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How to Choose An Outdoor TV Antenna

How to Choose an Outdoor TV Antenna

Dwight Pavlovic
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Reading time: 6 minutes
The best indoor and outdoor TV antennas are easy to install and maintain, with simple fixtures and almost nothing to take care of on the exterior of the device. Antennas provide reliable access to local over-the-air broadcasts, which you can pick up across the U.S. While all you need is a well-placed antenna, some areas of the country enjoy more content and better video quality than others.
These setups are often referred to as “OTAs,” and they’re very popular in both urban and rural settings. But why are so many people turning to digital TV antenna technology today? Here’s what you need to know to get started with your antenna setup and why it may be the best option for your home.

Advantages compared to cable

There are several important advantages to using an OTA antenna, either to supplement or replace your other viewing options. It could help you cut costs, improve image quality, and even provide access to new channels. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits.

1. Reduce or eliminate your monthly cable bill

Reduce Or Eliminate Your Monthly Cable Bill
Did you know that the average monthly cable bill is as high as $217.42? People tend to pay more for cable than the rest of their utilities (gas, electric, water, sewage, and garbage) combined. Compare this to the best antenna for a TV, which is a one-time payment that’s likely a fraction of your cable bill.

2. Better image quality

The latest broadcasting standard supports premium video and sound features like 4K and Dolby Audio. As of this writing, the high-quality ATSC 3.0 standard is available in several dozen domestic markets and covers a large percentage of the US. In addition to improved image quality, OTA TV signals may also be more reliable than satellite TV options, though it depends on several factors like signal strength.

3. Access to local channels that aren’t on other services

Access To Local Channels That Aren’t On Other Services
OTA setups also provide reliable access to more of your local channels. While some viewers may want the best HDTV antenna specifically for these channels, you may actually access channels you wouldn’t expect. Simply search online for OTA broadcasting information in your area to see what channels you can view.

4. Reliable access

It’s worth emphasizing the advantages of using OTA as a failsafe in rural and urban settings. For rural reviewers, OTA can compensate for lackluster cable service and internet connections. In urban settings, it provides reliable access to local channels. Plus, even if you lose internet service temporarily, you can still view content over the air from broadcast towers in your area.

Antenna location is key

When shopping for a new device, remember that location is always important, especially if you want the best outdoor TV antenna performance. Your antenna’s location can have a big impact on reception quality and the number of channels you can view.

1. Rural vs urban areas

Rural vs Urban Areas
Most Americans have access to over-the-air broadcasts, but there are usually more channels available in more densely populated areas. If you live in an urban environment, you may have easier access to channels with an OTA setup compared to someone in a rural area.
Rural users can compensate for this by using devices with a bigger range. You can also improve reception with the right placement of a new antenna on your home, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

2. Know your neighborhood regulations

You may have read online that adding an antenna to your home could get you into trouble with your local homeowner’s association (HOA) or landlord. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has clear rules in place to protect your right to access over-the-air broadcasts.
You can read through the rules and an explanation from the FCC, but the key takeaway is this: the FCC protects antennas that are “one meter or less in diameter or diagonal measurement.” You can even add a mast if you need extra height to improve reception.

3. Where to place your antenna on your home

OTA antennas perform best when mounted as high as possible with few or no obstructions. Roofing, construction material, and household objects can all interfere with reception. Even if you buy the best TV antenna, it will only reach its peak performance at the top of your dwelling or in an upstairs window.
Many indoor antennas are designed with different colored panels on either side. If your device has one white side, for instance, chances are the manufacturer intends for this side to face outdoors when mounted in a window. The white surface reflects rays from the sun, which prevents your antenna from overheating. It can even help keep the interior of the room slightly cooler.
While a powerful antenna in a basement window may still pull in a few channels, we don’t recommend this setup. Also, avoid cluttered areas that could lead to interference, and use the inside of outdoor-facing walls whenever possible. Other options include bedroom and living room windows.

Check the antenna specs first

While it’s important to start your research by reviewing OTA channel availability in your area, you must also consider product specifications for a new antenna.
One of the major risks is overspending in an urban market, where a bigger range of devices can provide strong reception. An even bigger risk is getting the wrong specifications in rural settings, where a poor choice may drastically limit the number of channels you can receive.
Here are some of the most important features to watch for when you shop.

1. UHF vs VHF

OTA broadcasts transmit in UHF, or ultra high frequency, and VHF, or very high frequency. Make sure to check the product specs to confirm that it supports your preferred frequency band. Some antennas support both UHF and VHF reception, if that’s your goal.
If you’re trying to pick between the two frequencies, here’s a quick tip: UHF offers the largest number of channels. However, you may not need to worry about choosing one or the other. If you’re in an area with very limited reception, like Alaska, the FCC may protect bigger antennas there.

2. Indoor vs outdoor antennas

Indoor vs Outdoor Antennas
Generally speaking, outdoor antennas provide better reception and video quality. This is particularly true for rural viewers, who need a bigger and better situated antenna to receive distant broadcasts.
Some newer antenna models are actually designed for placement indoors or outdoors. The ClearStream 2MAX UHF/VHF Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna with 20-inch Mast is a popular option that you can mount inside or outside. It also has the advantage of being a long-range model, with a 60+ mile range and support for both UHF and VHF reception.

3. Do you want an omnidirectional model?

Also known as multidirectional antennas, these are antennas that don’t need to be pointed in a particular direction to get good reception. Omnidirectional antennas typically look more like a rounded dome than pronged antennas. That makes them easier to set up and troubleshoot, though they may not always provide the same range as a high-quality directional model.

4. Remember: height and size can be important

Some situations don’t necessarily call for the largest antenna possible, but other times it’s a necessity. If you live in an isolated area, it’s worth investing in a good-sized model and mounting it at the highest point possible – inside or outside your home.

Summary

There are lots of perks to digital antennas for TV and plenty of options out there. The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse line and ClearStream FLEX Amplified Antenna are popular indoor TV antennas. The company also sells a dedicated outdoor line.
Whether you want the best indoor or outdoor TV antenna, just remember to keep your situation in mind and thoroughly check product specs. You’ll save money compared to cable, but a little planning can mean better reception and more channels for you to enjoy.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.

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