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Get free HD programming for your HDTV

Get a dozen or more free local HD stations with your own antenna

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Just because you spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new HDTV, don't be programmed to automatically pay hefty monthly bills to get HD programming.

Why, when there is so much free quality HD content available over the public airwaves? All you need is the right antenna.

Many of us invest in high-definition televisions because we want to enjoy our favorite shows, movies and sporting events via the best picture possible. So we end up spending even more cash on content, including paid HD TV service and HD video rentals and purchases.

But, depending on your location and antenna choice, South Floridians can expect to tune in a dozen or more free HD broadcasts. For example, a homeowner in Coconut Creek may be able to call up as many as 19 extra HD channels, including stations in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

Check the Web:

Want to know what channels you can get for free in your area? Check out the http://www.AntennaWeb.org mapping program. Just plug in your zip code or address.

Get the hook up:

Hook up your own antenna and tune in totally free local HD shows, including news, major events like the Super Bowl and World Series, and even hit shows like Grey's Anatomy and Two and Half Men.

Relying more on free HD programming is a great way to save on monthly bills if you're willing to comprise on channel choices and cut your cable or satellite service, or pare it down to a basic package that can run as low as $8 a month. Or maybe you want to augment the content you already get from paid TV service with free HD broadcasts, which include local TV news shows and major public events, such as the Super Bowl and World Series.

Here are the HD stations (720p or 1080i resolution) someone using a "saucer" dish antenna from a Coconut Creek home can expect to receive: 2.1 WPBT, 4.1, WFOR (marginal signal), 5.1, WPTV, 6.1 WTVJ, 7.1 WSVN, 12.1 WPEC, 17.1 WLRN, 23.1 WLTV, 29.1 WFLX, 30.1 (call letters not shown), 33.1 WBFS, 35.1 ION (marginal signal), 39.1 WSFL, 42.1 WXEL, 45.1 WHFT, 51.1 WSCV, 63.1 WBEC, 67.1 ION, 69.1 WAMI.

Antenna options:

Rabbit ears or other small, form factor, loop antenna found at many local electronics stores, these may pickup 10 or more channels (not including sub-channels). Expect to pay $20 or more.

Flying saucers. Consider a 2.5-foot diameter "flying saucer" VHF/UHF omni-directional antenna, with built-in amplifier. Expect to pay about $70. Ballantyne mounted his on top of his living room entertainment center and picks up more than 20 HD channels, including stations in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

Log-periodic antennas mounted in the attic. You will also need to install an amplifier antenna near your TV, powered through a feed in the 75 ohm cable. Such antennas are available from some electronics stores as well as online dealers. Expect to pay $100 or more. You will have to deal with routing cable wires through interior walls.

What to do:

Connect your antenna of choice to your HDTV antenna input, usually located in the back of the set, and perform a new channel scan (consult your manual for instructions). You should end up with numerous free HD channels, most in 720p or 1080i (HD) format. You won't get premium channels, such as ESPN, MTV or TBS. You still need paid TV service for those, but basic packages start at $8 a month if you want to augment what you get for free.

Other options:

If you want to watch popular movies and TV shows not available on free HD channels, consider signing-up for a rental service like NetFlix and BlockBuster. Cost starts at about $5 a month.

Daniel Vasquez can be reached at dvasquez@sunsentinel.com, or 954-356-4219, or 561-243-6600, ext. 4219. To see more columns from Daniel Vasquez, go to sunsentinel.com/vasquez.

Check out Daniel Vasquez's Consumer Talk blog for ways to spend your money wisely, use technology to make life easier and keep your family safe and healthy at sunsentinel.com/consumerblog
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