You will get the best TV reception possible with your indoor antenna when you apply the principles described in this article. First, you should have an idea of what the distance and direction is from your location to the TV transmitters (see Where Are The TV Transmitters?). Knowing how far the transmitters are, you can make a few basic decisions.
If you live in a major city, a simple, low cost antenna may be all that you need. On the other hand, if you live out in the country where the closest transmitter is more than 30 miles (50km) away, an indoor antenna may not work for you. You may be better off installing an outdoor antenna on your roof or chimney.
Even though this article is about indoor antennas, the basic principles discussed herein are applicable to outdoor antennas as well.
Dealing With Poor Reception
Sometimes you can't help having a TV that is experiencing poor reception with an indoor antenna. Nevertheless there are things you can do to help improve your reception. Tilting and rotating the antenna may make reception a little better or a little worse. You might find that moving the TV to a different part of the room would give you better reception. But if you cannot move the TV, the only other thing you can do is to move the antenna. And to move it adequately, you will need to connect a coaxial cable to it. This will allow you to extend its distance away from the TV so that it can be put in a new location that has better reception.
Where Will Indoor Antennas Work Best
As real estate agents say, the most important thing is location, location, location! Where you put your TV antenna is more important than how elaborate it is, or how much money you spent for it.
Note: If there are mountains or tall structures close by between your location and the transmitter, or if you live in a valley or alongside of a tall hill where the hillside is between you and the transmitter, your reception will most likely be poor no matter what you do.
Here is a list of things you can do with your antenna to get better reception. These factors are listed in order of their significance (most significant first):
1. Get It High Off The Ground
With regard to location, there is nothing more important than elevation. The higher you can put the antenna relative to the earth, the better your TV reception will be. This is why many people find that their TV reception is better in an upstairs bedroom than in the downstairs livingroom.
- An antenna in the basement (below ground level) will not perform well unless you live within a mile of the TV transmitters.
- Unless you are surrounded by obsticles (explained in the next section), an antenna at ground level should work well if the TV transmitters are within several miles (10km) of your location, provided that all the other factors mentioned herein have been optimized.
- Upstairs above the main floor an indoor antenna should perform quite well, again provided that all the other factors mentioned herein have been optimized, and if the TV transmitters are less than 30 miles (50km) away.
2. Get It Close To An Outside Wall
Putting the antenna up against a window facing the direction of the transmitters would be an optimum location (see Where Are The TV Transmitters?). TV signals don't pass through solid objects easily. They weaken when they pass through walls, especially exterior walls with aluminum siding, or when there are steel beams in them. Outside obsticles like other buildings or even big trees will obscure the signal if they are in the "line of sight" with the transmitter.
3. Its Proximity With The TV
The antenna should be neither too close nor too far from the television. Many TVs emit radio frequency noise that can be picked up by an antenna being too close to the TV. It may degrade reception. If the antenna needs to be near the TV, try to keep it above the TV, or at least a foot away if it needs to be along side the TV.
Extending the antenna's distance from the TV with an additional length of cable may be desirable, but it should not go too far. The longer the cable is, the more attenuation (loss of signal) you will incur. A 50ft (15m) length of the cable would be okay. But if it needs to be much farther away, consider connecting an inline signal booster (amplifier) to the antenna.
4. Its Orientation
Orientation is the direction in which it faces and its angle (if any) with respect to the floor. With rabbit-ears, loops, and flat panel antennas, the signals will be best picked up when they are coming broadside toward the antenna. For other types of antennas, consult your owner's manual for more details. Since TV signals might be coming from more than one direction you may have to compromise. Go with the orientation that maximizes the signal strength for the TV stations you will be watching the most.
Here are the common types of antennas you will find along with the range of channels they are designed to receive:
This is a single loop of bare wire that is usually 7-to-8-inches in diameter. Loops are designed to receive channels whose physical frequencies are in the UHF band (channels 14 and above).
This is the most common type of antenna, consisting of two telescopic elements, and is commonly known as rabbit-ears. These elements are primarily designed for picking up channels in the VHF band (channels 2 through 13), but will also pick up the higher channels. Each element should be tilted at a modest angle away from each other, and extended equally to whatever length yields the best signal strength.
How To Measure TV Signal Strength
All modern TVs and digital TV converter boxes have a menu option whereby the real-time, relative strength of the incoming signal can be displayed on the screen. If you can't seem to find it in the menu, refer to your TV's owner's manual.
Where Are The TV Transmitters?
As we've discussed, it's important to know the direction and distance of the TV station transmitters. One way to quickly find this out is to go to AntennaWeb.org.
Over-the-air TV signals are broadcast from antennas that are typically mounted atop tall (i.e. 1000-foot) towers. Municipal zoning constraints may force TV and radio stations to group their towers into one small, suburban area. The broadcast industry calls this grouping of towers an antenna farm. This grouping actually makes it convenient for us when it comes to the orientation of our indoor TV antenna because all or most of the signals will be coming from one general direction.
Antenna farms are not the only places that TV and radio transmitting antennas are found. In big cities, broadcasters often put their antennas atop tall buildings. And there are transmitter sites in rural areas where a station's 1000-foot tower might be the only tower seen for miles.