Everything you need to know about antennas

Direction and distance

Knowing the direction and distance of the stations you want to receive is the first step in selecting the appropriate antenna for your home. Go to www.antennasweb.org. This user friendly website that provides you a list of digital TV stations in your area and a description of the type of outdoor antenna that will perform the best based on your address and its distance from the TV station's transmitter. It will describe antennas as following:

Small multi-directional                                   Small directional

Medium multi-directional                            Medium directional

Large multi-directional                                   Large directional

Antenna basics

There are general characteristics of indoor and outdoor antennas that you should know.

  • Directional antennas are able to pull in signals from greater distances.
  • Multi-directional antennas should be used when the transmitters of the stations you want to receive are more than 20° apart.
  • Nearly all outdoor antennas perform better than even the best indoor antennas.
  • In general, the larger an antenna's surface area is, the stronger the signal it will provide.
  • Neighborhood associations' covenants cannot restrict antenna use. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits restrictions that impair the installation or use of antennas to receive video programming. It covers digital satellite dishes, TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas.
  • It's best to purchase your antenna from a dealer who offers no-hassle returns with a money back guarantee.

Installing antennas

Outside antenna

1. Installing an outside antenna should be done by a professional installer due to hazards of climbing ladders and the potential of hazardous power lines coming into your home.

2. If you decide to take on the task yourself the antenna needs to be installed on an antenna mast and mount it as high as you can

3. Usually the antenna is mounted on a 5 or 10 mast and secured to your chimney with mounting straps or with a three leg tripod mounted to your roof.

4. Use a suitable 75 ohm RF coax cable such as RG 59 to bring the RF signal from your antenna to your TV set, this usually requires drilling holes through the house to get the cable installed.

5. Radio shack provides all of the materials to do an install

6. Rotate the antenna until you receive max. signal on your HDTV set.

7. Please go to this website for more information: http://www.crutchfield.com/S-eQBKDG2GP5a/learn/learningcenter/home/antenna.html

Indoor antenna

1. Much easier to install and less hazardous to personal injury that could occur while installing an outside antenna

2. There are many new designs for indoor antennas that replace the traditional so called "rabbit ears" antennas

3. Most consumer electronic stores such as Radio Shack and Best Buy carry the new HD indoor antennas

4. You may need to purchase some additional pre-made coax jumpers to get the signal from the antenna to the HDTV set

5. You want to place the antenna as high as possible in the room such as on top of a book case - height is as important for indoor antennas as they are for outdoor antennas.

6. Purchasing an indoor antenna should have a pre-amplifier and be able to control the gain of the pre-amplifier with some type of control knob on the unit.

7. Please go to this web site for comparison of TV antennas: http://www.hdtvantennalabs.com/indoor.php

Setting up your antenna with a converter box or digital TV

Once your antenna is installed you will need to set it up to receive the channels you wish. Often times, some stations do not come in on the first attempt to set up your antenna. You should always refer to your television set/converter box instructions but here is a general method you can use.

  • 1. Follow your TV or converter box instructions to go through the auto set-up/scan process.
  • 2. With the digital TV or converter box remote, enter one of the over-the-air DTV channels you are successfully receiving.
  • 3. Go to the menu and under setup, turn on the signal strength indicator. Some converter boxes actually have a button labeled "signal" which you can press instead of using the menu.
  • 4. You will see a display on your screen with a bar representing signal strength. It will range from poor to good or weak to strong.
  • 5. Start rotating the antenna to increase the signal strength. You can also try changing the position and location of the antenna to find a "sweet spot". If you are using an attic or rooftop antenna someone will have to observe the signal strength and shout to the person turning the antenna until you have the best signal strength.
  • 6. Once you achieve the strongest signal strength possible, go back and select "auto set-up" or "scan".
  • 7. The TV or converter box should find all the stations and map them to the channel number associated with the old analog station.
  • 8. If you are still missing a channel after you complete these steps, go back and select another station you are receiving and repeat the process.
  • 9. If it still does not work for all stations, you will likely need a better antenna or a better location for the antenna.