If you want to watch television without paying expensive cable or satellite bills, you’ll need to buy a TV antenna. Some satellite TV providers don’t include local channels or charge extra for them, so you might want to purchase an antenna in this situation as well. In most rural areas you will receive at least three TV stations with a properly installed antenna, and it is common to receive 5-12 stations in many urban areas.
The two main types of television antennas are indoor and outdoor. Most indoor antennas sit on top of your TV, while outdoor antennas are mounted on your roof or satellite dish. Some people use outdoor antennas in their attic, and a few antennas are designed specifically for attics. There is also a type of antenna which claims to turn your home’s electrical system into an antenna, but many people have reported poor results from these – it will only work with some particular electrical system types.
Indoor antennas are suitable for many areas, both urban and rural. A simple “rabbit ears” antenna – priced at under $10 in most electronics and discount stores – can produce acceptable reception in some areas. A slightly more expensive type of antenna, which has both rabbit ears and a metal loop in front of them, is more effective – especially for receiving UHF channels (ch. 14-69). If you live more distant from TV stations, an “amplified” indoor antenna should be considered. This type of antenna usually has rabbit ears, but plugs into an electrical outlet.
The electrical amplification of TV broadcasts can substantially improve reception, but effectiveness depends on the type of TV you own more than it does for regular indoor antennas. The Jensen TV911 amplified antenna has an FM radio antenna feature, but some amplified antennas (like the Terk TV-3) do not improve FM reception. The maximum signal amplification is indicated in the antenna’s DB rating – for example, an RCA ANT301 can amplify the broadcast up to 10db, while a Terk TV3 can reach 40db amplification. Other indoor antennas have been made by Recoton, Magnavox, Archer, and Radio Shack.
Outdoor antennas can provide very good reception in some areas, but are more difficult to install and are usually more expensive. Some also require assembly, and it is possible for them to be damaged in storms. It is best to try using an indoor antenna first before purchasing an outdoor antenna. In some locations a small outdoor antenna may not produce substantially better reception than a good indoor antenna. Antenna rotators can be purchased which use a motor to change the direction your antenna is pointed in.
These can improve the reception additionally, but keep in mind that it will consume electricity and the motor will eventually wear out, in addition to the initial cost of purchasing it. Amplification units are available for outdoor antennas, these work similarly to the amplified indoor antennas described in the previous paragraph. Some small antennas are designed to fit on satellite dishes, such as the Terk TV42. Outdoor antennas have been manufactured by Gemini, General Electric, Channel Master, and others.
Make sure that you buy an antenna which can be connected to your type of TV and/or the correct adapter for it. Most TVs have a 300-ohm, 75-ohm, or 1/8-inch antenna jack. 75-ohm antenna jacks are round and connect to VCR/cable-style wire. 300-ohm jacks can easily be identified because they use two screws to connect the wire. 1/8-inch jacks, which are found on some portable TVs, are small and round. If you purchase an antenna which doesn’t fit your TV, you will need to buy an adapter which converts the jack into the appropriate type (75ohm-to-300ohm, etc).
Other factors also affect your TV reception. Typically, reception is best at higher altitudes. A television using an indoor antenna on the 2nd or 3rd floor of a building will often receive more channels than a TV on the first floor. Also, some TVs are capable of better reception than others, regardless of the antenna being used. It is worth mentioning that black & white TVs tend to receive more channels than color TVs using the same type of antenna. Reception also varies depending upon the weather, and is most likely to be affected by thunderstorms, strong winds, or heavy snow.
Television antennas, especially the indoor type, can be purchased in a variety of locations. They are sold at Radio Shack franchises, department stores, discount shops, and yard sales. They are also available on internet shopping and auction websites. Some TV antennas don’t have model numbers – only a brand name – so you may have to search by the brand name to find a particular antenna.
Taking these considerations into account should help you find an antenna which is affordable, effective, and compatible with your TV.