TV antennas may seem like artifacts from the last century, but many people are still using them in order to eliminate or at least reduce expenses. Of course, besides allowing you to watch TV channels without any subscription fee, an HD antenna can actually give you better images than cables. Well, you may have your own reasons to why you want to install a TV antenna, but it all ultimately comes down to the question: indoor or outdoor? Indoor and outdoor antennas have each own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your condition and preference, either an indoor or outdoor antenna will be more suitable.
Below, we are going to see the overview of both indoor and outdoor antennas. Then, we will also see the important differences and comparisons of the two. Finally, we will conclude about when and why to use an indoor or outdoor antenna.
Nowadays, we have switched from analog broadcasting to digital TV broadcasting, which effectively eliminates problems like distortion and ghosting. Unlike the traditional analog signals that notoriously produce awfully distorted images if the reception is bad, digital TV signals will let you see either a crisp, ghost-free image or no image at all. Local stations typically broadcast digital channels in standard-definition in the day, then switch to full HD during primetime.
Even if you already use a cable service, installing an HD antenna is still a very nice option due to several reasons. First, over-the-air broadcasts typically offer the best image quality. Cable services may offer tons of channels, but they use compression techniques to be able to send the data efficiently through the network, thus compromising the image quality. Off-air antenna reception is your best option if you want to watch an HDTV program at the full resolution with source quality. Second, over-the-air broadcast channels are free. Third, with an HD antenna, you can access all your local channels and possibly receive out-of-town channels.
Indoor TV Antenna
An indoor TV antenna can be a viable choice if you are living nearby TV broadcast towers, or if your place simply does not allow you to mount an outdoor antenna. It is small, reasonably powerful, and very easy to place. It is designed to place on or close to your TV. Despite the small size, a modern indoor TV antenna is powerful enough to receive local broadcast signals from the outside. Usually, an indoor TV antenna can still receive broadcast signals within 10 miles from the towers. Keep in mind, however, that traditional dipole indoor antennas a.k.a. “rabbit ears” antennas may not be sufficient for today’s standards. Those designs are meant for VHF stations, but today, most signals are transmitted in UHF.
However, the common principles to any TV antenna also apply to indoor antennas. Any object in the direct line of sight between the antenna and the broadcasting tower may interfere or impede the reception. Building materials, such as wood, brick, stucco, and metal, can and will reduce the antenna’s capability in receiving broadcast signals. The worst materials are bricks, drywalls, tiles, as well as any metal and masonry. In addition, other household or electronic appliances may also affect the reception. Computers, fridges, and phones may interfere the signals and cause distortion. Hence, to avoid signal loss, you should place an indoor antenna on a proper location. Placing it near a window that faces the direction of the local broadcast towers is generally preferable.
Outdoor TV Antenna
In general, an outdoor TV antenna offers the best opportunity for receiving TV broadcast signals. This is because outdoor TV antennas, which are usually mounted on the rooftop, have a much better line of sight to the broadcast towers. There are also significantly fewer obstructions here, with few to no trees, walls, buildings, or roofs to obstruct the reception. Thus, outdoor TV antennas have a distinctive advantage over indoor TV antennas.
Furthermore, if you live far from the broadcast towers, a long-range outdoor TV antenna is your best bet to receive broadcast signals. In such case, an indoor TV antenna may not be powerful enough to receive weak signals from far towers.
Besides on the roof, an outdoor TV antenna can also be mounted onto the side of the house, on the deck, or even on a tripod that sticks to the ground if the roof is not accessible. Needless to say, you should test your antenna position by scanning for available channels on your TV before you drill any hole. Compared to indoor TV antennas, outdoor TV antennas are relatively more difficult to install, and changing the position will not be as easy as moving an indoor TV antenna from window to window.
There is a somewhat common method of placing the outdoor TV antenna in the attic. Such attic antenna can be a viable alternative if your neighborhood prohibits the installation of outdoor antennas or for aesthetic reasons. However, keep in mind that placing the antenna in the attic may cause some signal loss, as the signals would be impeded by building and roofing materials. In general, an attic installation may reduce the effective range of the antenna by 30% to 50%, which roughly equal to 10 to 15 miles. That’s quite significant. You can try to compensate for the loss by installing a more powerful antenna or pairing the antenna with a preamp. In addition, there is a rule of thumb that the antenna should be mounted to a mass or a crossbeam, and the antenna must not touch the floor to avoid fading.
|Indoor Antenna||Outdoor Antenna|
|- Designed to place on or near the TV||- Designed to be mounted outside, whether it is on the roof, on the side of the building, or on a tripod|
|- Much more compact and lightweight||- Bulky and heavy|
|- The reception is significantly affected by various obstructions and interferences, such as trees, building materials, electronic devices||- The reception is much better due to fewer obstructions|
Installing an HD antenna can be a great way to widen your TV’s channel collection. It will let you enjoy the local channels with better image quality. In general, an outdoor antenna is more recommended because of the significantly better reception. However, if you are unable to mount an antenna outside for one or few reasons, you can sort to an attic installation. If you need to use a compact, space-friendly solution, an indoor antenna is the way to go, but make sure that you place the antenna near the window with the best line of sight to the broadcasting towers.