Can I Really Use a Paperclip to Watch Over-the-Air TV? (Guest Post)





Channel Surfing Man

Channel Surfing ManToday’s post is a guest post from the great team over at Laura Slater is one of the cord cutting experts at and has been blissfully cable-free since 2010. She enjoys sharing the money saving tips and tricks she’s learned to help others join the cord cutting revolution.

When you search for advice on accessing Over-the-Air TV signals, you’ll likely stumble upon a very weird suggestion involving a common office supply – a paperclip.

But can you really pick up free OTA TV using a paperclip?

Eh… Maybe? And only if you’re lucky enough to live VERY close to your local TV broadcast towers.

But that doesn’t mean you should be jamming a tiny hunk of metal into the coaxial connector of your TV.

Keep reading to find out why….

The Myth of the Paperclip TV Antenna
Over-the-Air TV signals are available free in most cities and towns. Commercial indoor TV antennas can be purchased for as little as $20 and should work well for those living within 35 miles of local TV broadcast towers.

But if you don’t happen to have $20 or you just want to see if you can receive any OTA TV without going to the store, you could try the paperclip trick.

However, you’ll only get an OTA TV signal if:

  • You live very close to the local broadcast towers (within 1-5 miles)
  • The TV you’re trying to watch on was made AFTER 2005 (those made before 2005 don’t have digital TV tuners)
  • The TV is in a room/home that doesn’t have concrete or mesh stucco walls which can block TV signals

Why Paperclips Should Stay in the Junk Drawer
In terms of TV antenna positioning and overall quality, a paperclip will offer poor performance. While it may pick up a few local channels, it’s unlikely that the signal quality will be good or stable.

If you really want to find out what TV channels are broadcast in your area, use an online OTA TV channel locator tool instead.

Doing this research will also help you understand what type of commercial Over-the-Air TV antenna you’ll need. Good quality TV antennas are available online and at most local big-box retailers and aren’t very expensive. These retailers will also allow you to return the antenna if you wind up needing a different model.

Finally, not all paperclips are created equal. Depending on the size or style, your cheap ‘paperclip’ test could become VERY expensive if it gets jammed in the coaxial connector or damages your TV’s tuner.

Long story short, instead of using a paperclip (or a coat hanger or a twist tie), take a few minutes to research Over-the-Air TV availability in your area. Try a REAL TV antenna. Or at the very least, use a piece of coaxial cable for temporary testing purposes instead. At least that won’t damage your TV!

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