How to choose the best HD antenna for indoors

Written by kurt schanaman
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How to choose the best HD antenna for indoors
Select your HDTV indoor antenna based on the broadcast frequencies in your area. (Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

High-definition television (HDTV) can be viewed from over your local airwaves using either external or indoor antennas. If you live in a rental apartment or property that prohibits the installation of an external antenna on the roof, your only option is to select the best indoor HDTV antenna possible. HDTV is broadcast on VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). Indoor antennas that receive both can be more expensive than those that receive only one of these spectrum portions. It is important to find out what local transmissions exist in your area before making a purchase.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Computer with Internet connection

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  1. 1

    Determine whether broadcast stations in your area are on either VHF, UHF or both. An indoor antenna must be selected that is capable of operating on the frequency spectrum being used for broadcasts in your area, and HDTV antennas are colour coded on that basis. To find what HDTV frequency bands are used in your area, visit AntennaWeb and enter your postal postcode. If there are trees or tall building structures within four blocks of your location, select "Yes" in the next block. For indoor antennas, it is safe to leave the last selection block alone (single story). Click "Submit."

  2. 2

    Locate the red flag on the map on the resulting page and make sure it appears as close to your actual location as possible. If the flag isn't at the correct location, click the minus sign (-) in the upper-left corner of the map to zoom the map out until you can see your location. Hover your mouse pointer over the flag, then press down and hold your left mouse button. Drag the map to your exact location on the map and let go of your mouse button to drop the flag where desired. Click "Continue."

  3. 3

    Scroll to the bottom of the final screen and note that all of the local transmitters are listed in the table. The stations are colour coded, and the approximate transmitter tower distance from your location is displayed in the second column from the far right. Write down the table and colour codes onto a piece of paper to take with you when shopping for an indoor HDTV antenna. Compare your findings with that on the antenna packaging.

  4. 4

    Evaluate the distance of the towers from your location in the "Miles From" column at the AntennaWeb page. If the majority of the stations are within 20 miles from your location, you may be correct in selecting an indoor antenna that doesn't contain a built-in amplifier. If most stations are further than 20 miles, you should seriously consider spending the extra money for an indoor antenna that includes a built-in amplifier. If you have the money, it is best to purchase an indoor antenna with built-in amplifier, regardless of tower distance, for the best reception possible. Walls and nearby buildings can reduce signal strength, even if the towers are closer than 20 miles.

  5. 5

    Choose an indoor HDTV antenna that only receives VHF signals, if that is the only type of signal being broadcast in your area. Similarly, choose an indoor HDTV antenna that only receives UHF signals, if that is the only type of signal being broadcast in your area. Single-band (VHF or UHF) HDTV antennas cost less than those capable of receiving on both spectrum bands. If the stations in your area are mixed between both bands, you will have no choice but to purchase an antenna that does both for viewing all that is available in your area.

  6. 6

    Visit your local stores to begin your shopping process. Compare the data on the chart you wrote down on paper with the information on the packaging for each antenna you consider. If there are two indoor HDTV antennas of different brands, but are similarly priced -- with one having a built-in amplifier while the other doesn't -- choose the one with the amplifier over the one without. In this way, you will be getting the better antenna for an equal amount of money.

  7. 7

    Compare decibel values when comparing two antennas with built-in amplifiers. Many HDTV antennas have "Antenna Gain" values printed on the exterior of their packaging boxes, and the measurement is listed as dB (decibels). Antennas with the highest gain in dB printed on the box are more valuable than those with lower gain ratings.

  8. 8

    Choose the antenna that provides all of the above for the best money value possible, but also take into consideration the appearance of the antenna. Although not important when it comes to functionality, and though aesthetics should be the last factor in making a determination, you are going to have to live with your indoor HDTV for a long while. Take into consideration how happy you are going to be with the appearance of the antenna in your den or your living room.

Tips and warnings

  • Always spend the most money you can possibly afford without harming your finances when selecting your indoor HDTV antenna. When it comes to antennas, you truly do get what you pay for. Therefore, if you can afford it, choose the antenna that covers all bands, has a built-in amplifier, has the highest dB (decibel) gain, and looks the best in your living environment.

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