Important Considerations for Buying an Antenna
Whether indoor or outdoor, TV antennas provide a way to receive over-the-air digital signals, so you can watch digital programming without being hooked up to a cable or satellite box. Although there is not a difference between traditional antennas and the antennas used to receive high-definition signals, most manufacturers call their current antennas either digital antennas or high-definition antennas.
When looking at TV antennas, there are considerations before making your purchase. The most important are type, TV compatibility and frequency range.
Outdoor is usually better than indoor
Outdoor antennas have a better view of the transmitting station, with no signal loss caused by building interference. Outdoor antennas are not affected by interference from other household electronic/electrical appliances, and they are less likely to receive reflected ghost signals from your building.
Locate your antenna up high
You will want to place your TV antenna in the highest location possible so that it can receive the most direct signal from the TV transmitter. A higher location also reduces the interference of signals from other electronic and electric appliances in your home.
The larger an antenna, the more signal it is able to receive. Most larger antennas also are directional, which reduces ghosting caused by reflected signals from the side and rear of the receiving antenna.
One of the first decisions you will need to make is where the antenna is going to be placed. Antennas are available in indoor, outdoor and indoor/outdoor versions. Whether you choose indoor or outdoor may affect your ability to receive a strong enough signal from your local broadcast stations.
Indoor antennas are designed to be connected to your HDTV. Indoor antennas are placed indoors near the TV set. The antenna can be either a flat digital antenna or a more traditional style antenna with dipoles. While indoor antennas provide a quick connection to your HDTV without the outdoor installation, the signal reception can be weak because of the interference from walls, cordless phones and other household objects.
Outdoor antennas are often significantly larger than indoor antennas and are intended for mounting on a roof or in an attic. The antenna can be either a flat digital antenna or a more traditional style antenna with dipoles. Outdoor antennas usually perform better than indoor antennas because they are not affected by interference from household objects and do not have the height disadvantage of indoor antennas.
Indoor/outdoor antennas can be placed either indoors or outdoors to provide added installation flexibility.
Directional or multidirectional
Indoor and outdoor antennas can be directional or multidirectional. Directional antennas are designed to receive signals from one direction, while multidirectional or omnidirectional antennas are able to receive signals from all directions. Directional antennas are able to pull in signals from a greater distance because they focus in one direction, whereas multidirectional antennas are more likely to pick up noise, interference and distortion because they pull signals from multiple directions.
Deciding which type of antenna you need
The type of antenna you need depends on the distance your home is located from the broadcasting towers and on the environment in which you are installing the antenna. If you are located close to the broadcasting towers, you can usually receive signals with an indoor antenna. If you want to pick up more distant TV stations, an outdoor antenna will be required. The greater the distance, the more powerful the antenna you will need.
To determine the type of antenna to purchase, you need to determine which broadcasts are available in your area and which antenna will work based on your area. In determining the type of antenna, it is important to take into consideration your distance from the transmitting tower, whether there are large buildings around and the terrain.
In order to receive over-the-air HDTV signals, your TV must have a digital or ATSC tuner connected or be connected to an external digital tuner.
ATSC/digital tuner built in
TVs are now manufactured with a built-in ATSC or digital tuner. This tuner allows
you to receive high-definition over-the-air signals with the addition of an
tuner built in - converter box or external ATSC tuner required
Older analog TV sets that were built prior to the conversion to digital TV have NTSC tuners built in. These tuners are not capable of receiving over-the-air high-definition TV signals. In addition to an antenna, a digital converter box or an external HDTV tuner is required for these TVs to receive over-the-air high-definition signals.
No tuner built
in - external ATSC tuner required
These TVs have no tuner built in and are sometimes referred to as monitors. In addition to an antenna, an external HDTV tuner is required for these TVs to receive over-the-air high-definition signals.
Frequency Range - VHF versus UHF
Digital signals can be broadcast over two different frequency ranges: VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency). Most of the high-definition TV broadcasts are currently in the UHF band which makes UHF coverage a must for any antenna purchase. However, a dual-band UHF/VHF antenna will let you receive both bands for added convenience.
The difference between UHF and VHF antennas is mainly size because antenna elements are built based on the size of the waves they receive. VHF frequencies are lower so a large antenna surface is needed to receive them.
Hardware and installation
Large outdoor antennas can be installed on a roof, a freestanding pole or in an attic. For best results, your antenna should have the clearest possible view of the transmitter tower. When aiming the antenna, use a compass to ensure your antenna is accurately and precisely oriented toward the signal source. Indoor antennas can be connected to your TV through a coaxial cable.
A signal amplifier can help to overcome size or height issues or to enhance the overall signal gain of an antenna. The amplifier can be built in, which is common with indoor antennas, or can be a separate device that installs in-line between the antenna and TV. An amplifier that installs on an outdoor antenna is often called a preamplifier.
Quick Checklist for Shopping for an Antenna
Indoor versus outdoor placement?
Is your TV compatible with high-definition signals?
Signal strength at your location will help to determine the type and location of antenna
Outdoors is usually better than indoors
Higher placement is better