What Kind of Antenna Do I Need for Local Channels?

The concept of free TV has us all asking ourselves, “What kind of antenna do I need for local channels”? The idea of watching one’s favorite local channels, shows, and global events for free has led to the current cord-cutting phenomenon. And with the pandemic affecting the economy, everyone wants to spend less, including monthly cable TV bills. After all, you don’t really watch all the channels you pay for on cable TV, do you?

Choosing the right kind of antenna can be a little daunting at first. Which makes you wonder: will an antenna work at my house? Do I need an antenna for my smart TV? However, there are more important considerations. That is, available channels, which ones you will watch, your location, and, of course, your budget. So, what is the best antenna for free TV?

How To Choose The Right Antenna For You

Are The Available Local Channels?

You have to start with what is available to you, so find out which channels are available in your local area. Within the United States, you can use an FCC tool called the Station Finder. All you need to do is enter your area zip code, and you will receive a list of over-the-air TV channels in your area. 

These channels will be listed in various colors that indicate their signal strength and thereby influence your choice of antenna. For instance, green stations have the strongest signals, followed by yellow channels.

Orange and red channels indicate weaker signals that may require outdoor antennas or streaming the channels over the Internet. 

You can also click on these channels to see where their signals are coming from, which will inform how you orient your antenna. This FCC tool will also indicate whether the channels are on the UHF, VHF, FM, or AM signal band.

Which Of These Local Channels Do You Want To Watch?

Once you have seen your options, you can select which local stations you want to listen to or watch. For example, if your favorite channels are a mix of UHF and VHF band signals, you’ll need UHF/VHF-rated antennas. 

If you want to receive FM stations, you can choose an antenna that offers that capability. Given that these signals come from specific broadcast towers, your favorite channels will also decide where you point your TV antenna. Alternatively, you could get an omnidirectional or rotatable antenna to pick up signals from all possible towers.

A map showing different locations
Your location will help determine which kind of antenna you need
Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Where Are You Located?

Location is critical in choosing the right over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna. The location of your TV will influence the signal strengths of local channels due to:

  1. Distance from broadcast towers
  2. Signal interference between the broadcast tower and your antenna

Usually, the further away from the broadcast towers, the weaker the channel signal. You could get long-range antennas to receive signals from up to 200 miles away. Alternatively, get an antenna designed to strengthen weak signals. Alternatively, you could get an antenna with an inbuilt signal amplifier.

 However, in urban areas, TV signals tend to be stronger due to the proximity of broadcast towers. This allows for the use of a short-range indoor TV antenna.

Obstructions interfere with the signal’s line of sight from the broadcast tower to your antenna. These obstructions range from wooded areas and hills in rural areas to tall buildings in the city. Building construction materials of either your home or neighboring buildings can also affect your TV signal strength. 

For instance, if a building is clad in metal sheeting, it can reflect the signal from the broadcast tower, causing reception problems. The presence of these interferences will determine which antenna works effectively for you. 

Home Owners’ Association (HAO)

Another aspect to remember is the homeowners’ association (HOA) chapter of your local area. Depending on where you live, outdoor antennas may be prohibited, so you may have to go with the best indoor TV antenna for rural areas. Even without HOA rules, your own living space will determine your antenna choice. 

For instance, if you live in a tiny apartment in the city, a large Yagi-style antenna looks awkward, making a smaller indoor antenna better. As such, your interior decor can be a determining factor in your choice of antenna.

How Many TVs Do You Want To Connect To The Antenna?

Should you decide to connect more than one TV to your antenna, you must choose your antenna carefully. Some antennas come with an inbuilt dual TV connection capability. 

Alternatively, you could get a signal splitter to connect your TVs to the antenna. If this is the case, choose an antenna with an inbuilt signal preamplifier or buy the amplifier to strengthen the signal as it comes down the coaxial cable. This is because signal loss also occurs along the coaxial cable and through the signal splitters.

What Is Your Budget?

Ultimately, your antenna option will be restricted to your budget, as you can now no longer get a free TV antenna from the government. For instance, you can get a good quality indoor TV antenna for local channels for as low as $10, depending on its specifications. 

Generally, outdoor TV antennas do tend to be more expensive than indoor antennas as they need more parts. Most outdoor antennas do not come with a coaxial cable which then adds to the overall cost of the antenna. 

Further, due to the nature of their installation, you may have to pay a professional to install your outdoor antenna further adding to the total cost. All these should be considered as you decide on the most affordable antenna for you. 

Based on these five factors, you can easily narrow down to the kind of antenna you will need. Your choice will vary with location, channel preference, and budget. With the abundant options on the market today, it should be easy enough to get the right antenna for your home.

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