Your guide to comparing aerial installation quotes

March 26, 2017
by
Tom Smart
A picture of two aerials on one mast

Your Guide to compare Aerial Installation quotes

 

These days there seems to be un written for comparing quotes with Tradesmen, the amount of times I hear “Get three quotes” – The lowest will be too cheap and not to a high standard, the highest will be the most expensive and a rip-off and the one in the middle will be just right. A bit like Goldilocks and the three bears. :)

 

To be honest I understand where this is coming from but it’s actually a load of tosh, when applied to the aerial and satellite trade that is. You see, we are on our price structure probably middle of the road, leaning to a higher priced company when compared across the board. When comparing us to others we would be considered a rip-off and to others and absolute bargain and I will explain now.

 

So the term Aerial Installation is a bit misleading. It will naturally vary from company to company as we all prefer all prefer to use different parts. A benchmarked aerial or cable will cost more than a cheaper alternative. There is an installer local to me who beats our price by around £20. But when you total parts cost when comparing to our quotes he actually makes a few pounds more! I have broken down the individual parts of an aerial installation so you yourself will be able to confidently and accurately compare aerial installation quotes.

AERIALS

 

This is a difficult one to gauge as the job and the area determine the aerial not the other way around, there would be no use in installing a super duper aerial on a high signal strength area or where you are neat the transmitter. For more information on this please visit out previous blog on how to pick the right TV aerial. http://www.smartaerials.co.uk/blog/your-guide-to-choosing-the-right-tv-aerial

 

Cheapest (Should avoid) – Under £10 guide price

 

Contract aerials – Most popular type 20 years ago but should be avoided.

RX12 range or aerials without an integrated balun – Very commonly installed today still, the RX range is perhaps the most popular. Some consider it an entry level aerial but I disagree as it does not has an integrated balun making it vulnerable to the effects of outside interference and impulse noise. For a few pounds more you can purchase similar gain aerials without this vulnerability.

 

Mid – range (good for most signal areas) £10-30 guide price

 

Log Periodic (CAI standard 4) – Great choice of aerial for most applications. The way the aerial transfers the signal onto the cable means no balun is required. The only downside is that Log Periodic aerials are relatively low gain making them unsuitable for weak signal areas.

High Gain (CAI standard 3) Typically a 32-element aerial. An example of this is the Vision 32, the aerial we use more than any other.

 

High Price (Best performance but unnecessary for most installations) £30+ guide price

 

High Gain (CAI standard 2) – Typically much larger than others mentioned before, for use in weak signal areas, an example of this would be the Antiference XG10.

High Gain (CAI standard 1) – Technically the best performing aerials more than any other. Very few aerials exist in this category and they are massive! I mean massive! In 10 years I have never needed to install one and they cost a bomb. If you are in a very weak area I would advise and need one I would advise a CAI standard 2 with a masthead amplifier or just abandon it altogether and go to satellite.

 

BRACKETS

So I can’t delve into this category as much as I would like as this most would go on forever. But the brackets need be substantial for the size of the mast they secure and the weight of the aerial. A good quality bracket that is undersized for the mast would also be no good. A rule of thumb is that the overall bracket fixing needs to be at least 1/6 of the overall mast height.

 

Cheapest (Should avoid)

Painted steel brackets – For lack of a better word, rubbish. Paint quickly fails and bracket rusts. Won’t last very long.

 

Mid Range ( Suitable for masts medium sized masts)

 

Galvanised wall and chimney brackets – Come in various sizes and can typically support masts upto 6’ in size.

 

High Price (For large masts)

 

Galvanised T and K wall brackets or double lashing chimney brackets- Come in two separate parts so you can create a large bracket spacing to support large masts up to 20’ in size, although the largest I would personally install on a chimney is 10’.

MASTS

 

Cheapest

1” Diameter masts – Should be avoided, as I would suggest just spending a little extra for a 1.25” diameter mast.

Steel masts – Sometimes suitable for satellite, but aluminium should be used where possible as it doesn’t rust and will stand the test of time. Even galvanised steel mast should be avoided as they will rust over time and likely fail.

 

Mid Range

 

1.25” diameter masts- Suitable for masts up to 6’ in height.

1.5” diameter masts – Suitable for masts up to 10’ in height.

 

High Price

 

2” diameter masts – Suitable for masts up to 16’-20’ with correct brackets

Scaffold style aluminium masts – Similar to the 2” dimeter for with an extra thick wall thickness. Perfect for heavy loads and satellite dishes, but also very expensive compared to other types. Mostly unnecessary for single aerial installations

 

CABLES

Cheapest (Lowest Quality, should be avoided)

Single Screened Cables – Should never be used for digital reception, the cables cannot handle high frequencies making them completely unsuitable and will lose loads of signal down relatively short lengths, the poor screening will also make this cable vulnerable to picking up outside interference. I have lost count the amount of times I have had just had to replace and fly lead or short section of cable to fix problems

Steel Conductor Cables

Although the attitude to steel conductor cables has somewhat loosened over the last couple of years, the CAI has now actually benchmarked one suitable for domestic use. For various reasons including having a very high DC resistance and it doesn’t last as long as a decent bit of cable. Over short distances it’s fine for use but bare in mind when comparing quotes that a steel conductor cable will cost a half to one third the cost of a decent copper/ copper coaxial cable. When having, aerials installed to multiple rooms a heck of a saving can be made here alone.

 

Mid range

Copper centre conductor, aluminium braid and screen

One step up from the steel conductor double screened cables would be a coaxial cable that utilises a copper centre conduction and an aluminium braid and ground shield. As there is far more copper content in these cables they typically cost more. They are a better choice of cable to those mentioned beforehand.

 

Highest (best quality)

Copper centre conductor, copper braid and ground shield

These are the best cables to use for digital TV reception for various reasons. As the are no dis-similar metals within the cables they typically last the longest and have the lowest DC resistance. Examples of these cables are WF100, CT100 and PF100.

 

WALLPLATES AND SPLITTERS

 

Cheapest (Should avoid)

Unscreened versions

All unscreened terminations of the coaxial cables should be avoided where possible, a screen is a termination within a metal housing or a plug – typically an F connector. The metal surrounding the cable termination protects against outside interference, keeps the integrity of the screen and prevents RF leakage. When you think of it logically, you have an aerial that ideally has a screened connection, a double screened coaxial cable transferring the signals and a weak point where you terminate the cable. This is particularly important in places like kitchen’s where there are lots of sources of electrical interference.

 

Screened Versions

For the exact reasons that you should avoid unscreened versions are the reasons that you should use screened versions. The metal housing prevents the effects of outside of interference and prevents RF leakage and signal loss.

 

So there you it have it, when comparing quotes you will need to answer the following to get a fair comparison of price.

 

1)     What aerial are you using?

2)     What brackets will be used?

3)     What mast will be used?

4)     What cables will be installed?

5)     Where applicable, what splitters/ wall plates will be installed

You could go a little further with this and look at the plugs that will be used, higher quality versions of these include crimp and compression versions are unlikely to affect the cost of the quote.

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