If you are considering installing an antenna for OTA Broadcasts you will have a lot of choices when it comes to antennas. The first thing that you want to do is find out what type of signal you have in your area. A good site for this is www.TVFool.com because they will allow you to put in your GPS coordinates and the height of the antenna and get a pretty good reading on what stations are available and how much signal power they are sending your way.
Signal power is represented in NMdB or dB for short and when you get your report you want to find stations that are over Zero in your area and there will be at least a possibility that you can receive them.
The next thing you need to do is choose an antenna. If your home already has an old antenna in the attic or on the roof you are in luck because you won’t need anything else. Thats right digital signals for televisions are still broadcast over the same frequencies. The only thing that is different to make them Digital is what is inside that signal.
If you don’t have an antenna then when you read your TVFool Report you should be able to receive any stations with 50db or higher with a standard unamplified bunny ear antenna. You might even get signals down to about 30dB but your results will vary on many factors including if you are in a brick or concrete building, If there are trees and hills in your area and how high off the ground you are.
If you want to get better performance many people turn to the Amplified flat antennas but there are some things you should know before you start investing in them. Most flat antennas will only pickup UHF stations so if your TVFool Report says any of the stations in your area are broadcasting on real channel 13 or below you won’t be able to pick them up. Even bunny ear antennas will work better than the most expensive Flat Amplified Antenna for VHF 2-13.
If you need more signal then the best bet is to get a larger antenna rather than an amplified antenna. Now if you are in an apartment then your space is limited but if you own a home then you should look at larger antennas that you can mount in your attic or on your roof and then feed them to your entire home instead of buying antennas for each TV.
You can even use the coax from your Cable or Dish system to feed OTA Antenna signal to your televisions. For Dish owners you just need a special splitter to connect the antenna to the wiring but for cable tv subscribers you can not mix the signals and you will need to run new coax to each television unless you are canceling your cable subscription. If you are canceling your cable subscription then the cables inside your house are owned by you. All you need to do is disconnect them from the Cable TV Box outside of your home and then connect them to your own splitter. Don’t reuse the cable companies splitter because they own it and don’t do the wiring in their box they own that too. Instead either pull the wire into your home or add a box on your outside wall and mark it as customer owned.
So, now you know you can use the cables and if you have an antenna already you can use that. If your signal is really great a cheap $5 antenna will work great for you but if you need more than you will need a better antenna.
Larger antennas are better because they provide more area to capture the signals in the air. There is no replacement for a large good antenna and amplifiers will not help you if you need one.
The reason is that if your signals are weak its kind of like trying to hear someone sitting at a table across the room in a large cafeteria.
If you amplify bad signal or low signal then its like amplifying the entire noise in that cafeteria.
However if you get a larger antenna its as if your friend across the room called you on their phone. You can hear them great then even if they aren’t shouting at you and the background noise is not that much of a problem.
Unfortunately its not exactly like that but its a pretty decent example of how it works.
Now lets say if the noise in the cafeteria is still pretty loud you can then turn up the volume on your phone and this is similar to you adding an amplifier to your large antenna and amplify good signal instead of amplifying lots of noise along.
If you have great signal then a small $5 antenna will get you all the stations you need but if you have lower level signals then you are better off with a large antenna that will give you the most signal you can capture and if necessary add an amplifier on top of that.
If you have reasonable signal but its just a little low and it cuts out once in a while then a small antenna with an amplifier may be enough to get you by but that is only for people with good signals above 25 to 35db. If you have less than 35db you really want to be looking at a larger antenna.
In other how tos we will go over the rating systems of Antennas and talk about which models give the most gain or capture the most signal. We will also cover flat antennas and antenna amplifiers in detail.