Q: How do I find out which channels I can get with an OTA Antenna?
Before buying or building a DIY antenna, check for broadcast TV towers in your area. We have found and listed several good FREE online tools for checking by zipcode.
Know of others? Post in the comments! We will add them to the list.
Q: What am I looking for in the results before I build/buy an indoor “HDTV” antenna?
A: The number of broadcast towers <20 miles away. These channels will likely be shown in green/strong signal. In/near a city, some can have 60+ channels!
With an indoor antenna your starting at a disadvantage, signal strength can be cut in half by the walls of your house. Another disadvantage is your not mounting high up on a mast for clear line-of-sight.
What does over-the-air (OTA) mean?
Stands for “Over-The-Air.” High-definition television broadcast from local television stations in your area. An antenna will deliver a better picture than cable for the same local channel. Why? Signal compression. Cable companies often use more aggressive compression than over-the-air stations.
A cheap $5 DIY antenna gets better picture than cable. Cable charges a local broadcast fee of ~$10/mo. for same local channels?
The Broadcast TV Fee is an itemized charge that you’ll see on your bill. It is based on our costs of providing the local broadcast stations that we carry on our cable systems in each area.
Is there any difference between rabbit ears and a HDTV antenna?
No. Just pure marketing. By calling rabbit ears a HDTV antenna, it sells better. It makes people to believe they must buy an HDTV model or HDTV optimized antenna to watch HDTV broadcasts.
VHF channels are numbered 2 to 13 and UHF channels 14 to 51.
- Loop antennas are UHF.
- Straight bars (ie. rabbit ears = simple half-wave dipole antenna) are VHF elements.
Typically rabbit ears are good for VHF (channels 2-13) and loop for UHF (`4-69). The flat “leaf” antenna are good at UHF. You will see antennas with both loops and bars.>
Note the UHF loops and horizontal bar for VHF. I have this antenna. Works great and looks much better than my DIY antenna.
Can I build my own antenna?
Yes. However, stick to proven online designs such as the Gray-Hoverman, pennyloop, stealth hawk, bowtie, etc. These DIY antennas have been designed my engineers with the proper calculated loop and bar lengths. May not look pretty as those bought online, but they do work!
Indoor antennas have a typical reception range of 15-20 miles.
Do I need an Amplified Antenna?
Be careful and again do your research. If your antenna is within several feet of your TV, the answer is no. For long cable runs between antenna and tv, an amplified antenna is great. If there is no/weak signal in the first place, your only amplifying noise.
Any more FAQ Tips?
There are hundreds and can be overwhelming with antenna types, indoor vs. outdoor, amplifiers, mounting, coax.
- Check the FREE reception map. Look for green boxed channels in your area.
- Buy, build or best yet BORROW an indoor antenna. Scan for channels. If it works, GREAT!
- That’s it.