Want to Cut the Cord in Chicago? Don't Forget the TV Antenna

Steven Jack
Written by Steven Jack
Updated June 15, 2021
a digital antenna on top of a house
Digital antennas pick up a significant number of channels. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

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For one Chicago-area TV antenna installation company, the sky is the limit.

In some areas around Chicago, it's possible to get as many as 70 television channels for free, over-the-air with a digital antenna.

The rising cost of cable and satellite TV service has many people cutting the cord. That's led to a boom in business for antenna installers like Eric and Monique Ziegler, owners of highly rated Ziegler Installations in Plainfield, Illinois.

“The biggest complaints we hear from people are the costs of cable and the poor customer service,” says Monique Ziegler. “People are tired of having to call the companies every six months and threaten to cancel their service just to get a lower rate. People can save so much by streaming and with a good antenna.”

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How to get Chicago local TV channels

While a wealth of popular TV shows and movies are available online and through cheaper-than-cable streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, ditching cable or satellite service can leave homeowners without local network television stations like NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and FOX. 

That’s where the Zieglers step in with attic or roof-mounted omni-directional antennas, which can pick up the free high-definition broadcast signals of the local Chicago networks without monthly cable fees. 

The Zieglers began in the communications business about 15 years ago and started installing TV antennas in 2011. Today, the Zieglers say they install one to two antennas per day at an average cost of about $500 each.

What kind of TV antenna should you get?

With the ability to capture about 70 channels with an antenna, the Chicago market is one of the best when it comes to free TV service, Monique Ziegler says. However, the signal quality and the size of the TV antenna can vary, depending on location. 

For instance, if a home is more than 30 miles away from Chicago's broadcast antenna location atop the Willis Tower or surrounded by tall and dense vegetation, a roof-mounted antenna may be necessary. If the home is clear of obstructions or closer to the tower, an attic or window-mounted antenna probably will be sufficient.

“Before we come out, I usually do a Google Earth search of a customer’s home just to research what’s around and what we might need,” she says. “We are upfront with all our customers and want to give them a good idea of what to expect.”

How much money will you save?

With the average cable and satellite bill topping $1,200 annually, switching to an antenna and streaming setup can add up to real savings in the first year.

The average cost of antenna installation is $500, which includes labor, the antenna and amplifier.

If you don’t have a smart TV with streaming services built in, then a streaming device will be necessary. Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV range in price from $35 to $100.

To stream shows on-demand instead of just over-the-air via antenna, you can sign up for a subscription to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, which cost $7 to $10 per month. 

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