How to choose an outdoor digital TV antenna

Updated April 17, 2017

Now that over-the-air broadcasters are required by law to transmit only digital high-definition television (HDTV) signals, you might need to upgrade your TV antenna to improve reception of local stations. Although older antennas are capable of receiving new HDTV transmissions, newer antennas may be better suited to the unique qualities of HDTV broadcasts in your area. Following these steps, you'll be on your way to the highest quality HDTV reception possible.

Determine the location and type of HDTV transmissions in your area. Using, a website co-sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), you can get a profile of antenna types best suited for reception of HDTV signals for your street address.

From the home page, click "Choose an antenna."

Enter your street address, city and Postcode, then press "Submit" at the bottom of the page. While you can enter only a Postcode, providing your exact address will yield a much more accurate recommendation. The website program calculates your antenna needs based on your home's elevation and its orientation to transmitters for your local TV stations.

Click on the colour-coded sections to determine the antenna type needed for best reception. You may not be able to get good reception from all stations using the same type of antenna. In that case, determine which stations you want the best reception from and buy that type of antenna. Depending on your location, you may need an antenna that receives both VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) signals. Otherwise, choose an antenna specific for the type of transmission signals in your area.

Use the compass heading information provided from the station information chart if you need a directional antenna. This will be useful in properly aiming your antenna toward the TV station's transmission tower during installation. The colour-coded pie chart provided by corresponds directly to labelling used by manufacturer's HDTV antenna products available at your local retailer. Look for antennas labelled with the same colour code recommended by the to insure you have the best choice for your area.


Use only 75 ohm coaxial cable from your outdoor antenna to your TV. Older antenna installations might have used 300 ohm twin-lead wire, but that should be replaced by 75 ohm coaxial cable. All modern TV accept only coaxial connections for antenna signals, and the signal quality is superior to 300 ohm twin-lead wire.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Internet connection
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About the Author

Brent Watkins works as a writer, producer and production technologist for film and television. He began writing for "Church & Worship Technology" magazine in 2002. With more than 25 years of industry experience, Watkins is passionate about digital media and emerging production technologies. A graduate of the University of Iowa, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and theatrical arts.