for channels based on the signal strength. When the progress bar reaches 100% you will have access to all of the TV channels your TV receives.
Step 3: Watch free TV!
Scroll through the local channels you want and watch each of them for a few minutes. You’ll want to watch and see if the signal comes in strong and steady. If not, you may need to go back to your antenna and adjust the direction it is pointing. I spent about 30 minutes calibrating the antenna based on the various signal strengths I was receiving. When you are satisfied that you’ve found all of the channels you’re going to get, repeat this process for every TV.
I had one minor issue during my transition to HDTV. A TV in a bedroom was only getting half the channels that the others were getting. I thought it was a signal loss because this was our master bedroom and was the furthest point from the antenna.
When the DirecTV installers were at our house we had them run coax to an outlet so we could have a TV on our patio. Turns out they spliced the cable in this bedroom and there was a SWM adapter on the line!
As I mentioned before, the SWM adapters are for satellite signal only and it wasn’t allowing the HDTV signal to pass through.
I replaced the SWM splitter with a standard splitter and reprogrammed the tv and I had all of the other channels my other TVs were receiving.
I found another SWM splitter that was attached to my bedroom TV. Once it was replaced with a regular splitter, the reception, and channel count both increased.
From the front to the back of the house, there was virtually no signal loss.
If you have a family member who has DirecTV, you can also utilize their login to be able to stream content from various apps like ESPN, FoxSportsGo, HBONow, etc.
So in my experience with canceling DirecTV, they only wanted 3 of the 6 units I had back. I find this to be quite disingenuous since they have no problem charging me equipment charges every month but, I digress . . .
If they do not request back all of the equipment and you programmed your DirecTV remote to control your TV, you might as well keep the remote. No reason to return a universal remote since one of your TVs may need a new controller one day.
The process to cancel with DirecTV was pretty simple.
They sent me the postage paid boxes to return the equipment they wanted and they sent me a prepaid Visa debit card for the balance left on my account.
If they tell you that you can just cancel when your month is up, just say no and ask for a refund. This helps offset what you paid for your antenna and any other equipment you had to purchase.
At the beginning of this tutorial, I had links to optional equipment if you want to add streaming to your TVs. We’ve been really happy with Roku devices as well as the Amazon Fire TV sticks. The way the current technology is, you will need a streaming device for every TV if you want to stream video. My math shows us way ahead over the next year even if we were to purchase a streaming device for every TV.
How Much We Saved Cutting the Cord
An antenna attached to my roof is getting over 40 HDTV channels over-the-air… for FREE!
We saved over $220 a month and over $2,400 a year by ending our relationship with DirecTV and installing an antenna. Please note that this tutorial was based on my specific setup. Please leave any comments or questions below.
Please share this article with anyone you’d like to help save $2,400. Enjoy!